Opinion: Khabib Nurmagomedov Did Nothing Wrong

Las Vegas , United States - 6 October 2018; Khabib Nurmagomedov during the post fight press conference following his victory over Conor McGregor in their UFC lightweight championship fight during UFC 229 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Fists were thrown. Cages were jumped. Lines were crossed. The MMA world is still processing the madness that took place immediately following Khabib Nurmagomedov finishing Conor McGregor at UFC 229.

The post-fight brawl in and around the cage has gone mainstream, hitting the front page of popular websites and magazines outside of the sport. Everyone and their mother has some idea of what happened.

And of course, they all have their opinions on who was right and who was wrong. Upon review of the now-viral footage, both parties initiated conflict and it seems frustratingly grey who should be held culpable.

My side, as you can see from the title, is that Khabib Nurmagomedov did not do anything wrong.

And frankly, I don’t think this is a grey area. It seems very black-and-white to me.

It was one of the most highly-anticipated fights in UFC history as defending champion Khabib Numragomedov took on Irish superstar Conor McGregor in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a far cry from where they were back in 2014, however, as serious blood has been boiling over between the two for years at this point.

When the two finally met on October 6, we saw some nice striking exchanges, but most importantly we saw Khabib drop McGregor on the feet once in between absolutely dominant wrestling that saw him choke the Irishman out in round four.

And then, immediately after the McGregor tap, the brawl that has the whole world talking and debating took place.

Opinion: Khabib Nurmagomedov Did Nothing Wrong

I don’t care what anyone tries to say if they claim otherwise, what happened for months and years pre-fight here matters. It was a lot of trash talk, but McGregor took things a little too personal with Khabib at multiple points. Trashing his friends, family, country, and religion.

To Conor McGregor and some diluted fans, this may be simple trash talk, just hype to sell the fight. But to Khabib Nurmagomedov, it has been clear since the jump that this is not a game to him. What’s ‘promotion’ to some is personal to others. Very, very personal.

In the lead to UFC 229, we saw a whole lot of nothing from Khabib and a whole lot of very not okay things from McGregor. Like, some straight-up criminal things from McGregor.

Now, is this me saying that two wrongs make a right? No. I will make it perfectly clear right now, I think Khabib was in the wrong for jumping out of the cage. But beyond that? I genuinely believe he did nothing wrong in this entire situation.

Timeline of Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor Feud

March 26, 2015
– Aside from the photo they took together in 2014, this was the first time the two names were associated with each other in any way. During the promotional tour for McGregor’s upcoming fight with featherweight king Jose Aldo, a fan asked him about his thoughts on the lightweight division. Asking him if he ever planned to make a run at lightweight, as well as seeing who McGregor thought was going to be the next champion at 155-pounds. His answer; “I think Khabib will get the lightweight belt.”

April 2, 2015
– Not long after that quote from McGregor, the Russian reacted to Conor’s wishes of moving up to lightweight and eventually claiming the 155-pound title. With a roll of the eyes, Khabib simply stated; “I like Conor McGregor. But if he comes up to 155, four minutes. I smash him.”

September 23, 2016
Khabib Nurmagomedov was used as a pawn to make the Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor title fight happen. The Russian was not pleased when he took to social media on September 23.

November 11, 2016
– The first real altercation between the two took place on this date at the massive, landmark UFC 205 show in New York City. This is where McGregor wound up fighting Alvarez for the lightweight title. Nurmagomedov’s consolation prize for being used as a pawn by the organization was a fight on this same card against Michael Johnson. The two were involved in a heated altercation backstage at the event, however. No word on what exactly happened and the only evidence/confirmation of it is a nine-second video clip.

November 11, 2016
– As McGregor won the title and set his sights on a future boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, we saw Khabib Nurmagomedov easily dominate and submit Michael Johnson. During his post-fight interview, a heated Khabib called out the Irish chicken” McGregor, coining his catchphrase; “this is #1 bullshit.”

