Ugly uncertainty clouds UFC future


By Freddie Keighley, Online Sport Editor and third year History student

The fallout from UFC 229 continues to unfold for McGregor and Khabib.

Days after the biggest event in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, Conor McGregor and UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov have been temporarily suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission after the brawl that erupted outside the Octagon following the fight, pending a full verdict.

Those of us who woke up at 5am on 7 October to watch the fight from the UK were treated to little by the way of fighting variety, but the ugly scenes after the fight will be remembered for a long time.

UFC 229 had quite the build up. Hostilities between the two fighters, once admirers of one another, emerged following McGregor’s attack on a bus containing Khabib and other UFC fighters in April this year.

Moreover, McGregor returned from his boxing hiatus with a new set of taunts, including comments concerning the undefeated champion’s Dagestani heritage that clearly antagonised matters further. Bad blood often exists between fighters in the build up to their rounds inside the Octagon, but this animosity was on a whole new level.

There is relatively little to say about the fight in comparison to the events that built up to it and immediately followed it. The Irish supporters, famous for their loyal following of McGregor, made themselves heard as the fighters made their entrances and Bruce Buffer announced the fight between The Eagle and The Notorious.

With the fight underway, the Russian thoroughly dominated McGregor, using his famed wrestling skills that had propelled him to a professional record of 26-0 at the time. The challenger’s takedown defence and groundwork simply wasn’t good enough on the day.

Indeed, the fabled, devastating left hand of the Irishman never got going and his boxing prowess was simply negated by Khabib’s strategy and timing of his takedowns. A fourth round submission to a rear naked choke had been coming.

It is the events that unfolded after the fight that will define this occasion far more than the contest itself. After McGregor tapped out to the choke, Khabib delivered an earful his way before launching himself over the Octagon walls and into Conor’s team. Meanwhile, members of Khabib’s team climbed in and attacked McGregor, who has also been filmed throwing punches.

It took minutes before everything was cleared up, and afterwards, the visibly shocked and rattled UFC President Dana White refused to give the Russian his belt for fear of sparking more violence. Khabib is still waiting for his $2m pay cheque.

The spectacle was unprecedented, unpleasant and the stuff of fantasy. So beyond belief, it evoked comparisons to the scripted nature of World Wrestling Entertainment, whereby a fight is written to boil over and the police are brought in to separate those involved in the mass brawl.

The pay-per-view event headlined by the Lightweight Championship bout is thought to have smashed previous records, with UFC 229 estimated to have been bought by 2.4m people. However, the whole event will be marred by its violent end, and the action taken against the fighters will define the UFC going forwards.

Khabib is threatening to walk over the UFC’s punishment of his teammate Zubaira Tukhugov, who punched McGregor upon entering the Octagon and is no longer fighting in UFC, as it stands. There is even talk of Khabib boxing Floyd Mayweather, as the apex of combat sports continues to produce the unexpected in search of lucrative contracts.

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I would like to address @ufc Why didn't you fire anyone when their team attacked the bus and injured a couple of people? They could have killed someone there, why no one says anything about insulting my homeland, religion, nation, family? Why do you have to punish my team, when both teams fought. If you say that I started it, then I do not agree, I finished what he had started. In any case, punish me, @zubairatukhugov has nothing to do with that. If you think that I’ll keep silent then you are mistaken. You canceled Zubaira’s fight and you want to dismiss him just because he hit Conor. But don’t forget that it was Conor who had hit my another Brother FIRST, just check the video. if you decide to fire him, you should know that you’ll lose me too. We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother. If you still decide to fire him, don’t forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I'll break it myself. And one more thing, you can keep my money that you are withholding. You are pretty busy with that, I hope it won’t get stuck in your throat. We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing. We intend to go to the end. #Brothers

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on

Meanwhile, McGregor seems to want a rematch. Mystic Mac was able to beat Nate Diaz in 2016 on the second time of asking, but Khabib appears to be a different animal, once filmed wrestling a bear and boasting one of the greatest records in UFC.

In the meantime, both fighters must wait on the permanent verdict of the Nevada Athletic Commission. The events that took place after their bout have taken the two stars’ control of their mixed martial arts futures out of their hands. It remains to be seen when, or indeed if, we will see them take to the Octagon again.

Featured image: Flickr / Andrius Petrucenia

What did you think of the fight and the violent scenes which followed? Let us know!

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