“Rematch was planned from the very beginning.” UFC to benefit from scandal at Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor fight?
Some sports experts already named the championship fight between Russian mixed martial artist Khabib Nurmagomedov and Irishman Conor McGregor one of the most dramatic and important in the UFC history. The CrimeRussia found out that the victory of Nurmagomedov and subsequent brawl initiated by him have a political significance for the Russian Federation, while for the UFC promoters, this is a purely financial matter.
The fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor at the UFC 229 tournament resulted in a sweeping ahead-of-time win of Khabib in the fourth round.
But aside from the fight, the subsequent mass brawl between members of the rival teams has hit the headlines as well. In the course of the melee, members of Nurmagomedov’s team entered the octagon and attacked McGregor. The brawl was started by the winner – after the submission of McGregor, Nurmagomedov jumped out of the octagon to punish his offenders.
Nurmagomedov had reasons for revenge. Immediately after the submission of the Irishman, empty beer cans and even the Iris flag were thrown into the Russian fighter from the stand of McGregor’s team. Later Nurmagomedov admitted that he was outraged most of all by insults of Dillion Danis, the Irishman’s jiu-jitsu coach.
Dillion Danis and Conor McGregor
According to Nurmagomedov, Danis had called him "a Muslim scumbag" (Danis denies this) – although the Russian fighter admits that it was very noisy and difficult to understand anything. But as Khabib claims, "everything was clear from his face". Especially taking that Nurmagomedov had heard such things in the past.
30-year-old Conor McGregor is an Irish professional mixed martial artist and boxer with a notorious reputation. He is the former UFC featherweight (2016—2018) and lightweight (2015—2016) champion. McGregor is #8 on the UFC's pound for pound rankings. He is known for his boxing and taekwondo skill and efficient, according to sports experts, fighting style. McGregor delivers heavy kicks to the head and chest of his opponent and is able to knock him out both with his left and right hands. In addition to his fighting skills, McGregor is famous for controversial behavior and scandals outside the octagon. McGregor engages in trash talk and "psychological warfare" against his opponents and tries to provoke them to a brawl. This is how the Irish fighter attracts greater public and media attention to his fights – which directly affects his fees. Conor McGregor is the highest-paid UFC fighter – he receives $3 million for entering the octagon regardless of the fight result.
“I just wanted to shut up that idiot”
The hatred purposively engendered by Conor McGregor in his opponents by slinging muck at them has been accumulating in Khabib for several months.
In April 2018, Conor McGregor has attacked a bus with UFC fighters inside, including Khabib Nurmagomedov. After a conflict between Russian-Irish mixed martial artist Artem Lobov, a friend and sparring partner of McGregor, who had insulted Nurmagomedov on a social network, McGregor has thrown a metal cart to the bus smashing a window.
Artem Lobov and Conor McGregor
The police arrested the troublemaker; he was facing up to 7 years behind bars for the assault resulting in injuries and hooliganism – but ultimately McGregor just got a slap on the wrist by making a commitment to compensate the damages, serve 5 days of public works, and take an anger management course.
Later McGregor had repeatedly provoked Nurmagomedov. Once this happened at the official weigh-in ceremony, during the stare down – Conor hit Khabib’s hand and attempted to kick him, but team members broke the fighters up.
In August, McGregor named Nurmagomedov’s father a “quivering coward” on Instagram. On September 21, at an official press conference, he called Khabib a ‘fake, lying rat’ and accused him of disrespecting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian fighter was deliberately calm during the meetings with McGregor and only promised to call him to account in the octagon. At one of the press conferences, McGregor has come 30 minutes behind time – and Nurmagomedov left the event prior to his arrival causing the outraged Irishman to sling more muck at him.
It is hard to say how difficult was it to remain calm for a member of a nation where an insult to relatives may cause a clan vendetta, for a person who had lived in the mountains and wrestled with a bear. In any event, Nurmagomedov was ready for the fight not only physically – but morally as well.
