UFC 229 Aftermath: What Should Happen vs. What Will Happen

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Khabib Nurmagomedov UFC
Khabib Nurmagomedov is held back outside of the cage after fighting Conor McGregor in a lightweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 229 in Las Vegas, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Nurmagomedov won the fight by submission during the fourth round to retain the title. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Following UFC 229 and the brawl after the main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, what should happen is one thing. What will happen is something else entirely.

Haven’t heard enough about the antics of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov following UFC 229? Well, you’re in the minority. The debacle he sparked by jumping the octagon fence following his win over Conor McGregor on Saturday in Las Vegas has been covered to death by both the mainstream and MMA media. Full disclosure, we’re among the latter, and have given plenty of attention to the subject.

There’s one aspect left to talk about, however. What happens next. Oh, there’s been talk about what should happen, for sure. Some have called for Nurmagomedov to be stripped of his title, while others have cheered the champ on, saying McGregor deserved it. The latter are best ignored, they’re the same clowns brawling in the stands after learning the hard way that they can’t hold their beer. The latter would have an argument if it weren’t for the fact that UFC President Dana White has already passed the buck on this one to the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Then, what about McGregor? Was he truly an innocent victim? He did, after all, lay the groundwork for all that transpired on Saturday. As Cageside’s Gabriel Gonzalez pointed out, neither man has the moral high ground in this one.

Breaking it down, individual by individual, here’s what should happen, versus what will happen, to all involved.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Put aside your bias for a moment. Without question, Khabib Nurmagomedov set off the brawl that went down at the T-Mobile arena at UFC 229 following the main event. He jumped the fence. Full stop.

Khabib had won. The biggest win of his career. He should have been celebrating. Instead, he acted in a cowardly, goonish, childish fashion. For those of us who have spoken to Khabib, asked him questions backstage, this is not something anyone expected of him. And he is going to have to face the music. Saying “Conor did bad stuff too” or “Conor insulted him” is the dumbest argument anyone can make, since a two-year old can tell you that two wrongs don’t make a right. His later claim that he was trying to bring respect back into MMA was laughable, given he put 20,000 lives or so at risk by nearly sparking a riot.

What Should Happen: In any other sport, a long term suspension and fine would be handed out. NBA star Ron Artest was suspended a total of 86 games following the Pacers-Pistons brawl, a.k.a. Malice at the Palace, back in 2004. He lost $4,995,000 as a result. Nearly five million dollars.

A similar suspension should happen here. Minimum of a year, plus a hefty fine. Nurmagomedov’s purse is currently being withheld by the Nevada State Athletic Commission while it reviews the incident. The full two million dollars. He will get some of that back. However, consider that Jon Jones paid a $205,000 fine for a failed drug test. How do you put a dollar amount on an act that put women and children in danger? 25% of his purse sounds about right, but it’s an arbitrary number, frankly. It just feels like the number should be more than a doping fine.

And yes, Khabib deserves to have his title stripped. It’s clear the UFC isn’t keen on that, which is why they’re waiting for the NSAC to make its decision. If Khabib is out long term, or winds up with any criminal charges (still a possibility, as is civil action from those in the crowd), the UFC may simply have to.

What Will Happen: Khabib will be handed a suspension and fine from the NSAC for leaving the cage and attacking Dillon Danis. He’ll have to play nice to get his license reinstated afterward. And that’s about it. Nine months is a safe bet, which is long enough to send a message, but not long enough to do any real damage to the UFC’s bottom line. Khabib won’t be stripped, since the suspension wont be long enough to warrant it, and the UFC has apparently forgotten that it has a Fighter Code of Conduct it can enforce. Criminal charges are unlikely, as Danis will likely follow McGregor’s lead and not press any. He’s already busy feuding with RDA anyway. A civil case from others in the crowd is possible, however.

A rematch will be made at some point. The usual suspects will take sides and celebrate all of this stupidity, while WME-IMG laughs its way to the bank, and frontline UFC staff hope all hell doesn’t break loose a second time.

Oh, and Khabib gets to answer to Daddy. Which, from the look of things, might be the worst punishment he faces.

Conor McGregor

The case has been made that Conor McGregor got a taste of his own medicine at UFC 229. There’s a lot of truth to that. McGregor didn’t light the fire in the end (in fact the Irishman has always been humble in defeat, the only time he ever seems to act humbly), but he certainly built up a massive powder keg over the past year. His antics in Brooklyn are the biggest concern. His trash-talk, less so. If a grown man can’t handle trash talk, well, that says more about the man letting the words get to him. Still, something should have and could have been done to prevent the incident at UFC 229 from ever happening.

What Should Happen: This is more about what should have happened. Following the UFC 223 incident, McGregor faced criminal charges. He cut a deal, and wound up with a slap on the wrist. That’s fine, believe it or not. He paid a hefty sum and is still facing civil action. It’s not like he walked away with no punishment at all. However, the UFC did… nothing. No suspension. No punishment from the corporate side. That was a mistake. Just as it was a mistake for the organization not to censure Khabib and his team for swarming Artem Lobov earlier in the week over comments Lobov made in the press (would someone please, please explain sticks and stones to the UFC’s lightweight champion, come to think of it?).

