Last weekend we had the biggest promotion of an MMA event ever. UFC 229 was slated as the best of the best. Once in a generation Fighters fighting for their legacy. Having pubs and clubs all over the Sutherland Shire show the fight meant the event was going mainstream. Even the Cinema in Miranda and various other places were showing the event. Which is why the ensuing brawl after the final match was so disappointing. But who’s to blame? Khabib? Conor? The UFC?
The Conor Conundrum
The lead in to this event wasn’t as hyped as other events with Conor opting to do less promotion. Presumably to get more time in practicing. Given that this would be his hardest test to date, we could hardly blame him. However, he still managed to find time to pick at Khabib, via social media. As well as at the predetermined press conferences. Applying more pressure to Khabib as we got closer to fight day. Not to mention the bus incident which was replayed ad nauseum. These things didn’t surprise anyone. Its Conor’s way of getting into his opponent’s head. He is the master of Psychological warfare. I think its his best weapon. Without it I don’t think he is the same fighter. His best knockouts are where his opponent is filled with rage and leap in at him and he can time that counter. He was always going to employ the same tactic with Khabib. You can’t say that his tactic didn’t work. It clearly got to Khabib. Just not the way Conor wanted.
The eagle Soars
Khabib kept his composure better than any before him. He stayed on his game plan, and executed perfectly. It was only after the tap, that the rage came to the surface. This should have been Khabib’s time to enjoy the spotlight. If you understand what fighters have to go through to get an opportunity like this, it was heartbreaking to see Khabib lose his in a moment of madness. His emotions got the better of him. In all his previous fights, Khabib has always conducted himself with a lot of dignity and respect for his opponent. This fight was an anomaly. This in no way excuses his behaviour. His actions were completely unacceptable, and no way for a champion to act. But put yourself in his shoes for a moment. Having someone attack your family, country and religion in front of the whole world for months on end. Could you hold yourself to a higher standard? Most people could not. On the Grange TV podcast with Rob Whittaker and he said that what Conor was doing was bullying Khabib. I’d have to agree. If this happened on any other sports field it would be unacceptable. If this happened to your child at school we’d expect drastic consequences. Saying whatever you want shouldn’t just happen cause it’s selling a fight. But more often than not, its overlooked as just fight promotion. The next generation of fighters look at Conor and see the heights he has risen to. Its no wonder they are starting to do the same. Colby Covington is a case in point. Conor is much more polished with his schtick, but really, we’re looking at the same thing.
Crime and Punishment
The Nevada Athletic Commission are investigating this whole incident. They have yet to come to a conclusion. I’m a bit conflicted on what I think should happen. To be sure, this should never happen again. A strong message needs to be delivered. However, the same could be said for the bus incident, and nothing much happened there. People got injured and Conor settled out of court. No banning by the UFC, no stripping of titles. How can they make a strong argument to punish Khabib when a fight broke out at a fight? The UFC is caught between a rock and a hard place and risks being seen as the bad guy for favouring one fighter over another.
As one of the most watched fights ever, this event exceeded expectations. The whole card was tremendous. One of the best fight cards ever. But to be honest, we all tuned in to watch the drama. We all saw the weigh ins & pre fight press conferences. The public has an appetite for drama. If they didn’t the UFC would have a hard time selling fights. Buts what we all tune in for. Brendan Schaub told Joe Rogan that he wasn’t going to the fight because he thought something might happen. The whole thing was a tinderbox waiting for a spark. You could tell something was going to happen. Conor’s always going to be Conor, Khabib’s always going to be Khabib. Fighters are what they are. They push each others buttons,& the UFC’s happy to profit from it. Martial artists, should conduct themselves with respect and honour. I guess that’s the difference between Martial artist and Prize fighters. At the end of the day we all have a role to play if we are the ones buying the drama.