30-year-old Khabib Abdulmanapovich Nurmagomedov is a Russian mixed martial artist and reigning UFC Lightweight Champion. He is ranked #2 in the official UFC pound-for-pound rankings. Nurmagomedov is a Russian and European Champion of Army Hand-to-Hand Combat, two-time World Combat Sambo Champion, European Pankration Champion, and NAGA World Grappling Champion. He had participated in several M-1 Global Tournaments and other championships. Since the childhood, Khabib has been coached by his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, Honored Wrestling and Combat Sambo Coach of Russia. Nurmagomedov has won all his 27 fights, including 4 ahead-of-time wins in the 11 UFC fights. He made his professional MMA debut in September 2008. In his UFC debut, on January 20, 2012, Nurmagomedov defeated Kamal Shalorus via submission in the third round. He became the UFC Lightweight Champion in April 2018 by defeating Al Iaquinta. An Avar by nationality, Nurmagomedov enters the octagon in a white sheepskin hat. He is a popular media personality: prior to the fight with McGregor, his Instagram account had some 7 million subscribers; a few days after his victory, the number of subscribers exceeded 11.7 million.
Apparently, the fight with McGregor dominated and won by Khabib was not enough for him to let off steam. As a result, the McGregor’s coaching team sustained damages, and the belt was initially not given to Nurmagomedov. Furthermore, his fee has been frozen while the Nevada Athletic Commission (NSAC) investigates the melee after the fight.
While commenting on the incident, UFC President Dana White hasn’t ruled out that Nurmagomedov may be disqualified for life and deprived of his UFC Championship title.
According to White, the situation was further complicated by the presence of Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval at the match – he had to hastily retreat after the beginning of the mass brawl near the cage. The very possibility of such incidents – when a fighter leaps out of the octagon into the crowd – may severely compromise the UFC reputation because the organization is responsible for the safety of the audience. A number of Western media outlets have noted the "unsportsmanlike behavior" of Khabib. However, based on the interim investigation results, it became known that the Russian athlete won't be deprived of the title and his disqualification won't exceed six months – according to his father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, Khabib had planned to take such a break after this milestone fight in any event.
Abdulmanap and Khabib Nurmagomedov
On October 8, Khabib Nurmagomedov apologized to the Nevada Athletic Commission and spectators for his temper. He admitted the improper behavior but explained its reasons and noted that he would like to change the UFC rules.
“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, – Nurmagomedov said at a press conference after the fight. – This is respect sport. This is not trash-talking sport. This is respect. I told you before, guys, I want to change this game. I don’t want people talk shit about, like, opponents, talk shit about his father, religion. You cannot talk about religion, you cannot talk about nation, guys, you cannot talk about this stuff. For me, this is very important”.
Next day, during the meeting with some 9 thousand fans at Anzhi Arena stadium in Makhachkala, Khabib was much more confident in his rightness.
"I just wanted to shut up that idiot – show the difference between our nation and his nation. Nothing can break us, our nation has a great history," – Nurmagomedov said implying that McGregor poses as "a descendant of proud Irish people struggling for their independence for centuries".
“We all may jump, and they won’t find it funny”
Russian fans of all levels had emotionally reacted to the victory of Khabib – while the brawl either went unnoticed or was appreciated and supported.
High-ranked governmental functionaries made no secret of their enthusiasm and pride for the fighter. In the period of contentious relations with the West and US sanctions, the sporting win of Nurmagomedov looked symbolic for Russian politicians.
Vladimir Putin was the first to congratulate the athlete by phone; the brawl incident wasn’t even mentioned in their conversation. Minutes after the fight end, Vladimir Vasiliev, Head of Dagestan, made an official statement encouraging the youth to look up to “undefeatable Khabib”, while Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Leader of the Liberal–Democratic Party of Russia, took part in “In hat for Khabib” Instagram flash mob and said: “We will choke all enemies of Russia as Khabib has choked McGregor.
