The stage was set for the biggest fight in UFC history. The clash between Conor McGregor, the previous two weight world champion and the current undefeated Lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
As we all know, Conor McGregor always comes with trash talk, but in this fight the fans noticed how much more personal he was being towards Khabib. McGregor took aim at his heritage, religion and family especially, and Khabib stated in a pre-fight interview that this had become a very personal fight for him. One incident in which McGregor offered Khabib a taste of his new brand of whiskey was particularly inflammatory given that Khabib is a devout Muslim, and it is understandable that he would have been angered by the actions of his opponent. Khabib asserted that he would humble Conor McGregor for what he had said, a quite foreboding statement given how the event unfolded.[pullquote]McGregor undoubtedly crossed a line with his pre-fight taunts and was rightly condemned for them, yet Khabib should not have responded in the way he did[/pullquote]
The fight played out like how many had predicted, Khabib to dominate on the ground and win via submission. However, it was evident Khabib was still very angry following the fight, throwing his mouth guard at the cage and proceeding to attack McGregor’s team.
This was the spark that caused a number of Khabib’s team to jump over the cage and physically attack Conor from behind. I can sympathise with the reaction of Khabib due to the severity of the insults made by Conor towards his family, religion and heritage. Also, the physical attack from Conor and his entourage in April, in which several of Khabib’s teammates were injured when a steel dolly was launched at the window of their bus, definitely added to Khabib’s justifiable post fight anger.
However, the blatant physical attack on Conor from Khabib’s teammates was unjustified, thus leaving one of the attackers, Zubaira Tukhugov, to be dropped from the UFC by Dana White. UFC 229 was undoubtedly tarnished due to the brawl, which has led to Khabib’s fight winnings being held pending a full investigation into the incident.
McGregor undoubtedly crossed a line with his pre-fight taunts and was rightly condemned for them, yet Khabib should not have responded in the way he did. As easy as it is to understand why Khabib was so enraged, he and his team deserve to come under scrutiny for attacking those outside of the octagon and aiming punches at a fighter recuperating from a tiring clash. If Khabib goes relatively unpunished then this sets a dangerous precedent for fighters to incite violence away from the octagon, and as such McGregor should be reprimanded for his taunts but Khabib should also face punishment for his violent outburst.
Let’s hope the rematch keeps the violence inside the cage!