April 3, 2018 – April 5, 2018
– This is the big one. On April 3 a video surfaced of Khabib and some of his teammates initiating a bit of a scuffle with McGregor teammate and friend Artem Lobov. The Russians and Khabib did not get physical, but they got in the face of Lobov due to previous comments made towards them. In fact, it was Lobov who had to be held back, not the giant group of calm Russians.

Now, fast forward two days, and things became straight-up criminal. Khabib Nurmagomedov was slated to face Tony Ferguson at UFC 223 for the vacant lightweight title – he instead wound up facing Al Iaquinta on 24h notice, but that’s hardly important. Immediately following a UFC 223 media event, the fighters on the show were in a bus in the car park of the arena. Conor McGregor and a group of ten or so goons illegally entered the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to incite violence. They wanted Nurmagomedov due to that complete nothing interaction two days prior.

The Russian remained professional and stayed seated on the bus along with dozens of other athletes, coaches etc. What then happened was the group – primarily Conor McGregorviolently throwing heavy objects towards the bus. Carelessly throwing chairs, guard rails, and even a metal dolly at the bus. Putting Nurmagomedov, fellow fighters (including females), and Barclays staff at risk. The dolly smashed through a window, injuring two fighters and removing them from the card. Those two fighters being Mike Chiesa and Ray Borg.

It is one of the more insane things I have ever seen from being a fan of this sport. And it wasn’t due to controversy or lack of professionalism. This was straight-up criminal. McGregor and his crew of cronies even left the arena in a damn getaway vehicle.

A warrant was issued for his arrest. The UFC’s biggest star did an incredibly bad thing. He eventually turned himself in and faced multiple charges. The Irishman had misbehaved in the past plenty, but absolutely nothing came close to this level.

April 7, 2018
UFC 223 took place and Conor McGregor was finally stripped of his lightweight title he had no plans of defending. Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Al Iaquinta by way of unanimous decision to become undisputed champion.

July 26, 2018
Conor McGregor receives a proverbial slap on the wrist for his criminal attack that took place back in April. As weeks passed following the incident, it became obvious that nothing of consequence would happen to McGregor, and that became factual on July 26. McGregor agreed to a plea deal and received five days of community service. That is it. And then we got confirmation from Dana White that the UFC would not be punishing McGregor either.

August 3, 2018
Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor officially announced.

The lead-up featured your typical pre-fight press conferences. Here the war of words between the two resumed and got as heated as ever. Amongst the usual pre-fight McGregor schtick, we saw him throw some personal insults at Khabib. From taking jabs at Khabib’s dad to insulting his country and religion among other things, clearly, nothing was off-limits for McGregor.

Nurmagomedov was very clearly taking all these attacks incredibly personal, and he eventually fired back some personal digs of his own. This includes reminding Conor’s Irish fans that McGregor’s grandfather “killed their people.”

The Fight

The fight finally took place on October 6, 2018. And what a fight it was. As mentioned above, the Russian dominated with his wrestling and wound up submitting McGregor in the fourth round courtesy of a snug rear naked choke.

And then, all hell broke loose.

During the fight, it is worth noting that McGregor illegally grabbed the shorts of Nurmagomedov, illegally grabbed the glove of Nurmagomedov, and even hit the Russian with an illegal knee.

The Brawl

Immediately following the tap, chaos ensued.

As Nurmagomedov got up post-fight, he continued to jaw at a defeated McGregor. And then, as he walks away from his opponent, he points cageside towards a trash-talking Dillon Danis. This is McGregor’s friend and BJJ coach who is in Conor’s corner, a current Bellator MMA fighter. Widely disliked by the MMA community, he still continues to talk trash to Khabib from afar – despite Nurmagomedov just tearing through his pal Conor McGregor.

Things didn’t seem too serious, however. Khabib threw his mouthpiece towards Danis – but only hitting the cage between them of course. And a red coat security guard put his hand on Khabib’s chest nonchalantly. It seemed like that was the end of it. Oh, very, very wrong.

Danis must have said something that really set Khabib off because he charged the fence and climbed over it with absolute ease like someone who parkours on the regular. Khabib jumped to the floor and landed right in front of Dillon Danis.

