We have witnessed history…
On Saturday October 6th, 2018, we all witnessed what was a historic night for the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts in general. Once the numbers are tallied, this will undoubtedly be the highest drawing pay-per-view to have ever been put together in the sport’s history, and it will take something clearly special to outshine it. That being said, I saw thing or two that put a damper on my experience, and the reactions to the drama which occurred immediately after the end of the main event certainly polarized fans and pundits. In order to put things in perspective, I’d like to talk about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of UFC 229.
As a fight fan, I certainly was not disappointed by the combat that occurred, particularly during the main card. I saw some blood and guts performances from almost everyone, but let’s start with Derrick Lewis. One word for his miraculous, come from behind victory – WOW! Lewis just told everyone watching that if you sleep on him, even for a second, he will SLEEP YOU. That man has enough power in his fists to crumble the entire octagon, but instead decided to lay a nasty right hand on the chin of Alexander Volkov. To Volkov’s credit, he was doing exactly what he needed to in order to win the fight, but all it took was just one second for Derrick Lewis to dig deep and land an earth shattering bomb to end the fight. Props to the Black Beast, who will incidentally be fighting for the title at UFC 230 in a rather quick and unnecessary turnaround (more on that in another post).
Better even than that was the unbelievable performance turned in by El Cucuy and Showtime. Can you say FIREWORKS?? Those two men were not about to hold anything back; they knew how important a victory at UFC 229 was, and that it would have major title implications. I actually believed that Tony would wipe the floor with Pettis, but Pettis impressed me with his resilience and veteran savvy, as he managed to knock down the former interim champion and even held dominant position for a bit. However, save for one lone blemish in his UFC career, Tony has always found a way to make his relentless pressure and creative striking shatter through his opponents’ game plans, and this fight was no different. He left Pettis a bloody mess and made sure that no one could forget where he stood in this division. The only real question is, will they reward him with the title shot that he SO deserves?
And of course, perhaps the best part of the night was the fight that fans had been salivating over since the second it was announced – Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov vs “The Notorious” Conor McGregor. Among my friend circle, I was the only one who was sure that Khabib would win this fight, and while I have had incorrect predictions before with McGregor fights (I tend to bet against him), something about this just felt right. Of course, the biggest debate was whether Conor would be able to land his patented dynamite left hand on Khabib, or if Khabib would simply overwhelm the former 2-division champion with his world-class grappling skills. The question was clearly and loudly answered by Khabib, as he systematically shut down any effort of McGregor to mount an offense, and completed his beautiful destruction of the brash Irishman in the 4th round with a method of defeat that Conor is all too familiar with – SUBMISSION. For me, it was satisfying, but my satisfaction would be somewhat short lived by the events that shortly followed Khabib’s historic win…
Why Khabib…why?? Why did you have to ruin what was supposed to be a celebration by deciding to do an eagle impression off the top of the Octagon?
In case you’ve been under a rock, here’s what happened – Khabib retained his title with a near flawless victory, but instead of soaking it all in, he decided to let himself be goaded by the absolute scumbag teammate of Conor McGregor named Dillon Danis, a watered down version, discount version of McGregor who simply can’t help himself. As Khabib launched himself out of the Octagon and into the crowd to confront Danis, an all-out brawl ensued, and now Khabib faces punishment that includes potential for a massive fine and suspension. Despite the fact that McGregor had his own part in the brawl, and had been provoking Khabib through countless instances of personal digs against Khabib’s father, family members, teammates, and personal relationships, there was simply no reason that Khabib needed to bring himself down to that level. He came, he saw, and he unquestionably conquered, and he just couldn’t stop himself from succumbing to his own emotions. That is not the mark of a true champion, and while Khabib generally does have the temperament and demeanor of one, he’ll need to remind everyone by gradually erasing this ugly incident from our memories. Speaking of ugly…
As bad as Khabib’s actions were, for some reason they don’t quite disgust me as much as the reaction, particularly from Dana White, UFC announcers, and the media. All I heard from all of these parties was how “disgusting” it all was, and how it stained the sport that they’ve all worked so hard to legitimize. For Dana White, the man who deprives his fighters of proper pay, lashes out against his OWN champions (i.e. Tyron Woodley), forgoes proper matchmaking for interim title fights and WWE wrestler debuts, he is absolutely in no position to judge anything as “disgusting”. Remember, Conor McGregor threw a dolly into a bus window carrying fighters, and this resulted in some having to be pulled from the card. Glass went into the faces and eyes of people who had trained and worked hard for a very special event, and it could’ve been significantly worse. He broke the law by bringing his goons from Ireland to trespass on the Barclays Center in an effort to ambush Khabib before a title fight, and with all of the physical damage as well as property damage caused, the result was a bit of faux outrage from Dana White, minimal negative reaction from UFC announcers and media, a legal slap on the wrist, and McGregor being rewarded the biggest fight of his UFC career.
For these people talk about how “disgusted” they are…the hypocrisy is blinding. It’s absolutely baffling how they think that Khabib is going to leave a stain on the sport that Conor (and Dana White) somehow already hasn’t. Conor McGregor is exactly what the sport shouldn’t be, but we’re all guilty of accepting him. We’re all guilty of putting our eyes to the screen when he’s on it, and we’re all guilty of condoning his ridiculous behavior. Dana White has absolved himself of all responsibility, even though he calmly laughed alongside McGregor and drank a glass of Proper 12 at the Radio City press conference as McGregor stoked the flame of a man who shows no mercy to his opponents. He gleefully watched as his PPV projections soared, turning a blind eye to the inevitable disaster brewing before he placed two fighters that genuinely hated each other in the Octagon. Of course, no blame on his cash cow McGregor; none at all. In fact, he seemed to speak in admiration as he said that McGregor wouldn’t be pressing charges, as though McGregor was just an innocent victim of his undisputed champion’s uncontrolled rage and violent outburst and took the noble high road.
Khabib is having his purse withheld while, of course, McGregor’s is safely on its way. There is talk of Khabib and his teammates having potential visa issues in the future as a result of this mayhem, and yet, there was no talk of any of this when Conor decided to endanger the lives of fighters that had nothing to do with his beef. All eyes from the UFC view Khabib as the bad guy in this drama…as if we couldn’t somehow rationalize what the hell could’ve provoked him. But perhaps worst of all is that we may actually have to accept the fact that there may be an immediate rematch between Khabib and Conor, simply because McGregor called up his employee Dana and asked for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were granted, because Dana knows that it will be yet another cash grab. And hey, we’ll all watch. What happened after the main event at UFC 229 was ugly, but let’s never lose sight of the bigger picture here. The hypocrisy is evident, and should be called out any time it occurs.