Conor McGregor (And MMA) Continue To Rise To New Depths
Since April 1st, UFC 223 has seen an unprecedented amount of drama unfound around it. First, the fight between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov was cancelled, for the fourth time (article), but at least there was a substitute for the injured interim lightweight champion. Additionally, there was an issue with Nurmagomedov parting ways with his nutritionist, George Lockhart, who is also working with Max Holloway — his new opponent in the main event — as well as the incarceration of his main supporter in Russia, on charges of embezzlement (story). Today, however, was somewhat beyond the pale.
Following a media event at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, New York, Conor McGregor — and a large entourage — stormed the building, and attempted to confront Nurmagomedov, who was in the process of returning to his hotel with a group of other fighters. In the ensuing melee, Conor threw a dolly at their van, smashing a window and injuring at least one occupant of the vehicle — and leaving many people shaken. The whole incident was filmed (video link), and unambiguously paints the former multi-divisional champion in an exceedingly poor light.
It is safe to assume that this was retaliation for a confrontation between Nurmagomedov and Artem Lobov, a close friend of McGregor, which occurred earlier in the week (story). Hotel confrontations between fight camps aren't uncommon in MMA, but McGregor's response is unheardof — and quite clearly excessive. Luckily there appear to be no serious injuries in the fallout, however Michael Chiesa was taken the hospital with facial lacerations, and UFC VP Reed Harris tweeted that an unnamed co-worker was also seeking medical attention for a potentially broken hand:
My own personal view on the matter is a little nuanced. Obviously I find the whole spectacle disappointing and ridiculous, even by the low standard set by MMA in general. This isn't a classy sport, it's fucking fighting — I completely understand that part. Still, there's a base level of professionalism that needs to be maintained. The earlier confrontation between Lobov and Nurmagomedov was problematic enough; professional fighters getting violent in public, outside of the cage / ring is a terrifying prospect to the average member of the general public. It's harmful to the image of combat sports, and it portrays fighters as the violent, unhinged psychopaths that ignorant outsiders associate with the vocation.
The only explanation — as it most certainly is not a defence — of McGregor's actions is that he was being loyal to his friend, Artem. I can understand the sentiment, but it excuses nothing and speaks to a stunted, childish mentality. Conor McGregor is a multi-millionaire professional athlete, and the success he has achieved is unparalleled by all but the most elite superstars in the world. With that success, however, has come a severe lack of restraint, as McGregor clearly has no one who he feels beholden to, and he just does whatever he damn well wants. A lack of repercussions for his transgressions has no doubt emboldened him further, as evidenced by the escalating nature of his belligerence.
Conor has gone from basic antagonism in showing up late to press conferences to more and more physical outbursts. By the conclusion of the two McGregor / Diaz bouts, Conor had instigated a water bottle-throwing fight at one presser and punched Nate at another. Those were all minor events, as no one was injured, but they were signs of things to come. After his defeat of Eddie Alvarez, at UFC 205, and his subsequent money fight with Floyd Mayweather, Conor has still managed to cause trouble despite having the last 6 months off — and not having competed in MMA for well over a year. Conor was admonished at UFC Fight Night 118, by referee Marc Goddard, after he came down from the crowd — despite not being a licenced cornerman — to coach Artem Lobov, who fought Andre Fili.
Finally, in November, 2017, at Bellator 187, Conor McGregor rushed the cage — again, from his seat in the crowd — to celebrate his friend, Charlie Ward, scoring a first round KO. Bellator officials attempted to remove Conor, who was shouting at Marc Goddard and eventually shoved him. An official from the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) was even slapped by McGregor, before he eventually left. Even this last event, where he assaulted multiple officials, yielded no punishment — save for a sternly-worded letter from ABC president Mike Mazulli. The worst McGregor had to endure was a minimal fine from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, for the bottle throwing incident.
Logic would dictate that, in light of this most recent outburst, something has to be done. Prior to the Bellator situation, everything else could be dismissed as gamesmanship, and aggressive self-promotion. No one got hurt, and the chaos was still somewhat contained. Attacking a vehicle containing multiple fighters, all of whom were in the process of cutting weight, causing property damage and physical injury — nevermind the mental toll on people already dealing with the anxiety of fighting — is inexcusable and criminal. It remains to be seen what happens, but incidents like this are fodder for very expensive lawsuits — and McGregor's well documented paydays make him a great target. If Michael Chiesa had been rendered unable to fight, due to receiving stitches, it likely would have paid better than his entire MMA career. (He instead opted to stay on the card, as he did not require stitches.)
The sad reality is that Conor likely won't suffer too much as a result of this. Dana White will offer token sentiments and denounce Conor's actions, but it stands to reason that he will book Conor's next bout the moment the Irishman decides he wants to fight again. This incident just fuels the potential marketability of a McGregor / Nurmagomedov fight, if that fight is somehow negotiated, and feeds the Irishman's image as a "bad boy." I might find this whole thing appalling, but Conor's rabid fanbase seems largely undeterred — "he was just sticking up for his friend." Hell, I don't even know what I would suggest you do to him; there is exactly zero chance the UFC releases Conor from his contract, and no commission in the world would deny him a licence and forego the revenue that one of his fights brings in.
No, the cold, hard truth is that until McGregor does something drastic, and ends up in court / jail for something serious, he will most likely continue to do whatever he wants, when he wants, wherever he wants and to whomever he wants. That's the real power of money and stardom; it's kind of hilarious that Dana White lost all control the moment a star under his banner managed to make boxing money. I have no opinion of McGregor on a personal level, but I enjoy his fights a lot. If he's not going to compete anymore — and even if he is, really — I'd prefer he not interfere with events and the careers of other fighters completely uninvolved in his drama.
There are a lot of things that bother me about what transpired, but the most harrowing is that it's just another reminder that rules don't apply once you reach a certain level of wealth and fame.
As of 9:30pm EST, the following bouts were announced as being cancelled:
- Michael Chiesa -vs- Anthony Pettis, due to Chiesa's weight cut being thrown off.
- Ray Borg -vs- Brandon Moreno, Borg experienced eye issues possibly due to glass fragments.
- Artem Lobov -vs- Alex Caceres, due to Lobov's involvement in the incident.
At appproximately 11:00pm EST, NBC News reported that Conor McGregor had been arrested (story).
Published: April 5th, 2018.