It cannot be ignored that Danis threw the first punch at Khabib. A melee then ensued outside the cage. No one was hurt, no fans were involved. But Khabib and his team started to get physical with Danis after he launched the initial attack. This of course while they’re all surrounded by security.

Meanwhile, inside the cage, the corner of Khabib ran across the octagon to very clearly run towards Khabib and stop the altercation going on. As Abubakar Nurmagomedov – cousin to Khabib – began scaling the cage towards Khabib, Danis, and the brawl, Conor McGregor for literally no reason punches him in the face.

Prior to this, the Russians were not targeting McGregor in any way. But this instigated the events that happened in-cage. Abubakar, reacting to the strike, then began to set his sights on McGregor. But he is promptly held back by security. Due to Conor hitting Abubakar, one of Khabib’s friends and teammates runs and gets in the face of McGregor. Here McGregor throws and connects on a jab. This prompts another one of the Russians to hop the fence and throw 2-3 strikes at the head of McGregor. As he is pulled away, another Russian charges McGregor but he gets restrained very quickly.

Involved in that scuffle on the Russian side was Islam Makhachev and Zubaira Tukhugov, among multiple others. Two high-level UFC prospects.

Outside the cage, Dillon Danis eventually gets dragged off in handcuffs, as do three of Khabib’s teammates.

Aftermath

Khabib Nurmagomedov, now 27-0, eventually makes his way back into the cage. He somewhat begins explaining his actions to Dana White. The UFC President informs him that he “might get arrested” tonight and Khabib simply says “if I get arrested, I get arrested, but I want my belt.”

Dana White reveals he is cautious of putting the belt on Khabib in the cage due to potential fan reaction. So the Russian is lead backstage by a massive entourage of security – by this point, McGregor is long gone.

As Nurmagomedov makes his way to the back, the crowd is booing heavily and throwing drinks and food his way. Meanwhile, Bruce Buffer is making the ‘official announcement’ in-cage. And we get confirmation that Nurmagomedov retains his title due to fourth-round submission.

Three of Khabib’s teammates were arrested shortly after but were released quickly as Conor McGregor refused to press charges. Zubaira Tukhugov was, funnily enough, supposed to face Artem Lobov in two weeks. He will no longer.

In his first public words following UFC 229, Khabib had this to say:

“I know this is not my best side,” said Khabib, “I’m a human being. I don’t understand how people can talk about (how) I jump over the cage.”

“He talk about my religion, he talk about my country. He talk about my father. He come to Brooklyn and he broke bus. He almost kill a couple of people. What about this shit? Why are people talk about I jump over the cage?

“Disgusting, Bad For The Sport”

Okay. Here is where the opinions come in. Brace yourselves. In the words of Khabib Nurmagomedov; “this is #1 bullshit.”

UFC President, Dana White, took to media shortly after the brawl transpired. And with his signature mellow-dramatic voice, he proceeded to tell the world how disgusted he was by tonight. And man is it ever hard to take seriously.

The UFC and Dana White proudly promoted the UFC 229 event with the footage of Conor McGregor doing an actual, criminal thing in the form of attacking that bus. You know what’s disgusting? Picking and choosing what is ‘bad for the sport’ based on who makes you the most money, or who you like the most.

You guys allowed a man to attack a bus full of your employees and other staff – violently – to the point that people, your own damn employees, got injured. You guys chose to not punish him. The justice system chose to let him walk free. The athletic commission chose to look the other way. But I’m supposed to want an emotional Russian to be crucified for hopping a fence?

The UFC 229 promo video – literally – featured a shot of Conor McGregor throwing the dolly into that bus window. But they sensationalized it. They made it look like Conor was throwing that dolly right at our faces, guys! Get hyped. This was then met with a glass shattering video transition effect into text to hype up their biggest fight of all time. If you want to promote unprofessionalism and encourage it to that extent, do not cry and pretend you’re disgusted when people act a little bit unprofessional. If you are going to promote trash, be prepared to encounter a ton of trash.

For the laughs, you want to know what ‘disgusted’ Dana White had to say post-McGregor bus attack?

Do you want to know what’s disgusting, Mr. White? Complete and utter hypocrisy. Something you seem to specialize in lately.

