The night of Oct. 6, I found myself in front of the television for four consecutive hours watching men and women beating each other to a pulp. This was UFC 229: McGregor v. Khabib, its violent glory withheld from network television in lieu of pay-per-view. Maybe I had forgotten that UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship, but I was surprised at the savagery of these fights. It feels a bit odd to be in 2018, when awareness of danger in contact sports is at an all-time high, and watch two men punch each other in the head over and over.
Disrespect and trash talk seem to be staples of the UFC, but this time things seemed more personal. In a video before the fight, Conor McGregor is seen throwing a chair through the window of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s team bus. I thought this seemed a little extreme but attributed it to all the pageantry and fake hate involved with fighting sports. Then the fights happened. After three lower tier — but equally brutal — fights, the marquee fight begins.
Finally, the main attraction. McGregor and Khabib step out of the shadows into the ring with the kind of swagger only the UFC can create. Though both contestants weigh less than I do, they seem larger than life and ready to draw blood.
The fight didn’t last long. It only took Khabib three minutes to get McGregor to submit. This is when my interest in the UFC peaked. Khabib jumped out of the ring to attack a member of Conor’s team. Then someone else jumped into the ring to fight McGregor himself, and the arena turned into a brawl.
Despite the UFC’s being built around fighting and trash talk, this time things went too far. Khabib wasn’t allowed to leave with the belt he earned because of this post-match fight, and both players were fined heavily.
The fight that occurred in the crowd after the event only reinforced my feeling that the UFC is out of place. These are modern day gladiators. It’s no longer sport, just a violent grudge match fueled by real anger.
During this fight, there was definitely an underlying feeling of resentment coming from Khabib. That resentment culminated violently at the end of the fight, but after hearing Khabib’s side, his actions make more sense.
Leading up to the fight, there was a lot of trash talk as usual, but the cultural differences between the two amplified that difference. After the altercation, Khabib took to Instagram to voice his opinion, saying: “Why didn’t you fire anyone when their team attacked the bus and injured a couple of people? They could have killed someone there, why no one says anything about insulting my homeland, religion, nation, family?”
This statement was made in response to members of Khabibs team having fights canceled forcibly by the UFC after the McGregor incident. Khabib feels McGregor’s team started the fight by being highly disrespectful of his culture, as well as physically attacking them.
McGregor’s behavior being tolerated makes the UFC look irresponsible. The resentment between McGregor and Khabib might have seemed like it was for show, but things went too far and the UFC responded poorly to Conor’s harassment.
Apart from catching a few landmark fights like Pacquiao v. Mayweather, I haven’t paid much attention to UFC; however, I seem to find myself forking over money for more at least once a year. I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only seasonal UFC fan, as there’s something undeniably entertaining about watching a fight. In the end, the violence might be what keeps the UFC alive, but more controversies like this could serve as knockout blows to end the sport as we know it.