Last weekend the Ultimate Fighting Championship became the ultimate sideshow, and the blame shouldn’t just be laid at the feet of Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The blame also lies with UFC boss Dana White.
Last Saturday’s lightweight title fight never should have happened, but we know how these things go. It was the matchup everybody wanted to see, so White gave it the green light.
The post-fight fracas shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. It was the inevitable result of White continuing to coddle and promote McGregor, his top star, despite McGregor giving him a hundred reasons not to.
The beef between Nurmagomedov and McGregor goes back to this past April, when Nurmagomedov and his crew slapped around McGregor’s friend and training partner Artem Lobov at a hotel.
How did McGregor respond? He crashed media day ahead of UFC 223 in Brooklyn, an event he wasn’t scheduled to fight on, and went nuts, throwing a metal dolly into the side of a bus carrying fighters and other UFC personnel.
McGregor’s antics ruined that pay-per-view since several fights had to be scrapped due to the injuries suffered by a few fighters inside the bus. White at the time called it “the most disgusting thing that has ever happened” in the UFC. “This was a real bad career move for him,” White said.
Except it really wasn’t.
McGregor was never disciplined by the UFC for the bus attack. No fine, no suspension. Nothing. Once his legal issues were resolved with the state of New York, White immediately booked the title fight with Nurgomedov for UFC 229.
What followed was months of McGregor using hateful and bigoted language to stoke the tensions with his opponent. This was nothing new. McGregor does this all the time, and again, Dana White just turns the other cheek.
Nurmagomedov wasn’t blameless in the UFC 229 debacle. It was his decision to jump the cage and attack a member of McGregor’s team that ignited the melee. But now there’s talk of a lengthy suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for Nurmagomedov, and only Nurmagomedov. Oh, and a rematch with McGregor, too. I mean, seriously?
Sure, Conor McGregor has made a lot of money for White and for the UFC, but he has also been at the center of two serious incidents that were embarrassing for the company and could have put the UFC in serious jeopardy. White has to stop treating him with kid gloves and get him to tone it down before something more serious does happen.
Mike Hautamaki can be reached at email@example.com.