UFC 229 delivered on the bad blood between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Unfortunately, it delivered more than we could ever have imagined or wanted. What started as one of the most anticipated main events in the sport’s history, quickly deteriorated into its biggest blemish, an out-of-control brawl inside and outside the Octagon.
Defending his UFC lightweight championship, Khabib submitted Conor McGregor in the fourth round. The pre-fight talk had gotten out of hand. The Irishman insulted Khabib’s religion and culture. A line had been crossed.
The brawl led to multiple fines and arrests. The consequences for both sides were unclear and, in hindsight, most got away lightly. With that said, here are five people responsible for that dark stain on UFC history.
#5 Dillon Danis
Dillon Danis' place in fifth is largely because the extent of his role is unclear. Danis, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, was brought into Conor McGregor’s camp ahead of his rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202.
To the surprise of the fans in attendance at UFC 229- and John Kavanagh, as Khabib flew over his head- “El Jefe” was the Russian's target as he vaulted the cage. After launching a two-footed flying kick at Danis, it appeared hard to pin any blame on the 27-year-old. Reports that came out of those cageside provided some potential context for his involvement.
Provocation is always a dangerous game, not least when given these circumstances. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the wisest decision for Danis to usher "The Eagle" over to him. Khabib's anger after the fight was clear and he'd already thrown his mouth guard towards Conor McGregor's corner. Danis' gesture was probably the final straw.
Alongside that, Danis had allegedly been shouting racial abuse at Khabib throughout the fight, something he denied:
“That's very disheartening. I have very close friends that are Muslim and many religions. That really hurt me actually. I would never say anything like that.”
Joe Rogan, who was on commentary for the fight, claimed Danis was definitely hurling insults at Khabib:
"Dillon (Danis) was absolutely insulting Khabib, saying something to him and provoking him and then Khabib just jumped over the cage and attacked him.”
For his part in the brawl, Danis was suspended for seven months and fined $7,500.
#4 Zubaira Tukhugov
Given what Conor McGregor said about the Russians before UFC 229, it's understandable Khabib's teammates and relatives were infuriated. However, their actions inside the T-Mobile Arena were completely unacceptable. One of the culprits was Zubaira Tukhugov.
“Warrior” was one of Khabib’s teammates. He made a name for himself fighting under the banner of promotions such as Cage Warriors and ProFC. Having amassed a 15-3 record, Tukhugov signed for the UFC in 2014.
After Khabib had attacked Danis and Conor McGregor had fought with Abubakar Nurmagomedov, Zubaira Tukhugov jumped into the Octagon. Vaulting into the cage right next to a clearly disinterested security guard, the 30-year-old seemed to be looking for the Irishman before squaring up. Tukhugov was the first of Khabib’s entourage to enter the cage with the sole intention of attacking Conor McGregor. Tukhugov posted a video bragging about punching McGregor after the event.
The element of pre-planning from Tukhugov and his desire to make Conor McGregor pay for the things he said, makes him largely responsible for the scale of the brawl. Although he appeared to connect with the punch he threw, McGregor seemed to do more damage with a powerful left-hand. The shot sent the Russian back, who seemed to slightly wobble on his legs.
For his part in the brawl, Tukhugov was suspended for one year and fined $25,000.
#3 Asadulla Emiragaev
Not much was known about Asadulla Emiragaev before or after the brawl. Most even confused him with Tukhugov. To identify his role easily, Emiragaev was the man in the red shirt.
Everyone who played a part made a mistake and should have been punished, but at least Tukhugov squared up face-to-face. There’s not much as cowardly as attacking someone from behind. Emiragaev did exactly that.
Emiragaev was revealed to be a childhood friend of Khabib and a Sambo fighter. The way in which he went about his attack makes him one of the main men responsible for the seriousness of the incident.
#2 Conor McGregor
One of the most iconic images in UFC history is of Conor McGregor sitting against the fence after being submitted by Khabib. Perhaps he was contemplating the defeat or regretting his words in the lead up to the fight.
It's difficult to decide who was more responsible for the brawl, McGregor or Khabib. The Irishman's verbal attack on Khabib's religion and nation would be enough to anger anyone. It's hard to pass judgment on Khabib for reacting. In a broader sense, Conor McGregor was responsible for providing the environment in which the brawl could materialize.
Following the UFC 223 media day, Conor McGregor attacked a bus carrying several fighters set to compete. Khabib and two of his teammates were on the bus. Along with the verbal attacks on his family and religion, Khabib named the bus attack as one of the causes of the UFC 229 brawl.
It's also worth noting that of the altercations inside the cage, McGregor threw the first punch. After Khabib had attacked Danis, McGregor and Khabib's cousin Abubakar Nurmagomedov jumped on top of the cage. When McGregor saw Nurmagomedov, he punched him.
Given what was happening, it's understandable the Irishman thought he was being attacked and perhaps instinctively threw the punch. Videos showed Nurmagomedov had eyes for the fight outside the cage and didn't look set to attack Conor McGregor. The punch may have spurred the likes of Tukhugov and Emiragaev into action.
For his role in the brawl, Conor McGregor was suspended for six months and fined $50,000.
#1 Khabib Nurmagomedov
When focusing just on the brawl at UFC 229, Khabib has to be classed as the main perpetrator. Despite the horrific words from Conor McGregor and incidents like the bus attack, the carnage we saw on October 6 would not have happened had Khabib not jumped the cage and attacked Dillon Danis.
After submitting Conor McGregor, Khabib's anger boiled over. Having jumped the cage, "The Eagle" launched a flying kick at Danis as all hell broke loose. Interestingly, Khabib said he chose to attack Danis because he was the closest to his age among Conor McGregor's cornermen:
“I jumped on him because the other corner is too old. Because Conor’s other corner, other coaches, are too old, and that’s why I jumped on him, because he’s almost like my age. If I jumped on Kavanagh, I don’t think it’s too – because Kavanagh can’t fight me. That’s why I jumped on him. But when I fight, I didn’t hear him, it was too loud.”
For his role in the brawl, Khabib was suspended for nine months and fined a hefty $500,000.