This brawl was about as bad for the sport as a fight in hockey. No black eye has been left on the sport or the company. Eight of the nine top trends in the world on Saturday were UFC 229 related. They are getting more publicity than ever before, and everyone knows there is no such thing as bad publicity.

How will this sport ever recover?

And, sure enough, on the broadcast, they were already trying to pretend this made the fight worthy of a rematch. Let’s ignore the fact Khabib dominated and finished Conor prior to the brawl. Let’s just give pseudo-victim Conor McGregor a sympathy rematch that he – for some reason – believes he deserves.

Don’t forget to promote the rematch with Khabib jumping on our faces from the octagon.

Thoughts

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I do not believe Khabib is entirely innocent, necessarily. I think him hopping the cage was very stupid. But beyond that? I truly believe the man did nothing wrong.

This is a violent, testosterone-fueled sport. When someone loses their cool after months and months and months of personal attacks, I refuse to sit there and all of a sudden act like a delicate, disgusted snowflake. These things happen in MMA. And I am not going to crucify Khabib Nurmagomedov for doing so little.

Watching it all unfold live, my thoughts were a little bit different.

“Wow. Khabib is so stupid! Props to McGregor for not losing his cool, though. Dillon Danis is an idiot. But man, Khabib’s corner, attacking Conor like that in the cage… cowards! I hope the fighters involved get realized. Scum!”

My opinion has changed drastically. Khabib is still not the smartest for leaving the cage. But, everything else changed when the alternate footage of the incident came out from a fan. Seeing McGregor throw the first attack. Seeing Khabib’s team simply defending their friend and teammate. They did nothing wrong.

The extent of where anyone on Team Khabib went wrong is when Nurmagomedov left the cage. But even then, how we know that wasn’t a McGregor post-Siver knockout type of thing? Where he hopped the fence to get in the face of Aldo.

Maybe Khabib was aggressively going over to Dillon Danis to get in his face. Considering how calmly Khabib and tens of other Russians approached Lobov in the past, I have no reason to believe otherwise. What sets this apart from McGregor/Aldo was that security was quick to stop McGregor, and Aldo didn’t throw a punch on McGregor as Danis did to Khabib.

From Danis turning things violent on the outside to McGregor turning things violent on the inside, I don’t believe any of Team Khabib should face legal action. I don’t believe they should be fined. I don’t believe any fighters should be released.

If McGregor and Lobov can commit the violence they did back in April and face literally no repercussions – while actually being defended for it – I’m hard-pressed to believe Khabib, Tukhugov, Makhachev, and others should be in trouble here.

You have to lead by example. And the example right now is; you’re allowed to attack a bus full of innocent people after trespassing on property you had no right to be on — but if you go any further than that, prepare for consequences!

Khabib Nurmagomedov should not be fired. He should not be stripped of his title. He should not be suspended. Hell, I don’t even think the man should be fined.

It appears as though the Nevada State Athletic Commission is holding onto Khabib’s $2,000,000 payday from UFC 229. And in my humble opinion, this is nonsense. I sincerely hope the commission reviews the footage – from all angles. See what myself and countless others are seeing. Give Khabib his deserved money, and do not give him an unjustly harsh punishment.

Props to the likes of John Kavanagh, Owen Roddy, Luke Rockhold, and Daniel Cormier for helping to calm stuff down and keep the peace amidst the chaos as well.

After days of digesting what happened, I have come to the conclusion that what we saw at UFC 229 was, in fact, not a big deal at all. Remember it for what it was; the biggest win of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s career as he retained his title in dominant fashion against the sport’s biggest star. He does not deserve to be punished or crucified for a whole lot of nothing.

After tapping out to the champion, it was Conor McGregor who started a proper brawl. Thankfully, he can go home, drink some Proper No. 12, and continue to think that he is somehow a victim in all of this who ‘won the battle’. You lost the match, you lost the battle, and it was you who post-fight lost their cool.

Embed from Getty Images

Las Vegas , United States – 6 October 2018; Khabib Nurmagomedov during the post fight press conference following his victory over Conor McGregor in their UFC lightweight championship fight during UFC 229 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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