Ramzan Kadyrov and Ramazan Abdulatipov, ex-Head of Dagestan, have also congratulated Nurmagomedov. The Chechen leader praised “the artistic talent of Khabib able to turn a face into an oil painting”, while Abdulatipov called his victory “a birthday gift to Vladimir Putin from Dagestan” – on that day, the Russian President turned 66.
Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who had publicly promised to punish his son for the incident, has tempered justice with mercy and limited the punishment to a slap on the wrist – a day before, Vladimir Putin has kiddingly asked Nurmagomedov senior not to use severity with Khabib.
The President met the fighter and his father at Russia – Country Of Sports International Forum held in Ul’yanovsk.
“We all understand that this (provocative actions of McGregor and his team) was done on purpose to throw off balance and get advantages during the fight. It is necessary to avoid extremes and abstain from leaps whatever happens. We are all a big diverse family. Everything may happen in a family – but we shall not step over the bounds. But if somebody attacks us from the outside, then, not only you, but we all may jump, and they won’t find it funny,” – Putin either softly reprimanded or commended Nurmagomedov.
So, what are the outputs of the milestone fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor?
Most experts are not astonished at its sports aspect. The victory of Khabib was predetermined – a number of bookmakers have published their forecasts a day before the fight. Many media outlets had predicted a scandal in the course of the fight a long time ago. According to Andrei Bazdrev, Esquire columnist, producer, and organizer of fist-fighting tournaments, the fight was not competitive or outstanding. Experts agree with him: McGregor hadn't entered the octagon for too long (over 2 years) and had no chance to withstand highlander Nurmagomedov – proud and deeply offended by his insults. The Achilles' heel of McGregor was obvious: the Irishman excellently fights standing up as opposed to on the ground. Nurmagomedov successfully used this weakness. In the past, McGregor sustained three defeats in his career from the choke hold. And most importantly: did he really need this victory?
“Rematch was planned from the very beginning.”
The CrimeRussia source in the Boxing Federation of Russia believes that Conor McGregor hadn’t expected to defeat his opponent. A recently signed contract with the UFC for 8 fights was much more important for him than the fight result. A number of facts clearly indicate this.
According to The CrimeRussia source, the main value of Conor McGregor for the UFC is his talent to sell himself and his fights. Entertainer McGregor, with his fighting style a la Hollywood action movies, public scandals, and tattoos, creates enormous hype, thus, enabling the promoters to make good money. In addition, McGregor is Irish and his potential audience includes almost 40 million people of Irish ancestry living in the USA.
According to Moody's, UFC owners made over $700 million on MMA fights in 2017. Dana White noted that the sales of tickets on the UFC 229 tournament have brought over 17 million in profits. However, the main revenues of the UFC and other promoters are received via the TV: sales of broadcasts is an extremely profitable business in the USA because main MMA events can be watched only for money, and each broadcast through the pay-per-view (PPV) service costs $15. It is known that the UFC has sold over 4.6 million PPV subscriptions, which translates into some $135 million in net profits.
McGregor, who earns at least $10 million for each fight, already announced his fervent desire for a rematch. Many experts were surprised that the Irishman had fought with Nurmagomedov not in his usual style – without the signature aggression and distinctive tactics.
Dana White invites guests to the VIP zone
It can’t be ruled out therefore that, due to the high commercial potential of the Khabib vs. McGregor fight, the UFC had planned from the very beginning to carry out the first championship fight and then a rematch. The CrimeRussia source noted that MMA promoters have borrowed this marketing trick from Hollywood – where a sequel to a blockbuster with guaranteed box office is divided into several parts (take, for instance, Pirates of the Caribbean). After all, both the cinema and MMA fights are parts of the entertainment industry.
Our source believes that the promoters have simply used the rage of Nurmagomedov – who, unlike McGregor, is a fighter, not a showman, – without sharing their commercial plans with him. Of course, the mass brawl after the fight was an improvisation. But a scandal may also be successfully monetized.