Illustration by Ari Libenson
Undoubtedly the most anticipated fighting event of this year was Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 229, an event dubbed as the biggest Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight in history. The event, hosted on October 6, culminated with a massive showdown between the defending lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and former lightweight champion, Conor McGregor. Everyone watched as two of the best fighters in the world faced off, but it ended in a shocking way.
The fight started out evenly, but McGregor’s fighting took a turn for the worst after the first round. Although McGregor is one of the most famed fighters in the world, and one of the most successful, it has always been apparent that he is weak on the ground. This was more relevant than ever, since it was his return from a long UFC hiatus in which he trained primarily in boxing for his fight with Floyd Mayweather last August.
It was anticipated that Nurmagomedov’s superior grappling and takedown abilities would shine through, but no one predicted his massive overhand right that knocked McGregor off his feet early.
By the fourth round, McGregor was no longer able to defend on the ground, and he lost by submission. In most UFC events, this is the end; the winner celebrates and the loser leaves in shame. But not this one.
Mere seconds after getting McGregor to tap out, Nurmagomedov turned and charged at McGregor’s cornerman, Dillon Danis, vaulting the side of the octagon and coming down feet first on Danis. The two have had disagreements before, with Danis often saying he could beat Nurmagomedov in any fight. It’s unclear as to exactly what provoked Nurmagomedov’s attack, but he claims that Danis was trash-talking him, insulting his culture, family, and religion. However, Danis has denied this. McGregor and his team are known for trash-talking opponents, so it’s hard to know what was said by McGregor’s corner.
As Nurmagomedov and Danis scuffled in the crowd, McGregor traded punches with Nurmagomedov’s cousin Abubakar were on the wall of the octagon. Soon after McGregor returned to the octagon, two more of Nurmagomedov’s men descended on him while security looked on. Eventually, security managed to control the situation, escort Nurmagomedov and McGregor out safely, and arrest three of Nurmagomedov’s men.
This brawl leaves the UFC in a tricky situation. They already have a bad public image, and after the fight, a few fans started brawls of their own. The brawl calls into question the UFC’s responsibility and accountability. The security team in the venue seemed ill equipped to protect not only the fans but also the fighters. One security guard can be seen almost allowing one of Nurmagomedov’s men to climb into octagon and land five or six punches, while others watch helplessly.
The UFC also needs to consider the punitive action to take, and determine whether Nurmagomedov’s response was justified, as well as considering their future with the liability that is McGregor. Once again, the fighting world has been exposed to the critical public eye through violent controversy.