Celebrated Khabib-McGregor Fight Ends with Ugliness and Embarrassment

One of the most anticipated fights in UFC history between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov ended in shameful fashion on Saturday.

Updated: Oct. 7, 2018 • 1:45 PM ET

Conor McGregor's starpower may have dimmed a bit after Saturday's loss.

What was built-up as the biggest and most important fight in UFC history became the biggest embarrassment in UFC history. It’s important to consider that perhaps the writing was on the wall for a terrible ending, but fight fans may have ignored the warning signs because of their eagerness for Conor McGregor’s return.

In UFC 229’s main event, Khabib Nurmagomedov forced McGregor to tap in dramatic fashion after beating him up for four rounds. Then, instead of humbly celebrating the victory, Nurmagomedov taunted McGregor and jumped out of the cage to attack the Irishman’s team. A violent skirmish in the crowd that endangered fans followed the attack, forcing police and security to get involved. McGregor remained in the Octagon and was attacked by several members of Nurmagomedov’s team. Security and police separated the scuffle, but not before one of the worst moments fight fans have ever seen.

In the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White divulged that McGregor would not press charges against the attackers, which is probably the most honorable thing that the former champion has done for the promotion in the last two years.

After everything that happened in the buildup for this fight, one moment of emotion got the best of Nurmagomedov and he finally succumbed to the pressure and joined the circus at the worst possible time. For months, he avoided all the negativity and didn’t seem significantly rattled. He could have basked in the glory of completely dominating the UFC’s poster boy; instead, he had to privately enjoy the victory outside the Octagon and not with his Russian fans. Ultimately, Nurmagomedov finally embraced the villain role and now has to wear it for some time.

Nurmagomedov forced his will on McGregor for four rounds before finishing him with a neck crank. He looked like the more prepared fighter, and he answered all the questions about his ability to take a punch from a superior striker. In fact, it was Nurmagomedov who landed the biggest punch in the fight, and he used his signature aggression and grappling to win the fight.

McGregor landed a few of his signature left hands, but they didn’t have the same impact that they’ve had in the past. The Dublin native shook off a few of Nurmagomedov’s takedowns, but he was unable to avoid getting hurt when the Russian took him to the ground. The fight followed a path that most people predicted, which was that each fighter would try to utilize their strengths. In the end, Nurmagomedov was the better fighter, as he seemed to have improved his weaknesses, not McGregor.

McGregor looked noticeably tired before the fight even started. His confidence level didn’t look the same and after being out of the Octagon for two years, it was clear that he wasn’t the same fighter that became the UFC’s biggest star. McGregor is now 2-2 in his last four fights in the Octagon, having been finished in the two losses. While he lasted 10 rounds, Floyd Mayweather also finished him in his boxing debut. Perhaps it’s time to move on from the narrative that McGregor’s belief in himself is more powerful than another fighter’s skill and preparation.

It’s also time to move on from the luster that’s created by his trash talk and perhaps start thinking that it may be bad for the sport. After all, the only way a fighter gets away with being such a nuisance is by backing it up (and of course generating revenue). McGregor has shown that he cannot always back it up and after a performance like he had on Saturday, how long will he be the company cash cow?

A rematch with Nurmagomedov will be the obvious choice for the UFC, especially after what happened after the fight. Again, the story has already been written, just like when McGregor threw that dolly through that bus window. There won’t be much work needed promoting a second fight. But does McGregor deserve it? Does Nurmagomedov even want it?

Despite the ugliness of the main event, there were still beautiful moments at UFC 229. In the co-main event, No. 2 ranked lightweight Tony Ferguson made a triumphant return to the Octagon against former champion Anthony Pettis in one of the best fights of the year. It was a bloody back-and-forth battle that Ferguson won by second-round TKO after Pettis retired from the fight in the third round with a broken hand. Ferguson has now won 11 straight fights and deserves a title shot. But will he get it?

Undefeated light heavyweight Dominick Reyes dominated and defeated seasoned veteran Ovince Saint Preux by unanimous decision and announced his presence as a real title threat at 205 pounds. He badly hurt Saint Preux multiple times in the fight and actually had him knocked out at the end of the third round, but the horn saved Saint Preux.

Heavyweight Derrick Lewis defeated Alexander Volkov in stunning fashion with 20 seconds left in the third round. Lewis landed a giant right hand, dropping the 6-foot-7 Russian and finishing him with ground strikes in one of the best comeback victories in UFC history. Lewis entered the fight ranked No. 2 in the heavyweight division and a giant fan favorite. Will he get the next heavyweight title shot?

Strawweight Michelle Waterson defeated Felice Herrig by unanimous decision to begin the main card. It was a great back-and-forth battle, as both fighters landed big shots and scored takedowns. Waterson has now won consecutive fights and is looking to get back into title contention.

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