After watching the events at UFC 229, I feel compelled to write about them.
If you have not seen what happened, a mass brawl broke out after Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Conor McGregor in the final match of the event.
The buildup to the fight had been marred by bad blood from both fighters towards each other.
Most of this emanated form April, when McGregor and his entourage attacked a bus containing Khabib and a number of other fighters before they were due to appear in a UFC event.
McGregor sought out Khabib after he believed the Russian had disrespected his training partner Artem Lobov. In the ensuing madness, McGregor picked up a dolly cart and hurled it through the window of the bus injuring a number of fighters onboard.
As you can tell, these two guys really don’t like each other!
After Khabib won a largely one-sided fight via submission, his ire turned towards members of McGregor’s team, and he vaulted the Octagon and threw punches at McGregor’s Ju-Jitsu coach Dillon Danis.
The madness didn’t stop there! Two members of Khabib’s team jumped into the Octagon and attacked McGregor. This was after he had taken a 20 minute pounding from their man in the fight.
The events overshadowed what was the biggest fight in UFC’s history, but more than that, it was a sign of the times we live in.
On the one hand, we have a man in McGregor who shoots his mouth off whenever he pleases and expects there to be no repercussions, while we have Khabib, a normally respectful man who has seen red with McGregor’s antics and decided a 20 minute beating was not enough punishment.
Controversy and the fight game go hand in hand, but the events at UFC 229 are a reflection of the age we live in.
I have written about Conor McGregor before. I wrote about how he rose from anonymity in Dublin, Ireland to become one of the most recognisable athletes on the planet.
His rags to riches to story is fascinating, and shows that through a combination of hard work and dedication you can reach the top.
But that only tells half the story. While McGregor is undoubtedly a top fighter, he is an even better salesman.
His love of flashy suits, quick-witted humour, and cockiness won him legions of fans, and enabled him to set himself up as the biggest star in the UFC.
His taunting of rivals was ingenious and well thought out, always withe the goal of positioning himself to move up the ranks of the UFC roster.
However, once he got to the top he began to change. It’s arguable that you are never the same when you achieve success and it is hard to argue that’s not the case with McGregor.
Where the pre-fight press conferences were funny encounters, they became cringeworthy as McGregor’s antics and taunts became ever more desperate and obscene.
He became a parody of himself in the process.
Where the man from Dublin had embodied the rags to riches story, now he embodied the culture of today.
A culture built on flashy appearances and a constant need for attention. McGregor’s increasingly unpredictable antics became a plea for attention. An attempt to keep himself in the public eye.
Was this what led him to attack Khabib while he was on a bus?
It’s hard to say. McGregor is a fiercely loyal man, and he los after those close to him. It seems he took Khabib’s confrontation with his teammate as an affront to him, and set out for revenge.
Whether that is the case or not, there is no denying it made the prospect of a fight between the two men even more enticing.
The incident definitely increased the amount of interest in the contest, which in turn, would boost the amount of money the fight would make.
At the end of the day, the fight business is all about the money, and as he has made abundantly clear, so is McGregor.
Where McGregor went too far with the attack on the bus, he also went too far with his attacks on Khabib in the build up to the fight.
There was no area of Khabib’s life which was safe from McGregor’s sharp tongue. Be it his family, religion or country, McGregor made reference to it at one point or another.
Throughout all ion this, Khabib maintained his poise and wore a stoic expression. It was as if he knew he had to weather this before he could get his hands on McGregor in the Octagon.
Does any of the above excuse Khabib’s actions in the aftermath of the fight?
He had a choice on whether he would end the fight respectfully or not, and he chose the latter.
There is no excuse for jumping the Octagon and almost starting a full-scale riot in the process. It won’t have been nice to be insulted throughout the buildup, but during the 20 minute fight, he had time to punish McGregor, and punish him he did.
But what does this event say about all of us?
As crude as it is to admit, it was captivating to watch Khabib jump into the crowd and attack McGregor’s team. It was pure drama. There’s no denying it was horrible, but at the same time, you couldn’t take your eyes off it.
This is the problem with the society we live in today. Events such as this no longer shock us, we have become conditioned to them, we almost want them to happen.
As if two men slugging out for 20 minutes, we always want more. The desire for more can never be quenched.
Right now as I type this, I am anticipating a rematch between the two. As much as I am disgusted by what I saw, I still want to see more.
This is the crux of the issue. As a society we are never satisfied. Modern life has made us yearn for more. Be it more money, more likes, or more attention, we are constantly seeking it.
McGregor knows this, the UFC knows this, but do all of us realise this?
Day and Age
Of all the articles I have read about this fight, all of them comment on how ashamed they were of what took place after the fight.
The actions of Khabib and his team are indefensible. No matter how much abuse McGregor dished out before the fight, that isn’t justification for jumping into the crowd and initiating a brawl.
The incident should never have happened, but happen it did.
And we all lapped it up.
Are we innocent bystanders in all of this, or are we complicit in our constant need for everything to be bigger, better and crazier than before?
I’m not sure.
The Romans were renowned for their love of blood and gore. Gladiator fights were commonplace, and you only have to look at the towering monument to it, the Colosseum, to see how important it was.
There is something deep inside of us, some primal instinct, that loves nothing more than to see a spectacle. A brawl, a scrap between two and even more humans.
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with modern society at all, maybe it is just the way we are.
Maybe we, as humans, are programmed to enjoy incidents such as this, however unedifying.
Maybe it’s just us as a species.