There are two scenarios after a UFC fight that often leave fans pleased. It’s either an argument and some bad blood or a memorable show of respect. There isn’t much of an in-between.
From an emotional embrace in the center of the octagon to a flying kick into a corner and a mass brawl outside the cage (cough*Khabib*cough), the MMA community loves a post-fight talking point.
We all love a grudge match but ultimately the sport is all about respect. Nothing beats two fighters looking to destroy each other for 15 or 25 minutes, before acknowledging each other’s efforts after the final horn.
With that said, here are five times UFC fighters have shown respect inside the octagon.
#5 UFC 223: Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas
At UFC 223 in 2018, Rose Namajunas put on the most complete and impressive performance of her career. Just four months earlier she’d been crowned queen of the UFC’s women’s strawweight division with a knockout win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk. In doing so, she gave us one of the UFC’s greatest upsets and commentary reactions of all time. Having the voice of Daniel Cormier screaming “Thug Rose” embedded in our memories was perhaps not so great…
In her first title defense, the 28-year-old bested the former champion again, this time over 25 minutes. Those who branded her strawweight coronation a fluke were swiftly proved wrong. Earning a unanimous decision win, Namajunas came out on top in what was an octagon chess match. The Pole pushed the pace and largely held control of the cage, whilst the champ patiently threw counters.
Despite the pre-fight trash talk and Jedrzejczyk's confident demeanor, the women had respect for each other after five rounds. After an immediate embrace, the women walked round the edge of the cage together, drinking in the crowd’s atmosphere.
After two battles, it’s always great to see respect like that shown.
#4 UFC 247: Jon Jones and Dominick Reyes
We’ve seen both sides of the coin with Jon Jones. His feud with Daniel Cormier showed what can happen when he faces someone he doesn’t like.
During a UFC 178 promotional event, Jones and Cormier had an altercation after an on-stage stare down. After being pushed, Jones threw a punch and a short fight followed. Jones’ interactions with Israel Adesanya on social media have had a similar level of animosity.
At UFC 247 we saw the opposite. Dominick Reyes put in the best performance against Jones we'd seen for a while. A large chunk of the UFC's fanbase even thought he'd done enough to earn the decision.
After the fight, Jones praised Reyes during his post-fight interview. Jones even spoke with Reyes inside the cage and acknowledged his great performance. Jones said:
"You did a good job...you had some moves on me. Our rematch is going to be pretty cool...it's going to be epic man. You did a good job man."
#3 UFC 234: Israel Adesanya and Anderson Silva
It was a passing of the torch moment at UFC 234. The Melbourne crowd didn’t get the five-round main event they had been anticipating. Nevertheless, they were given an entertaining headliner between one of the greatest to ever enter the octagon and at the time, UFC’s most promising rising star.
After Robert Whittaker’s hernia prevented him from defending his belt against Kelvin Gastelum, the clash between Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya was promoted to the headlining spot. The fun three-round battle culminated in "The Last Stylebender" having his hand raised.
Both men showed respect with the way in which they fought and their conduct after the final horn. Under the smiling gaze of an appreciative Herb Dean, the two greats hugged it out after the fight, before Adesanya raised Silva’s arm to those in attendance. The two went onto exchange a memorable display of respect after the judges scores had been read.
#2 UFC 246: Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone
Given his conduct outside the cage in the past, whether involving MMA or not, it’s perhaps surprising Conor McGregor makes it onto this list at all. Whatever people’s opinions are of the Irishman’s trash talk or insults to Khabib, no one can deny McGregor showed the upmost respect to Donald Cerrone and his family after their main event fight in January 2020.
In his first fight in a year-and-a-half, McGregor fought “Cowboy” at welterweight. In a ferocious display of inventive and fast striking, McGregor forced a stoppage after just 40 seconds.
After a brief celebration, McGregor immediately ran back to console a stricken Cerrone. After a hug, the two shared a brief acknowledgement of the damage the Irishman’s shoulder strikes had caused. McGregor said:
"I love you Donald. Those shoulder shots broke it (Cerrone's nose) eh?"
One of the most memorable moments from the fight was McGregor’s meeting in the cage with Cerrone’s grandmother. After approaching her, the Irishman said:
"I have respect for you, so much respect for you. You raised a hell of a boy. You should be proud, I'm serious."
We may have seen him as a trash-talking savage in the past, but McGregor's conduct against Cerrone and Dustin Poirier this year has shown a refreshing side to the former lightweight and featherweight champion. Long may it continue.
#1 UFC 242: Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier
Aside from the UFC 229 brawl, in which his family and religion had been verbally attacked in the lead up, Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the most respectful fighters the UFC has seen. Couple that with another in Dustin Poirier and you get the scene we saw in Abu Dhabi after UFC 242.
It was a heart-breaking defeat for “The Diamond” and he was clearly emotional. Khabib was aware of this and was about as gracious in defeat as he could have been. Both Khabib and his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov embraced Poirier, with the champion lifting his arm and encouraging applause from the crowd.
The two went on to exchange shirts prior to the post-fight interviews in what was a great display of respect between the two lightweight stars.
Khabib's respect after that fight really knew no end. In his post-fight interview with Jon Anik, Khabib acknowledged the incredible charity work Poirier does and committed to selling the shirt and donating the proceeds to the Louisiana-born fighter.
He finished off the interview by explaining the most important aspect of the sport, respect.