Khabib vs McGregor – The Aftermath
It seems the whole world of combat sports is talking about events over the weekend which took place in the octagon between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor so I thought it would be rude not to give my two cents on Khabib vs McGregor…
First of all, I don’t think there has ever been a fight outside of Boxing I was looking forward to as much as this one which headlined UFC229. I don’t ever recall waking up around 5am to view the fight. Whilst I am not a huge fan of the UFC or mixed martial arts, I did watch the inaugural event all the way back in the mid to late 90’s when Brazilian Royce Gracie won the opening two tournaments of the UFC and popularised Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ as it now commonly known. I have admired the likes of Royce Gracie, Vitor Belfort and Fedor Emelianenko but it as never been enough to make me want to get up in the early hours of the morning to watch them or pay close attention to the build up.
Perhaps this is a little different because not only has Conor McGregor surpassed them in terms of popularity, McGregor fought Boxing’s biggest star last year when he took on Floyd Mayweather Jnr. As a Boxing fan, this automatically made him more intriguing to me. We are also living in the age of social media, it’s just that much easier to get your name out there across the world now.
The build up to the fight wasn’t the purist. McGregor is clearly the golden boy for the UFC and that makes it easier for him to get away with a lot of the things he both said and then. The Notorious one is a master at marketing the fight, having seen how Floyd did it for so many years, he knows the better he markets the fight, the more money he will make out of the fight. Khabib though is a much more stoic character and is not someone who is very outspoken – obviously with english not being his first language this has something to do with it, but by nature he is not someone who engages in a lot of trash talk.
Whether McGregor crossed the line in the build up really depends on which culture you belong to. Khabib comes from a culture where it is not ok to ever insult someones family, their religion and not their nation either. McGregor, who pushed the boundaries last year when he helped hype the fight up against Mayweather Jnr, was pushing those boundaries even further this time round. Maybe the experience of last year, in which he got away with borderline racism helped him push that envelope a little further this time. Maybe the fact he got away with a slap on the wrist from the UFC for attacking a team bus also gave him the confidence he could act in an equally dismissive manner in the lead up to the fight, but the fact remains, he was not dealing with someone who has a similar culture living in the USA like Floyd Mayweather Jnr did, he was fighting a man who was born and raised in the mountainous regions of Dagestan whose people have a completely different culture and a different mindset to someone who grew up in Ireland or the USA.
As for the fight itself, I think the majority held the belief that this was Khabib’s fight. McGregor’s weaknesses are widely known to be his grappling and his stamina – and here he is coming up against a man whose best skill is wrestling and has an insane level of conditioning that allows him to fight at a high tempo for every round. There was also the same issue of McGregor not having fought inside the octagon for almost two years, yes he had 10 rounds in a boxing ring last year but even if you include that, one fight in the past year is simply not enough when you have to battle ring rust as well as the top fighter in the game today. What McGregor had going for him though was his dynamic ability and striking power, you never can count McGregor out as he always has the ability to pull something out of the hat.
However, the fight went the way of Khabib and it wasn’t just in the wrestling, Khabib looked the better striker too and pretty much mauled Conor the whole fight. The only exception was round three which really could have gone either way but it did end up being the first round Khabib had ever lost. The very next round though would be the round Khabib ended the fight as he applied a neck crank against a tiring McGregor who was forced to tap out. I know there are some saying it wasn’t even a proper choke hold but I disagree, a choke like that is going to hurt whether it is squeezing against your throat, chin or face, especially if Khabib is applying force with his other forearm or elbow against McGregor’s back whilst trying to squeeze the life out of him.
Of course it was what happened immediately after Khabib had won that the real drama began and all the headlines started. Khabib jumped out of the cage attacking the jiu-jitsu coach of McGregor who had apparently been taunting Khabib throughout the fight and then a near riot ensued with members of Khabibs team involved in skirmishes with Conor McGregor.
Whilst I can understand the reasons it occured, it is not something which should have happened but obviously when you have fighters in the ring, it is pretty easy for the red mist to appear and set someone off. There has been mention that Conor apologised of sorts during the bout when he mentioned to Khabib it is just business, but as previously stated, you are going up against a man from a different mindset and culture. If you are going to attack his family, nation and religion, you had better expect a backlash of some sorts. Not everyone will take kindly to being ridiculed infront of the world in the press conferences leading up to the fight and these people may take some of the things you said literally. Once the fight is over and they have beaten you infront of millions, the emotions can easily get the better of them in the heat of the battle, the fact McGregors coach Dillon Danis was still trying to rustle his feathers only makes it easier for Khabib to hit that tipping point.
I believe McGregor was only trying to market the fight but he was allowed to take it too far, he may have thought that by belittling Khabib and his background, he could get into the normally stone cold Khabib’s head and force him out of his game plan by making him fight angry, that was McGregor’s best chance of victory against Khabib but when there is a culture clash, Khabib took it all literally, to the point that the fight boiled over into the crowd on Saturday night and it will probably continue to simmer in the coming weeks.
What we can be sure of though is, however much Dana White and the UFC condemn what happened, you can guarantee the unsightly events will be used to hype the rematch – should this happen. McGregor has already commented he wants the rematch and Dana White will surely oblige because the rematch will generate even more money. There is a saying that all publicity is good publicity and that looks to be case here, money talks and will make the UFC forget everything that happened if there is a rematch when they realise the magnitude of the money it can make, the same way they brushed under the carpet what McGregor did in the bus incident.