Nurmagomedov v McGregor: Khabib was a monster of the UFC’s own making

By Alex Pattle

Last Saturday night in Las Vegas, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Conor McGregor in dominant and predictable fashion.

Yet the headline grabber was what happened in the aftermath, rather than the result of the fight, which saw Khabib jump out of the Octagon to attack one of McGregor’s teammates, leading to brawling around the arena.

The undefeated Dagestani, whose record improved to 27-0 with his submission victory over ‘The Notorious’ Irishman, launched himself into the crowd and at Dillon Danis, McGregor’s jiu-jitsu coach.

This led to further fighting inside the Octagon, with one of Khabib’s teammates seemingly attacking McGregor from behind. Eventually, Danis, McGregor and Khabib were all safely escorted from the T-Mobile Arena, and members of Khabib’s team were arrested.

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UFC president Dana White was upset about the negative image of his company that has been brought on by the actions of Khabib and his cohort.

The 49-year-old’s response is reminiscent to his reaction to McGregor’s similarly cowardly attack on Khabib’s bus in Brooklyn this April – another episode that damaged the UFC’s reputation, but was a catalyst in the organisation of last night’s main event.

White’s disgust at Khabib and his team’s frankly pathetic behaviour is initially understandable on moral grounds, but connecting the dots between this disgust and White’s frustration with the UFC’s currently tarnished image reveals that hypocrisy has reared its head.

The self-inflicted wounds

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Considering that the UFC used footage of McGregor’s bus attack to sell more PPVs for this weekend’s event, White is in no position to complain.

In support of UFC 229, the company literally promoted this sort of unacceptable behaviour.

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At the post-event press conference, White promised those in attendance that “this is not what a mixed martial arts event is normally like”.

He is right, but the riotous ending to the evening was self-inflicted.

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Much of the public sees the sport as gratuitously brutal, and neither last night’s events nor the inclusion of the Brooklyn incident in the promotion of UFC 229 did anything to dispel that notion.

The UFC paid the consequences for not properly punishing McGregor in April, and for using the incident as a promotional tool.

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It is not difficult to understand why the UFC was tempted to turn McGregor’s bad behaviour into a marketing move, but this approach set the precedent that actions as disgusting as McGregor’s in Brooklyn are tolerable, as they will likely lead to more views and more money.

As a result, Nurmagomedov was a monster of the UFC’s own making.

Is it all karma?

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On a more personal level, some fans have argued that the result, the manner of the defeat, and the post-fight fracas were karma against Conor McGregor for his behaviour in the build-up to UFC 229, as well as in the past.

Some are saying that Khabib humbled McGregor, but it is not that simple.

Conor McGregor has always been humble in victory and defeat. His persona before fights is that of an entertainer and a salesman, and is part of his mental warfare.

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This time, it was much more the latter and McGregor went further than he has ever before – probably past the point of acceptability.

The Irishman’s verbal attacks were designed to elicit an emotional reaction from Khabib in the octagon, and they stemmed from a genuine (and reciprocated) hatred for the ‘Russian Eagle’.

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McGregor achieved mixed success; Khabib remained focused throughout the fight’s four rounds – enough to dominate McGregor – but the extent to which the Irishman had gotten into the Dagestani’s head was revealed in the latter’s mindless violence after the bell.

So intense was Khabib’s agitation at McGregor’s attacks on his family and religion that even four rounds of hurting and humiliating McGregor could not satiate his thirst for retribution.

This is why Khabib continued to expel energy after the fight. It was unacceptable, but that will not stop some fans from maintaining that it was what McGregor deserved.

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The worry now is that the UFC may have created a negative cycle, but one from which it will benefit.

After McGregor’s attack in Brooklyn, Dana White expressed outrage for some time, but then the UFC used the drama for dollars.

On that basis, it may not be long before the company uses last night’s farce to promote their next big contest.

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