Conor McGregor and Khabib Murmagomedov respected and even liked each other back in 2014, but a one word insult changed all that.
McGregor and Khaib were very friendly just four years ago and even posed for a photo together after UFC 178.
DEVASTATING: WWE star shocks fans with live cancer announcement
Khabib was an up-and-comer who hadn’t broken into UFC stardom yet, while McGregor had just reached superstardom by beating Dustin Pourier.
As you can see here, the hatred that now exists between the rivals was non-existent back then.
@TeamKhabib I love it champ!! The Russian Bear!!
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) September 29, 2014
How friends turned to foes
But according to Artem Lobov, a friend and teammate of McGregor, things changed when Khabib started insulting the Irishman with one particular word.
Lobov, a Russian fighter who trains in Ireland with McGregor, has revealed to ESPN how McGregor was infuriated by Khabib continually calling him ‘chicken’.
“Things were good between all of us — Conor, Khabib and myself,” Lobov told ESPN.
“We saw Khabib often at shows, Reebok launches and what not. We were always very respectful to each other. I’d always shake his hand, ask how he is … it was all good.
“That all changed when, for someone reason I don’t know why, Khabib started calling Conor a chicken. Conor had never said anything bad towards Khabib. Khabib decided to start calling him chicken.
What’s so bad about ‘chicken’?
Lobov explained how the term ‘chicken’ is used as a very derogatory term in Russia, often to describe a man who has been sexually assaulted.
“It might not sound very serious to you guys, but just so you know, chicken is one of the most severe insults you can give a man in Russia. Khabib knows that and everybody knows that,” he said.
“Khabib keeps going on with this, chicken here, chicken there, at every interview he’s calling Conor chicken … again Conor is respectful, not saying anything, we don’t really know where this is all coming from. Khabib was very respectful beforehand.
“The more he says chicken, he sees the media picking it up, he sees all the attention, and I guess he enjoys that. He wants the PR and he keeps going with it.
“This goes on for about a year. And then in an interview, I get asked about this. A Russian journalist asks me, ‘what can you say about Khabib calling Conor a chicken?’
“Now of course, knowing the severity of this insult, I had to respond in a hard way. And I think anybody would have done the same. If I didn’t do that, then what kind of friend am I?
“My response was very harsh, but I spoke facts. I talked about Khabib pulling out from all the fights … How can he call him a chicken when he’s the one pulling out. Conor never pulled out. It was a harsh response but given the situation I thought it was an appropriate response.”
Khabib and Lobov infamously clashed in a New York hotel earlier this year, prompting McGregor to fly in and attack a UFC bus that Khabib was travelling in.
UFC boss Dana White labelled McGregor’s actions “the most disgusting thing that has ever happened in the history of the company”.
The incident proved to be the spark for the crazy scenes that went down after Khabib submitted McGregor at UFC 229.