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What went wrong with Conor-Khabib

I thought I’ve witnessed the worst post-fight brawls from boxing.

One of the worst brawls I saw was from the Andrew Golota-Riddick Bowe world heavyweight title bout in December 1996. The fight was stopped after Bowe slumped to the canvas from repeated low blows from his Polish opponent. Bowe’s handlers and fans then went after Golota for the foul tactics he employed vs their fighter, who retained the championship via disqualification.

The Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Zab Judah world welterweight bout in April 2006 also saw the camps of both boxers invade the ring during the last 10 seconds of the 10th round as Mayweather winced in pain from a low bow. Mayweather won the fight via unanimous decision.

But the brawl that ensued after Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted Conor McGregor in the fourth round of their Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) world lightweight bout last weekend is truly one for the books. Right after defeating his opponent, Nurmagomedov went over the ring and stormed members of Conor’s camp and a number of the victor’s camp stormed the ring and suckered punch the defeated fighter.

Contrary to popular belief, what Nurmagomedov administered on McGregor was a “face crank” as explained to me by Sports Editor Perry Mallari, also very much respected for his knowledge on MMA and the Filipino Martial Arts. The face crank differs from the rear naked choke where the neck is braced (I hope I got that right) by the arms. When the face crank is administered, it is like literally cranking your head causing unexplained pain. Nurmagomedov’s use of the face crank shows how innovative he was in fighting McGregor.

Netizens blamed poor security, which is valid, for the brawl. But I would like to add that the feud between Nurmagomedov and McGregor became too personal.

The hatred between the two fighters came to a boiling point after McGregor and his companions attacked a bus with Nurmagomedov and other UFC fighters and representatives in New York City last April. I will not go into details on what lead to that bus attack incident.

Nurmagomedov would later tell the press he was ready to meet Mcgregor anywhere, anytime even outside the octagon. Soon, their official UFC fight became one of the most anticipated and hyped up in recent MMA history. And it was worth the wait.

The East European fighter proved to be a tough nut as he was unfazed by McGregor’s intimidation tactics during the pre-fight rituals. And when their fight started, Nurmagomedov showed no respect for McGregor, even taunting him after the Irish fighter tapped out.

And perhaps still boiling over what transpired from the bus attack incident, Nurmagomedov jumped at members of MgGregor’s camp like a madman out of a psycho-thriller movie.

Some (or a lot) of the blame has been placed on UFC president Dana White for lapses over security and allowing the temper of McGregor to boil over. I think those observations are valid.

Allowing fighters to let their tempers boil over before a fight is necessary to help generate interest among fans, but when things look like they can get out of hand, the promoters must take steps to maintain control.

When Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis squared off in June 2002, the promoters deployed a battalion of policemen to the ring as the two entered it. The police formed a wall between the two fighters to assure they won’t go after each other’s throats before the bell rang. That was a necessary measure because in the very first press event for the fight, Tyson attacked Lewis resulting in a free for all.

From what I saw from the post-fight brawl of Nurmagomedov-McGregor, there were a handful of security for the fight and one of them looked out of shape.

So what are the other options to avoid a brawl pre- and post-fight besides increasing security? Maybe imposing penalty clauses on who would start a brawl during the pre- and post-fight events could have been an excellent measure. I even heard Mayweather insisted on a clause like that when he signed the contract to fight McGregor.

At the extreme, the UFC could strip Nurmagomedov of his lightweight title for starting a post-fight brawl. But that would surely infuriate a big number of MMA fans who still see White as giving too much leeway for McGregor’s off-ring antics like the bus attack.

What White should realize is MMA thrived from its being an authentic avenue to showcase real fighters and not just clowns straight from professional wrestling, where opponents’ respect for each other is non-existent. Also, boxing thrives because it has been “sanitized” and most boxers today are accustomed to making peace after clubbing each other in the ring.

If White encourages the thug mentality among his top fighters (and boxing went through that stage too), states and countries may soon ban MMA events. In fact, during its early days, a lot of US states did not want to host MMA events because of its brutality.

So White better put things in order should the rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor materializes. In the meantime, the UFC can use the post-fight brawl to hype up the planned rematch but make sure things hell doesn’t break loose again.


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