The actions of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s crew in recent months may be part of a larger pattern of behavior that is unquestionably concerning for the UFC.
A lot has been made about the actions of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former champ Conor McGregor in the build up to and following UFC 229. Plenty of finger pointing, with fans seemingly split between the two camps just as much as they ever were. One thing is certain, however: the incident that sparked both the bus attack during the UFC 223 fight week in April, and Nurmagomedov inciting a brawl at UFC 229, stemmed from one earlier confrontation: Khabib and his entourage accosting Artem Lobov in a hotel lobby earlier in the week ahead of UFC 223. Now, speaking during the UFC 230 media day, light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier has let slip that it wasn’t exactly the first time Nurmagomedov’s crew has been confrontational.
Cormier and Nurmagomedov, of course, are training partners at American Kickboxing Academy. It was Cormier who helped get the raging Dagestani champion under control after he flew out of the cage at UFC 229 in an attempt to attack McGregor’s teammate, Dillon Danis. Nurmagomedov’s entourage, including fellow UFC fighter Zubaira Tukhugov, then stormed the cage looking to get at McGregor, who had just been submitted in the fourth round by the lightweight champion.
To hear Cormier tell it, their antics weren’t exactly surprising. “One time I did him something, hurt his neck in practice and they were about to kick my ass,” Cormier said (via MMA Fighting). “Like seriously, they all started standing up and they were kind of surrounding me. … Those guys don’t play around, man. They got up. They actually got up. I was like, ‘Hey man, don’t ever come in here and jump me. It’s my gym.’ But they don’t mess around, man. Khabib does not play around and he is honestly the crown jewel of that circle.”
Cormier added that Khabib’s crew “loves” the UFC champion. That sort of blind loyalty, however, appears to have become problematic in the grander scheme of things. Nurmagomedov, Tukhugov, and McGregor are all under investigation by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The champion has held his $2 million dollar purse withheld pending the outcome of that investigation, while Tukhugov — who was recently chastised by Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadryov for not doing more in the UFC 229 melee — was yanked from a bout with Lobov at the upcoming UFC Moncton.