Following Conor McGregor’s actions at Bellator 187 in Dublin earlier this month, UFC lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov apparently sees the Irishman as something of a bully who needs to be taken down a peg or two.
McGregor invaded the Bellator cage after his SBG Ireland teammate Charlie Ward drilled John Redmond with very little time to spare at the end of the first round. Given that McGregor was essentially attending the night’s event as a spectator and not an official cornerman for Ward, ‘The Notorious’ one’s celebrations were in complete violation of the rules but his behaviour wasn’t exactly uncommon or reprehensible.
His subsequent conduct, however, was way out of line.
When asked to exit the cage so that some confusion surrounding the timing of the stoppage could be cleared up, McGregor shoved referee Marc Goddard and subsequently slapped a Bellator MMA employee, Michael Johnson.
— Michael Morgan (@mikewhoatv) November 10, 2017
While Nurmagomedov refused to condemn the cage invasion itself, admitting that he has on occasion let emotions get the better of him following the victories of friends or teammates, the Russian did criticize McGregor for accosting Goddard and Johnson.
“I don’t understand why he tried to fight with referee. I don’t understand it,” the undefeated ‘Eagle’ said during a recent interview on the Talk and Talker podcast.
“One time, if you try with him it’s okay,” he added, somewhat bizarrely. “But you see these guys don’t want fight with you and he cannot fight with you. Why would you try more and more? I don’t understand this one. When you come to inside the cage because you’re very happy about your friend’s win, it’s okay but try to fight with referee, this is not good(via MMAFighting).”
McGregor, who famously jumped into the octagon after teammate Artem Lobov beat Julian Erosa on an episode of The Ultimate Fighter 22 in 2015 and, in something of a tribute to that moment, hopped the fence to celebrate with Lobov following his victory over Teruto Ishihara at UFC Belfast in November of last year, has already been punished by the UFC for his actions at Bellator 187 according to the director of the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation(MTDAR), Mike Mazzulli.
The MTDAR oversaw the event in Dublin and Mazzulli claimed in a recent interview with Ariel Helwani that UFC executives made contact shortly afterwards to tell him they had decided to pull McGregor from UFC 219 in Las Vegas on December 30th.
Some, however, are suspicious of the UFC’s claim, as McGregor had not been officially announced as a participant at UFC 219 beforehand, and it has been suggested that the promotion are merely attempting to create the appearance they have punished their cash cow. The SBG Ireland fighter could still face sanctions from the U.S commissions with which he is licensed but many are forecasting that he will get away with a slap on the wrist as a result of his massive star-power and resultant influence.
Nurmagomedov, who is on the UFC 219 card and is scheduled to face scintillating Brazilian striker Edson Barboza, feels that McGregor’s star-power is the precise reason that the UFC, in particular, should make an example out of him.
“Yes, it’s okay [to jump in the cage], but not all the time. He does this all the time. In Ultimate Fighter show, in Bellator show, I don’t understand why he can do but other guys cannot do,” said Nurmagomedov. “Because he’s Conor McGregor? He cannot do this. The UFC has to make him humble a little bit because other guys say, ‘Oh, Conor do this? He can do this but why I not?’ This is why sometimes you have to follow rules when you’re a big name, because a lot of people are watching you.
“When you jump inside the ring, okay, but when you try to fight with referee, this is not good.”
In responding to McGregor’s striking of aforementioned Bellator employee Johnson, Nurmagomedov brought up an intense confrontation between himself and ‘The Notorious’ one ahead of the UFC 205 ceremonial weigh-ins in New York last November.
“Why he don’t slap me when we go very close like UFC 205? Because he understands I don’t stop,” Nurmagomedov said, before suggesting that McGregor might only have hit Johnson because he had no reason to fear retaliation..“Maybe he slaps him because he understands he’s not fighter, he cannot give him back.
“I never slap somebody if this guy cannot fight with me. . . You cannot fight with me. I can kill you. I can punch you and I can take you down and smash your face. You have to stay relaxed. Sometimes you have to say this because you’re a professional athlete and you can kill people.”
A fight between McGregor, the still-reigning UFC lightweight champion, and Nurmagomedov is a mouth-watering prospect, but with the way things have gone since they were involved in the above altercation it might be a while before the fight becomes a realistic possibility. Nurmagomedov’s battles with the scales and his inactivity have knocked the American Kickboxing Academy fighter out of the number one contender spot at 155lbs. As a result, he will need to win against Barboza and wait for McGregor to defend against interim champion Tony Ferguson before he can really start calling for a shot at the Dubliner.