There is a certain feeling we will never forget in our lifetimes. I’m talking about the feeling that gives you butterflies in your stomach. The feeling that makes your skin tingle. The feeling that makes you say, “What the F*$%!.” Well, Saturday night millions of people across the world felt this feeling when Khabib Nurmagomedov jumped over the cage and attacked Conor McGregor’s jiu-jitsu coach, Dillon Danis.
This single action initiated a series of subsequent brawls that rumbled throughout the T-Mobile Arena. UFC 229 marked perhaps the most berserk night in UFC history. One thing led to another and pretty soon 18,000 people in T-Mobile thought to themselves: “What the F*$%!.”
The main event of the night featured Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov defending his title against the biggest pay-per-view in the sport, Conor McGregor. Khabib submitted Conor via neck crank in the fourth round, but Conor and Khabib had bad blood brewing way before this fight came into the picture.
How Did We Get Here?
On Nov. 12th, 2016, Conor McGregor defeated Eddie Alvarez to become a dual-division champion in the featherweight and lightweight divisions. Ever since that moment, the target on his back grew double in size.
But Conor had other plans. He took a two-year hiatus and went into boxing to fight Floyd Mayweather, earning $100 million in the process. Meanwhile, the dynamics of the UFC were changing. Khabib worked his way into a title fight with Al Iaquinta, who replaced Tony Ferguson after Tony pulled out due to a knee injury. Khabib fought Iaquinta on three days notice and defeated him soundly to become the UFC lightweight champion.
Conor and Khabib’s paths were destined to cross at some point. Fans all across the world firmly believed in Conor, but the questions surrounding his skill set remained unchanged. What could he do against an opponent his size who can wrestle? Conor is a fighter who is very dangerous on the feet. He constructs his striking through precision and timing. His skill set and fighting style does not require a high volume output of energy. The same cannot be said for Khabib.
Styles Make Fights
Khabib is a fighter who pushes the pace and forces himself upon his opponents. Going into a fight with Khabib, you just have to know what his game plan is. He wants to take you down and wear you out while unleashing a violent beating. Styles make fights and this just was not the fight for Conor. This was not a competitive contest in the least bit. Conor had no answer for Khabib on the ground. He even got dropped on the feet when they were standing toe to toe in the second round. Unlike we all expected, the most significant event of the night was not the main event, it was what happened after the main event.
The “Best” Part
After Conor tapped out, Khabib was pulled off by the referee and then proceeded to stand over Conor and yell at him. As he walked away, Conor’s jiu-jitsu coach, Dillon Danis, must have said some foul words to Khabib because two seconds later, we all saw the Dagestanian jump over the cage into the crowd. We all know what happened after. Brawl after brawl started. Khabib even ate a couple punches from Danis. What was even worse was that Khabib’s team entered the cage and sucker punched McGregor from behind. McGregor and Khabib were taken out of the arena without the title ceremony.
Throughout the past couple of days, all I have heard is how dark a day Saturday was for the sport. But was it THAT dark of a day for the sport? Sure, the actions of Khabib and his team after the fight were unruly and absolutely asinine. According to Dana White, Khabib will more than likely be fined $250,000 and not be stripped of his title. Whether he is suspended for his actions still remains to be seen, but the good news is that McGregor’s team had no interest in pressing charges. But the truth of the matter is that everyone and their mother have a stick up their ass about the entire situation.
The “Darkest Day” in the Sport
There were worries that people’s safety were in jeopardy which is definitely understandable. Nevada governor Brian Sandoval was just feet away from the skirmish and had to be led out by Secret Service. But to say that Saturday night was the darkest day in the history of the sport is a complete stretch. In fact, I would go on a limb and say that Saturday night was one of the best nights in the sport’s history. Whether the actions of the gentlemen involved were civilized or not doesn’t really matter. What matters at the end of the day is the revenue the UFC brings in.
All Saturday night did is set the stage for the ultimate rematch. People across the world heard about this brawl. It would be inexplicably outrageous to assume that more people, who perhaps were not the most hardcore of MMA fans, are not going to be intrigued by an upcoming rematch between these two superstars. Maybe Saturday night could have turned into a disaster, but it didn’t. All it did was create more noise for the UFC. More noise isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
So What Happens Next?
With that out of the way, what happens next for these fighters? Should Conor get a rematch? Khabib completely outclassed Conor in almost every aspect of the fight, meanwhile lightweight contender, Tony Ferguson, looked phenomenal in the co-main event against Anthony Pettis. He was in trouble for a second, but he recovered like an animal and went back to putting the pressure on Pettis. Ferguson technically never lost his title. The UFC stripped it from him due to an injury he sustained before his fight with Khabib, back in February. The UFC claimed that the division could not keep waiting on Ferguson to be healthy. No one beat the guy. How can someone be the champion if they don’t beat the champion?
The fight to make is simple. Ferguson should get a shot at Khabib and have the opportunity to win back his old belt. Conor, on the other hand, needs a tune up fight before he gets back in the octagon with that monster. The fight that makes the most sense for him is a rubber match with Nate Diaz. Diaz is a larger opponent so it would be great practice for a rematch with Khabib. Not only that, but it would do great numbers.
Civil conduct and professionalism are necessary components for athletes in our world of sports. Mixed martial arts may be classified as a sport, but a barbaric sport at that. It forces these athletes to use their natural animalistic instincts to survive. No other sport in the world holds that variable. This sport is pure violence and everyone loves pure violence. The actions of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor on Saturday night will never be forgotten. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen, but one thing we do know is that we ALL are excited for what happens next.