All eyes were on the MMA arena Saturday night as millions tuned in for the most anticipated bout of the year. Finally, the Irish superstar Conor McGregor made his long-awaited return to the Octagon to face undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at the T Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.
What ensued was an action-packed brawl of bad blood with both fighters pushing the pace. Yet, it was the post-fight riot that shocked the world rather than the bout itself.
Leading up to the fight Conor McGregor pulled no promotional punches. In his usual style, the Dublin native did everything he could to verbally get under the skin of the seemingly impenetrable Russian. Come fight night no topic had been left untouched; including family, religion, nationality, and even labeling Khabib a ‘rat’.
By the time the pair of killers entered the cage the hatred was real. Finally, the Eagle had bitten, vowing he was going to change Conor’s face forever once the bell rang.
Conor looked good controlling the distance in the first round and hurt Khabib with a vicious left down the pipe. Yet it was only a matter of time until the Dagestani native got ahold of the Irishman and enforced his dominating unanswerable wrestling style.
Following three more rounds of mauling from the Russian, McGregor was forced to submit to a savage rear naked choke in the fourth.
UFC 229 post-fight brawl
As the crowd erupted everybody believed the bout to be over and Khabib to be presented with the belt. However, the now 27-0 champion leapt the chain linked fence to attack McGregor teammate and grappler Dillon Danis with a flying kick.
As Khabib jumped feet-first into Conor’s corner a brawl quickly ensued around him. Simultaneously, fists were thrown inside the Octagon as members of Khabib’s team scaled the fence to attack the challenger. McGregor was then struck by three men belonging to the UFC roster, who he was filmed fighting back.
Upon re-entering the caged combat area, the undefeated Russian called to be handed his belt. However, UFC president Dana White decided it was too dangerous to present Khabib with the strap, causing greater uproar from the Russian wrestler. Fortunately, teammates Daniel Cormier and Luke Rockhold were at hand to help calm the outraged Khabib.
As Nurmagomedov exited the building he was pummeled with projectiles thrown by the crowd. Cameras also showed the champion verbally abused by fans, whilst police safely escorted him from the arena.
Khabib’s team-mates who assaulted McGregor were arrested not long after. Yet, they would ultimately be released as the Irishman decided not to press charges.
Dana White disappointed, Khabib confused
According to UFC president Dana White; “I’ve been doing this for 18 years and on the biggest night ever, I couldn’t be more disappointed”. During the post-fight press conference, White spoke about how hard the company has worked to clean up the image of the sport, and how the night could leave a serious negative impact on MMA’s mainstream future.
Following on from White, Khabib was next to speak. Although he didn’t answer many media questions, he did want to defend his actions somewhat saying;
“I do not understand how people can talk about ‘I jumped from the cage.’ Worry about, he talked about my religion, he talk about my country, he talk about my father, he come to Brooklyn and he broke bus, he almost killed a couple people. Worry about this. Worry about this sh*t. Why people talk about ‘I jump over the cage?’ Why people still talk about this? I don’t understand.”
Will there be a rematch?
Conor McGregor did not attend the post-fight press conference preferring to leave the building instead. So far, he has not issued a full statement, but stated his desire for a rematch tweeting ‘Good knock. Looking forward to a rematch.”
According to Dana White, an immediate rematch does not look likely. Although it’s a fight the fans are baying for, the fate of Khabib is still undecided. In attendance that night was the commissioner of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who will ultimately decide Nurmagomedov’s punishment.
When speaking to MMAjunkie Dana White stated his concerns for a rematch aren’t just with the NSCAC. “Can these guys get visas and get back in the country?” he said during the conference regarding Khabib and his team.
Stripping Khabib of his title
Former title contender Dan Hardy also believes a rematch is unlikely. The British fighter turned analysist and commentator says there’s no other option but to first strip the Eagle of his title and hand out a strict suspension. “I don’t see any other way around it,” he said. “His actions almost led to a full-scale arena riot.”
Following Khabib being stripped of his championship position, Hardy foresees number one contender Tony Ferguson facing another top-tier lightweight for the vacant title. Ferguson was featured in the penultimate bout before the main event, reigning victorious over former-champion Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis.
Ferguson’s epic performance ultimately earned him a ‘Fight of the Night Bonus’. But what made it even more impressive was the fact he’d suffered a terrible ACL tear only six-month prior.
Now only time will tell how the UFC 229 aftermath escalates. Whilst Dana White has confirmed the men who attacked McGregor will never fight in the UFC again, the fate of Khabib is still uncertain. At the time of writing the MMA world is awaiting a verdict from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
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