Dana White: We did all we could to stop UFC 229 getting ugly
Dubai: UFC boss Dana White said there was nothing more he could have done to prevent the Nurmagomedov-McGregor fight from getting out of hand at a sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Khabib Nurmagomedov beat Conor McGregor by a fourth round submission and then jumped out of the octagon to attack his opponent’s teammates. The Russian’s camp also jumped into the cage to assault McGregor.
Three people were arrested but they were later released after McGregor refused to press charges. Two of them are active fighters, who White said would never fight again for the promotion.
Nurmagomedov didn’t receive his belt in the cage, wasn’t awarded his fight purse, and White said he would await the findings of a Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) inquiry, before deciding on whether to strip the Russian of his title.
“The NSAC are going to hand down some type of fine or suspension, we’ll see, if he gets a long suspension, yes, he’s probably going to get stripped,” said White, who also questioned whether Nurmagomedov’s team would still get visas to fight in the US.
“When the governor has to run out of the room because he’s worried what’s going to happen to him — and he overlooks the NSAC — I’m sure this is going be ugly,” he added of possible sanctions.
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The bad blood between the pair stems from an April bus attack where McGregor threw objects at Nurmagomedov’s team bus in Brooklyn, injuring two people.
White was accused of failing to suspend McGregor — who has already been convicted and sued for that altercation — and failing to control the war of words between the two camps heading into this encounter.
“This is not my best side but I’m a human being,” said Nurmagomedov. “I don’t understand how people can talk about me jumping out of the cage. What about when he talked about my religion, my country, my father, then came to Brooklyn, broke the bus, and almost killed a couple of people?
“The media has changed MMA, this is a respect sport not a trash talking sport and I want to change this game, I don’t want people to chat [expletive] about their opponent, you cannot talk about this stuff, for me that’s very important.”
White said: “This isn’t the last time guys are going to say mean things, it’s the fight game, that’s how it works, people have been saying mean things for 18 years but this has never happened.
"The NSAC are going to hand down some type of fine or suspension, we’ll see, if he (Khabib) gets a long suspension, yes, he’s probably going to get stripped."
— Dana White | UFC boss
“There’s trash talk in every sport, it is part of the game, that’s never going to change, I’m never going to tell someone what they can or can’t say.
“If I had suspended Conor it wouldn’t have stopped, slowed or hindered the hatred between the two camps. Those guys don’t care about suspensions, it’s so much bigger than that. This is street, not sport. A suspension would have annoyed Khabib even more because he wanted to fight Conor as soon as possible.
“We went above and beyond anything we’ve ever done in the history of this company tonight to make sure this didn’t happen, and it happened, what are you going to do when a guy flies like a monkey over the cage?”
Asked if he would now sit the two camps down to quell the situation, White replied: ”The last thing I’m going to do is pit these two camps together. They need to be kept as far away from each other as possible.
“This is just so much deeper, these are two groups of people that do not like each other and I don’t think that’s going to change. They are not going to end up hugging it out and being friends, so no.”
With the eyes on the world now on UFC, White was also forced to deny that there were any positives from the altercation.
“It’s definitely not a good thing; this is not what we are about, this is not what we do, and not how we act. It’s disgusting and disappointing, but are we going to fold no, we’ll keep putting on fights, it’s just a bad night, it’s not who we are, and no matter how many mean things are said to people, we fight and move on.
“Despite all the mean things said before the fight, Khabib won and had a great opportunity to walk out like a champ tonight, but instead he went flying over the cage, it should have been a very different night for him.”
McGregor didn’t attend the post fight conference but tweeted: “Great knock. Looking forward to the rematch.”