After months of relentless shit talking, the McGregor vs. Khabib fight ended about as spectacularly as one of these things can. And it was not a good look for the UFC.
In the moments after McGregor tapped out, yielding to Khabib’s neck crank, the gladiator style showdown, spilt out of the ring and into the crowd — like some kind of WWE skit. Chaos ensued: fighters were punching coaches, teammates were attacking fighters, women were screaming, children were crying, security guards were swarming and general confusion hung in the air like cordite in the aftermath of a gunfight.
What the hell happened? Everyone was left wondering. What caused this fight to escalate to such epic proportions?
Well, McGregor’s loud mouth had a lot to do with it. For weeks he (and a lot of his fans) were insulting Khabib and his religion, his country and even his father. Mcgregor was talking the usual McGregor shit, but not to a typical opponent. After all, Khabib grew up in Dagestan, Russia, wrestling bears, among a culture of people who do not take kindly to the kind of badmouthing that McGregor is known for slinging.
Insulting someone’s father where Khabib comes from can get you killed.
The shit-talk was only part of the reason why this fight took such an ugly turn, though. During the fight itself, Mcgregor was blatantly cheating throughout. The shyster was clinging to the cage with both his fingers and his toes at different points in the match. He grabbed Khabib by his gloves and even threw knees to Khabib’s head while Connor was on his back. There was no way to ignore it — McGregor was fighting dirty.
And likely because he knew he was getting whipped to jelly.
But, the straw that broke the camel’s back, came in the moments after Khabib nearly broke the Irishman’s neck. And it came, not from McGregor (who was clearly still reeling from the beat-down) but from his coach, Dillon Danis, who was standing ringside.
There’s no knowing what, exactly Danis said, but it had something to do with Khabib’s religion, according to sources. Almost certainly, when he said it (whatever it was) Danis felt safe with Khabib still in the cage. But, with one powerful lunge Khabib cleared the six-foot fence between them, sailed into the crowd and started wailing on Danis.
Security flooded the floor almost instantly and ripped the two apart before it got bloody. But no sooner than that scuffle was snuffed, did one of Khabib’s teammates leap into the ring (with nearly as much grace) and started throwing punches at an unsuspecting and still recovering McGregor.
The WWE would have been hard pressed to script a more dramatic finale.
It was a foolish move on Khabib’s part. There’s no debating that fact — his actions may have cost him his title and will likely will result in suspension, fines and potentially puts his American visa at risk of being revoked. The same goes for his teammate who attacked McGregor from behind.
This is not a good look for the UFC or for MMA at large. This sport is already brutal and violent enough, the only thing that humanizes it is the sportsmanship and the respect that martial artists are expected to demonstrate in the ring. Khabib may have won the fight, may have kept his title, even, but by letting his emotions pull him out of the ring like that, he forfeited all of the honor and respect that should come with winning such a big fight.
It may be time for the UFC to reflect on what it wants to be. Because this didn’t just happen in the moment — it was built up to, just like WWE matches, through all of Connor’s shit talking, insulting Khabib, and even throwing a dolly at a bus Khabib was on back in April.
People will try to frame Khabib as the bad guy, here, but McGregor was just as much responsible for the outcome — even though he was sitting there all dazed and confused when everything happened. By cultivating so much animosity between himself and Khabib in the weeks leading up to their fight, he set the stage for this. And, of course, his coach didn’t help calm the situation down either.
If Dana White truly wanted to stop this kind of behavior, maybe he would try and control some of the madness and disrespect that led to this explosive incident…
While White scolded both Khabib and his teammate for the outburst, it was hard not to notice the smirk on his face. Hard not to notice how quickly he a said yes, when asked if he would consider a rematch between the two. Hard not to imagine his hard-on when he saw the pay per view ratings.
Anyway, it’s probably about time something like this happened at a UFC fight. The question now becomes, how does the sport grow from here? No doubt, a lot of fans loved the drama and the recklessness of that fight. No doubt, a lot of them would like to see more.
That is not martial arts, though. That’s showmanship and entertainment viewers look to see from WWE. If MMA and the UFC lose that element of sportsmanship and respect that make martial arts a form of art, then the sport will have taken a turn for the worse.
One of its most attractive qualities is that the UFC isn’t like WWE wrestling. It is real, it requires self-control, discipline, reverence and humility.
The Khabib v. McGregor fight had none of that.