UFC 229 Revisited

In the aftermath of UFC 229 and the brawl that ensued after the main event fight, there have been a plethora of colorful articles written and opinionated videos posted that delve into the fight between UFC lightweights Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Their fight was a title fight billed as “the biggest fight in UFC history”, and while the fight itself didn’t disappoint, it was the brawl that happened after the fight that is being passionately debated. As it stands, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) is holding Khabib’s 2 million dollar purse pending further investigation. Add to that Dana White proclaiming that the other team Khabib brawl participants would be cut from the UFC. One of which, Zubaira Tukhugov, was scheduled to fight McGregor teammate, Artem Lobov at the end of this month. Now that Khabib has thrown down the gauntlet––telling the UFC that if his teammates, his “brothers” get cut from the UFC, he will not fight for the UFC either.

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I would like to address @ufc Why didn't you fire anyone when their team attacked the bus and injured a couple of people? They could have killed someone there, why no one says anything about insulting my homeland, religion, nation, family? Why do you have to punish my team, when both teams fought. If you say that I started it, then I do not agree, I finished what he had started. In any case, punish me, @zubairatukhugov has nothing to do with that. If you think that I’ll keep silent then you are mistaken. You canceled Zubaira’s fight and you want to dismiss him just because he hit Conor. But don’t forget that it was Conor who had hit my another Brother FIRST, just check the video. if you decide to fire him, you should know that you’ll lose me too. We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother. If you still decide to fire him, don’t forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I'll break it myself. And one more thing, you can keep my money that you are withholding. You are pretty busy with that, I hope it won’t get stuck in your throat. We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing. We intend to go to the end. #Brothers

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Considering the pedigree of the fighters involved, and their elite status in their given fighting specializations—McGregor as the foremost counter-striker and Nurmagomedov as the most dominant wrestler—the UFC 229 main event held promise to deliver as the biggest fight in UFC history. Combine that with McGregor’s star power and innate ability to sell a fight, and things looked good for the event’s potential to break records. The backstory between the two fighters provided the foundation from which the UFC, and president Dana White could build upon to both book the fight and use to sell the matchup to the masses. However, it was the infamous “bus attack” that happened this past April at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn that would create the most compelling storyline to generate interest in the fight, for both casual and hardcore fans. The two weeks leading up to UFC 229 would add more fuel to an already volatile environment, contributing to an already juicy narrative for the media to sink their teeth into.

As UFC fans surely are aware of by now, much heat had already been developing in the matchup between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, both from their natural rivalry and from the confrontation that occurred between McGregor teammate Artem Lobov and Khabib in the lead up to UFC 223. What would occur during the media lead in to UFC 229, and subsequent media events, would add a dangerous spark to a combustible cocktail. True to form, Conor would fire a barrage of personal insults towards Khabib which took aim at his country, his family, and his team—most notably, his father and his manager Ali Abdel Aziz. Khabib appeared to get only moderately aggravated, but clearly the internal fires had been stoked. It is also worth noting that there was trash talking coming from McGregor team member Dillon Danis, which was aimed at Khabib’s team, and the would get more heated and play a critical role on fight night.

Khabib Nurmagomedov dominated Conor McGregor in the fight, dropping McGregor in the second round, almost finishing him with vicious ground-and-pound, and only losing the third round, then finishing the fight by submission in the fourth round by way of a brutal neck crank. After Herb Dean called the fight, he had to literally pry Khabib off of Conor, and still Khabib seemed not satisfied with the amount of dominance he exerted over McGregor. It was then that it became evident that the beef between Khabib and Conor’s team had still not been squashed. Khabib quickly walked towards McGregor’s corner, pointing and throwing his mouthpiece towards them, then ultimately getting away from a NSAC official, and jumping out of the cage into McGregor’s corner. Videos posted later showed Khabib leaping feet first towards McGregor teammate Dillon Danis, prompting many comments of how the “Eagle Soared”.

The melee that ensued will be the stuff of legend for years to come. The subsequent events are the subject of much debate as to who was ultimately at fault for Khabib’s leap out of the cage and for igniting the brawl inside the cage. One thing appears to be abundantly clear, there was a lack of oversight, ajudication and punishment on the part of the UFC relating to the events that lead up to the UFC 229 tensions, and aftermath. It will be interesting to see how the UFC responds to the impending standoff with Khabib. Khabib seems to be a man of his word and will likely back up his threats if the UFC does decide to cut his teammates from the roster. There is likely still a chance that diplomacy can prevail, but with someone as headstrong as Dana White, things can go south fast if diplomacy fails. One thing I know for sure is that the fight between Conor teammate Artem Lobov, and Khabib teammate Zubaira Tukhugov, would be huge. I definitely want to see it.  Considering the intensity and excitement that was generated in the lead up to UFC 229, and the explosiveness of the aftermath, it is likely that the UFC will try to make the fight between Lobov and Tukhugov. And regarding a Khabib vs Conor rematch, I’m sure the talks will be starting soon, provided that Khabib and the UFC are able to clear the air.