Recapping UFC 229
UFC 229 happened Saturday Night and what started as one of the biggest events in UFC history ended with questions and controversy. Usually, these recaps are a fight by fight breakdown, but due to the close of the show, it almost needs all the focus. Which honestly is disappointing for an event that was very entertaining. Up and down the card we saw brilliant finishes and exciting comebacks. We saw a fight of the year contender in the co-main event between Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (26-3 #2 Ranked Lightweight) and Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (21-8 #8 Ranked Lightweight). The knockout from the absolute clouds for Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (21-5 #2 Ranked Heavyweight) it deserves because of all the chaos that followed the main event. The event started out with back to back head kick knockouts for Tony Martin (13-4) and Nik “The Carny” Lentz (31-9-2 1NC). Rising Contenders Aspen Ladd (7-0 #9 Ranked Women’s Bantamweight) and Dominick “The Devastator” Reyes (10-0 #12 Ranked Lightweight) both won in impressive fashion and are now in the title mix in their weight classes. The problem is the whole story is about the main event and what occurred after the tap.
In what was supposed to be the crowning achievement of the long undefeated career of Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov (27-0 Lightweight Champion) a post-fight melee derailed everything. His 4th round dominant submission win over “The Notorious” Conor McGregor (21-4 #1 Ranked Lightweight) was exactly what many predicted. He took him down round after round and even surprisingly dropped McGregor with a right hand early in the fight. Nurmagomedov looked like the machine we have seen every time he entered the Octagon since his UFC debut in 2012. He was in control of every facet of the fight no matter how long it went. He dealt with the mental warfare and stayed the course to get the finish in the 4th round. What followed, however, was one of the craziest events in UFC history. Khabib immediately began jawing at the disappointed McGregor, and honestly how wouldn’t, after years of trash talk to put on such a commanding performance was the perfect ending for him. Then the situation spilled out of the cage. Khabib immediately made his way over to the corner of Conor and began jawing with his team. The focus of this tirade was training partner Dillon Danis (1-0) a jiu-jitsu specialist who is in the beginning stages of his MMA career under the Bellator banner. TO be honest to the casual fan Danis is virtually an unknown. Khabib scaled the cage and went for a Finn Balor like double stomp off the stage outside the cage.
This is when all hell broke loose outside the Octagon. With security separating and grabbing everyone including stopping Connor himself from jumping over the cage everything had gone into a tailspin. There is footage of Conor punching one of Khabib’s teammates who was also atop the fence. Just prior to two of Khabib’s teammates and reported UFC fighters attacking McGregor himself in the cage. This included a sucker punch from problem reportedly by Zubaira “Warrior” Tukhugov (18-4). He was slated to face Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov (13-14-1 1NC) in just a few weeks at UFC Fight Night 138. That bout is most certainly in jeopardy now. After they were all separated by security Conor was escorted to the locker room. Followed by a conversation between Dana White and Khabib in the center of the Octagon explaining that due to crowd hostility they would not be putting the belt on Khabib. Initially, there was protest, but some calming words from his teammates Daniel “DC” Cormier (21-1 1NC Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion) and Luke “Rockhold (16-4 #2 Ranked Middleweight) got Khabib to leave. He didn’t make it the whole way to the tunnel before beers started flying.
After all that chaos subsided we went to the usual press conferences. We saw Tony Ferguson rant for a lengthy amount of time regarding who he should fight next and how everyone is scared to enter the cage with him. Then we got to Dana White the longtime president of the UFC. He did hits on FS1, ESPN, and then his usual post-fight presser. He had the same attitude he had after the McGregor bus incident from Brooklyn just a few months ago. The disgusted and disgraced sentiment certainly was apparent from these interviews. That was to be expected though from Dana. Of course, he is going to admonish this. What happened was ludicrous. What should have ended with the tap in the ring turned into an absolute disaster spilling into the stands. We then got a statement from Khabib that explained his mindset. He brought up the fact that McGregor talked about his family, religion, and obviously the bus incident. Emotions running high in this matchup were completely understandable on Khabib’s end. The problem is you must control these emotions.
Khabib had a chance to vault into the stratosphere of superstardom, which he still may have, but this one slip up from the usually stoic Champion caused a chain reaction of events that we aren’t sure what the outcome will be. It also brings in to question how important trash talk is in building these fights. The level of personal shots that were leveled by the always loud and brash McGregor built up this anger inside of Khabib towards him. The camps don’t get along, obviously, and that just makes matters worse. Khabib is a serious guy and coming after his father and religion are taken very personally. This isn’t the same build up as with a guy like Floyd Mayweather or the Aldo’s and Alvarez’s of the world. There is a mystique with Khabib.
These events don’t put a black eye on the sport as many think. If anything, this builds the idea of a rematch to the highest level, but is that a good thing? If you are the UFC sure there is money to be made hand over fist coming out of this. The question is how this changes the UFC. We already have seen copycat Conor’s across the board. They exist in every weight class, and nobody is on his level of trash talk. However, we saw trash talk roll out into the real world putting spectators and staff in peril. The UFC had a lot of security, more than normal according to Dana, but that wasn’t enough to contain the mess that happened.
This will reportedly be the most watched UFC Pay Per View in the history of the sport, and a lot of eyes were on that ending. Business wise this probably has more positive than negative effects, and maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by that. Khabib will potentially move on following a lengthy suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission and Conor will go his separate way as well. Maybe they meet again, maybe they don’t. The intrigue will certainly be there that is for sure. Hopefully from here on out though they keep the fight in the cage. There will be tons of consequences for all the camps involved which will be well deserved. The one thing you can bet on is that when UFC 230 rolls around there will be more eyes on that then normal in the off chance something crazy happens, but don’t expect that. A fun event that was filled with tons of great fights ends in chaos and grabs headlines across the board may attract that casual fan the UFC needs as they move to 2019 and head to ESPN.