Khabib Nurmagomedov has copped a massive financial hit after sparking a crazy brawl at UFC 229.
Khabib was the calm, glowering foil to Conor McGregor’s antics for six months while the loquacious Irishman built a frenzy of hype around their UFC lightweight title fight.
When Nurmagomedov forced the biggest star in mixed martial arts to tap out Saturday night to end what’s likely to be the most lucrative show in UFC history, he had fashioned the perfect response to McGregor’s verbal insults and physical attacks.
But when Nurmagomedov promptly hurdled over the cage and fought with McGregor’s taunting cornermen while his own teammates ambushed McGregor in the octagon, the Russian champion and his friends might have seriously damaged careers that were just about to take off.
“These guys are in big trouble,” UFC President Dana White said. “It is going to be ugly.”
Executive director Bob Bennett said the Nevada Athletic Commission intends to file a complaint following its investigation into the actions of Nurmagomedov and his team for setting off a post-fight melee at UFC 229 immediately after McGregor submitted to Nurmagomedov’s choke in the fourth round.
Nurmagomedov’s $2 million (US) purse has been withheld, and he could face a hefty fine along with a lengthy suspension.
White said three members of Nurmagomedov’s team were detained by police, but released after McGregor refused to press charges. White acknowledged Nurmagomedov’s lightweight title could be stripped if his actions result in a significant suspension.
“There’s going to be fines,” White said. “There’s going to be God knows what. Can these guys get visas to get back in the country? We’ll see how this plays out, but I’ve been doing this for 18 years, and this is the biggest night ever, and I couldn’t be more disappointed.”
McGregor’s $3 million purse was not withheld after commission officials examined video footage and determined his side had done nothing wrong in the melee.
While Nurmagomedov brawled with McGregor teammate Dillon Danis outside the cage, a few men from Nurmagomedov’s camp — at least two of whom appeared to be UFC fighters, although the promotion and the commission haven’t formally identified them — climbed into the cage and confronted McGregor, who defended himself while getting sucker-punched from behind.
McGregor’s first public response to the drama came on Twitter early Sunday morning: “Good knock. Looking forward to the rematch.”
By following his masterful victory with a reckless response to McGregor’s lengthy campaign of verbal and physical aggression, Nurmagomedov showcased the best and worst sides of mixed martial arts in a 30-second span. The Dagestan native who trains in San Jose, California, also overshadowed his years of steady progress to become one of MMA’s top pound-for-pound fighters.
But Nurmagomedov said he had been brought to a boil by McGregor’s behavior since April, when McGregor infamously attacked a bus carrying Nurmagomedov and several other UFC fighters. McGregor was incensed after Nurmagomedov confronted a member of his team in New York earlier in that week, which ended with Nurmagomedov winning the UFC 155-pound belt.
“I don’t understand how people can talk about I jump on the cage, you know?” Nurmagomedov said after apologizing to the Nevada commission during a brief post-fight statement to reporters, his title belt displayed on the dais before him.
“What 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 of people. What about this? … I don’t understand. I’m respectful. My father teaches me, ‘Hey, you have to be always respectful.'”