Crime, Religion, and Submission

Unfortunately for the UFC, the post-fight was more competitive than the actual fight.

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Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov met at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, October 6 to headline Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 229. McGregor, arguably the greatest individual fight promoter of all time, talked this event into the biggest UFC fight of all time.

McGregor had allegedly attacked Nurmagomedov’s family, religion, and teammates. The bad blood between these two was level with, if not surpassing, that between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. Considering Jones and Cormier have been going at each other and exchanging hold of the light heavyweight belt for years now, with matters only heightened by Jones’ doping scandal, this is saying a lot.

The root of this hatred started the last time McGregor fought in the Octagon at UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden. After mauling and submitting Michael Johnson, Nurmagomedov called out the UFC’s golden boy, McGregor, who in the same night, became the first ever simultaneous two-division UFC champion by effortlessly knocking out Eddie Alvarez.

But the peak of their rivalry was when McGregor and a group of his goons attacked the bus Nurmagomedov was on at UFC 223 after Nurmagomedov allegedly harassed McGregor’s training partner, Artem Lobov. Though it took a few months to make it happen, the fight date was set for McGregor’s return to the Octagon at UFC 229, where he would fight against the undefeated Nurmagomedov Nurmagomedov to reclaim the lightweight title he vacated.

Right before the fight, Nurmagomedov said that the bad blood would not be lost after the fight. So when the two fighters entered the Octagon, it wasn’t surprising that there was no touch of gloves in the beginning. And thus started round one.

McGregor, as always, tried to start quick and landed a quick left hand to start the fight. But that quick left hand was about all the success he had in the first round. Nurmagomedov is what most people consider, at such a young age, the greatest wrestler to have ever stepped foot into the Octagon. Growing up in Dagestan, Russia, he was trained within a strict Muslim household where his discipline, strength, and ability to demoralize his opponent laid the foundation for his MMA career. It should be to no one’s surprise that a man who wrestled a bear (and won) at the age of nine would manhandle every single opponent he has ever had; with Nurmagomedov, it has never been a matter of two fighters; it has always been a matter of a man versus a boy. Unfortunately for McGregor, this fight was no different. Nurmagomedov quickly took hold of McGregor’s leg and rammed him into the cage. McGregor resisted, but it did not take long for Nurmagomedov to lift him off the ground, slam him onto the mat, and tie up his legs. The rest of the round consisted of a pure ground and pound domination that wore down McGregor, who had never been in a fight like this before.

The second round didn’t fare much better for McGregor. Nurmagomedov essentially suplexed McGregor onto the mat, began beating away at him, and forced him to carry his weight. For a fighter like McGregor, who relies on his explosiveness and boxing, this was demoralizing. The lack of endurance and wrestling ability was vividly apparent. The end of the second round saw a huge scare for McGregor fans. McGregor, the boxer by trade, was rocked by a big right hand from Nurmagomedov, the wrestler. From there, Nurmagomedov got McGregor in a stacked position and threw hay-makers from a top position. Nevertheless, McGregor survived as he kept up his defenses. Thus, Herb Dean gave him the okay to keep fighting.

The third round saw the most action from McGregor in the entire match. Nurmagomedov decided to stay standing this round. The commentators suspected that Nurmagomedov might have tired himself out from all that ground and pound, but from a fan’s perspective, it was almost as if the Russian was trying to toy with McGregor and prove a point with the confidence he had accumulated after rocking McGregor back with the big right hand in the last round. McGregor, the better stand-up fighter, was able to get some combinations and left hooks off, but Nurmagomedov’s chin stood the test. It was apparent that Nurmagomedov’s manhandling of McGregor in the first two rounds had worn the Irishman out. This fatigue led to a lack of speed and power in McGregor’s punches in comparison to his usual one-punch knockout power, timing, and placement.

As the two fighters entered the championship rounds, the crowd could sense that McGregor needed something special to win this fight. But Nurmagomedov would not let that happen. He once again threw McGregor to the ground like a rag doll, and from there took his back and then neck. Nurmagomedov didn’t even get the arm under McGregor’s chin for the choke; he essentially cranked on McGregor’s head until, for the second time in his career, McGregor tapped out. Never before had we seen McGregor manhandled and left so utterly helpless inside the Octagon. Even in his past losses, McGregor had never been so utterly humiliated and left red-faced as he was by Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov said to McGregor’s fans before the fight, “I’m gonna smash your boy, and then you will like me.” It goes without saying that the first part of his statement came true, but the second did not.

Unfortunately for the UFC, the post-fight was more competitive than the actual fight. After Nurmagomedov finished an almost flawless performance by submitting his hated adversary, he proceeded to yell at McGregor and throw his mouthpiece in the direction of McGregor’s corner. But then, as if humiliating McGregor wasn’t enough, Nurmagomedov leaped over the fence and into the crowd, where he began brawling another one of McGregor’s training partners in the crowd of the T-Mobile Arena.

Just when things couldn’t get worse, one of Nurmagomedov’s team members jumped into the Octagon and hit McGregor with a flush right hook on the chin. Security ran into the scuffles and escorted McGregor and his team out of the arena.

“Where is my belt?” he asked Dana White after he calmed down and was brought back into the Octagon.

“If I put this belt on you, people are gonna get hurt,” White replied. While he couldn’t stop the brawl that had already begun between the Irish and Russian fans, he didn’t add more fuel to the fire. Nurmagomedov’s post-match antics had his purse and contract suspended, and the teammate that attacked McGregor was under police investigation. Nurmagomedov’s only regret was that he let himself lose his discipline after the fight, but he truly believed his actions were justified. McGregor’s team not only lost the fight, but also lost the post-fight.

Regardless of what transpired after the fight, Nurmagomedov’s performance against the UFC’s poster boy should put him in the conversation about the greatest of all time, as this epic victory, among many signature wins, brought his record to 27-0.