Khabib Nurmagomedov is fed up with the double standard in the UFC.
In a statement posted on Instagram this morning, he threatened to quit the organization, warning that if the UFC follows through with firing teammate Zubaira Tukhugov, whose fight was recently canceled after Tukhugov attacked Conor McGregor during Saturday night’s post-match brawl, it would “lose me too.”
In the post, Nurmagomedov called out the UFC for not punishing McGregor for his role in the melee and told the organization that it could keep his purse; his brotherhood and honor means more.
“You are pretty busy with that, I hope it won’t get stuck in your throat,” Nurmagomedov said. “We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing. We intend to go to the end. #Brothers.”
In case you missed it, UFC 229’s main event fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov on Saturday night turned into a two-part saga. Immediately after McGregor submitted to Nurmagomedov, a new fight ensued, this time involving members from both fighters’ camps.
It didn’t take long before absolute chaos erupted inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “The melee quickly spilled out into the ringside area as police restrained a number of fans who jumped the barricade,” CBS Sports reported.
Fans on Twitter were quick to compare the brawl to McGregor’s infamous bus attack last April, where he and his crew showed up unannounced to UFC 223’s media day in Brooklyn and attacked a bus full of fighters and women.
And yes, one of those fighters was Nurmagomedov.
Although the attack ended with McGregor being arrested and charged with multiple counts of assault, he reached a plea agreement to avoid jail time. Also, he was neither fined nor suspended for the incident, even though UFC President Dana White called it the “most disgusting thing that has ever happened in the history of the company” and promised that McGregor would absolutely be disciplined.
Instead, four months later, White used the footage from the attack as a promo for UFC 229 and to escalate the rivalry between the two competitors. It went from being the most disgusting thing to ever happen in the UFC to a captivating and profitable marketing tool.
In Nurmagomedov’s case, however, the UFC not only delayed awarding him his belt, but the Nevada State Athletic Commission is now also withholding his purse and threatening suspension. In an interview this week, White told TMZ, “He’s going to get suspended, so maybe you give him a four-to-six month suspension.” When asked if his purse should be kept too, White responded, “You should not be able to keep his whole purse. … I think they should take $250,000 from him.”
Some fans on Twitter supported Nurmagomedov, claiming McGregor deserved both beatings for the bus attack in April and the vile insults he made about his opponent’s father, religion and country before the fight. Others saw no comparisons between the two incidents and agreed that Nurmagomedov needs to be punished.
“It’s different circumstances, you guys,” White said. “[McGregor’s incident] wasn’t at an event. This was in the bowels of the Barclays Center. It was a completely different situation. He was dealing with the state of New York and the police. In this thing, [Nurmagomedov] was a part of something that was regulated by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He was at an event with more people than have ever been at an event for a UFC event in Vegas. There were tons of fans there. It’s a much different situation.”
Whether it’s a different situation or not, there’s no doubt that White and the UFC benefit from this kind of attention.
The UFC has been selling a narrative of archenemies in combat since its inception; marketing and hyping the animosity between their athletes in flashy, exaggerated advertisements to get high ratings and views.
They host a number of promotional events before fights, where media and fans can delight in epic staredowns and vicious smack talk between competitors. Anything goes during these events. Fighters are allowed to hurl just about any filthy, degrading insults they can think of at each other … as long as it brings in views and revenue.
For example, after Conor McGregor blew up at a news conference over an unsatisfactory press briefing poster for UFC 196, the UFC’s marketing team, PETROL, was inspired to turn his backbiting tirade into a Twitter campaign for UFC 200.
According to Alan Hunter, president and CCO of PETROL, “Some leagues have a stringent set of rules and a way that people are allowed to speak and what they’re allowed to talk about. Not UFC, and you see that in the press conferences.”
Essentially, the UFC’s culture breeds violence. In fact, it encourages it. However, as soon as their fighters go overboard doing exactly what they’ve allowed in the first place, they try to set an example that wasn’t there before.
While speaking to TMZ this week, White admitted he got “a little giddy” after starting to see pay-per-view numbers roll in. However, during the post-fight news conference immediately after the fight, he claimed that he was “disgusted and sick” by the brutal scene that overshadowed the event.
I guess money really does change things.
It’s ridiculous that while the UFC benefits from these kinds of situations, the players get reprimanded for them. They create this culture of anything goes; host pre-bout media events where contenders are encouraged to intimidate and verbally attack each other, and then act surprised when one of their own goes off the rails precisely because of the culture they’ve allowed to persist.
Like Daniel Cormier, Nurmagomedov’s training partner and current light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion, said: Two wrongs never make a right, “but some things aren’t for fight promotion. Religion, family, country. Throwing stuff in Brooklyn. For Khabib it wasn’t fight promotion, it was really personal.”
At the end of the day, these fighters are human and humans don’t always react in the best way when they’ve been consistently insulted and attacked by other humans—even if it is all in the name of promotions.
Saturday night’s post-match brawl is what happens when you create an environment where violence and aggressive language is celebrated from the get-go. We can blame McGregor for instigating the brawl in April and we can blame Nurmagomedov for finishing it. But let’s not forget to hold the UFC and White accountable as well for not only failing to reprimand McGregor last April, but for also encouraging this culture of violence.
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Hey, my name's Christina and I'm in my last year at the University of Southern California. I was born in Haiti and spent most of my childhood in Boston, so they're both home. I love talking sports, culture and race and convincing non-believers that they all go hand in hand.