McGregor should have been benched. Fined. Whatever the UFC’s code of conduct allows for. The biggest problem, however, is that neither the UFC nor Khabib Nurmagomedov really wanted that. They both wanted the fight to move forward as quickly as possible, though for different reasons.

Then there’s accusations that McGregor in part instigated the brawl on Saturday. That’s less clear due to multiple videos shot at different angles at different times. At least one of Khabib’s teammates, Zubaira Tukhugov, is claiming McGregor did not hit him. Others are saying McGregor hit someone else. Here’s the key point, however: several members of Nurmagomedov’s team ran into the octagon and tried to attack Conor McGregor. Do you really fault him if he swung first while a guy took a run at him? Especially when he was still recovering from a fight with the best lightweight in the world?

Daniel Cormier gets it.

What Will Happen: McGregor has already been paid his purse by the NSAC. Having reviewed the incident, they found him not to be at fault. That could change if more evidence comes out showing him, definitively, doing something they deem a breach of their rules, but for now, he’s in the clear with the commission.

As for the UFC? They’ll do absolutely fookin’ nuttin. They can’t exactly punish McGregor for his past actions at this point, and they’ll be able to claim he was the victim Saturday. Which is sort of true, but it still feels like he got away with something here.

Update, 7:40 PM ET: Due to new video footage, the NSAC has confirmed they will file a complaint against McGregor after all, though due to the individual involved having entered the cage without permission, it’s unlikely McGregor will be facing the same consequences as his opponent.

Dillon Danis

For a guy with one professional fight in mixed martial arts, BJJ ace and Bellator fighter Dillon Danis sure manages to steal a lot of headlines. What Danis was yelling at Khabib Nurmagomedov from outside the cage on Saturday is unclear. What’s clear is that baseball players get heckled all the time, and Darryl Strawberry never stormed the stands.

What should happen: The UFC would be wise to banish Danis from its events, though SBG Ireland might not take kindly to that. Still, he’s a known instigator.

What will happen: Probably nothing. It appears he won’t be facing any legal charges, not with being on the receiving end of Khabib’s flying curb stomp attempt. So unless Danis is crazy enough to actually get in a fight with Rafael dos Anjos, he gets off easy. The two began sparring on twitter following the incident.

Just… no.

Zubaira Tukhugov

UFC featherweight Zubaira Tukhogov went from virtual unknown to dubious MMA celebrity almost overnight thanks to UFC 229. In perhaps the dumbest move of any fighter in ages, Tukhugov decided to post a video online admitting to attacking McGregor, and claiming he premeditated the attack, at least to some extent.

What Should Happen: Tukhugov absolutely deserves to be cut from the UFC, post-haste. He has a fight lined up with Artem Lobov at UFC Moncton later this month, but there’s enough time to find Lobov a new opponent. Tukhugov isn’t exactly a world-beater, and has sat out the past two years after being suspended by USADA for a doping violation. The only thing keeping him around at this point is his connection to the UFC lightweight champion.

What Will Happen: This one might actually be “what should happen.” There’s a good chance Tukhugov will be cut from the promotion, and deservedly so. It’s not like Khabib or Conor are about to lose their jobs, but if the company wants to send any sort of message, this is the easy way to do it.

UFC

Oh, you thought we weren’t going there? First off — one cannot imagine what UFC employees went through on Saturday night. The promotion’s official twitter account remained silent from the end of the main event Saturday until early Monday afternoon, when it posted a clip of Dana White at the post-fight press conference. They didn’t even post the bonus winners, as is tradition.

The company has any number of staff working events, backstage and in the arena. The UFC’s PR team are a busy bunch, and don’t get the credit they deserve. Then you’ve got the outside contractors, venue staff, security, police, etc.

It’s with the safety of those individuals, not to mention the fans, in mind when we look at what the promotion itself should do.

What Should Happen: The UFC absolutely needs to come down, hard, on anyone who entered or exited the octagon on Saturday night without permission. You can make the excuse that emotions were running high for Khabib as he was just in a fight. That’s at least a logical argument. His team, his entourage? If they climbed into the cage at UFC 229, they should be out the door. Permanently. The UFC needs to show that it can control its own fighters, otherwise, they are setting a scary precedent: you won’t face any punishment from us if you do this again.

What Will Happen: This remains to be seen. White has said those involved won’t be back (excluding Khabib, obviously). The entire process will take weeks if not months to play out. But at some point, the UFC will book a rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor. It’s inevitable. Let’s hope the promotion has its house back in order before they do.

Tony Ferguson

He had nothing to do with the actions of the “two knuckleheads” in the main event. Still, because we can…

What Should Happen: Tony Ferguson should fight for the UFC lightweight title next.

What Will Happen: Tony Ferguson, despite being on an eleven fight win streak, will be forced to wait for the inevitable rematch between McGregor and Khabib. We really, really want to be wrong on this one.

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Editor at Cageside Press, Jay has been covering the sport of mixed martial arts for several years. His work has appeared on The MMA Corner, What Culture, Cage Pages, MMA News, Today's Knockout, and Fox Sports (via Fansided). Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.

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