Sometimes an incident occurs that makes it abundantly clear the system isn’t fair, and that the rules are not consistently applied. When Jason High shoved referee Kevin Mulhall after a TKO loss to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Khabilov back in 2014, Dana White cut him from the organization. And his decision came with a clear message.
“I con’t care how mad you are, how upset you are, you don’t touch a referee ever. Unforgivable. Don’t come back, ever.”
“You touched a referee, Done. Over. That’s worse than what Daley did to Koscheck,” White added, referring to the notorious incident at UFC 113, where Daley took a swing at his opponent after the end of their bout. An incident that also resulted in the fighter’s release from the UFC.
Fast forward a few years, to UFC super star Conor McGregor jumping the fence at Bellator 187. And what was initially intended as a celebration of teammate Charlie Ward’s victory over John Redmond, ended up with McGregor slapping and shoving referees as he was asked to leave the cage – because the fight had yet to be officially waved off. Another “no brainer,” as White dubbed his decision to cut High?
It certainly doesn’t seem to be headed that direction.
Association of Boxing Commissions President Mike Mazzulli told the press that UFC officials had assured him that McGregor would be punished for the incident, with reports that he’d been removed from UFC 219 because of it. However, with contract negotiations ongoing, and a fight in December never more than an idea, the veracity of Mazzulli’s claim about the UFC’s punitive measures seems fairly doubtful.
And that’s something that top lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov says needs to be changed. In a recent interview with Daniel Cormier’s Talk and Talker podcast, the Dagestani fighter made it clear that he feels the UFC needs to “humble” their top drawing champion, at least a little (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“Yes, it’s okay, but not all the time. He does this all the time. In Ultimate Fighter show, in Bellator show, I don’t understand why he can do but other guys cannot do. Because he’s Conor McGregor? He cannot do this. The UFC has to make him humble a little bit because other guys say, ‘Oh, Conor do this? He can do this but why I not?’ This is why sometimes you have to follow rules when you’re a big name, because a lot of people are watching you.
“When you jump inside the ring, okay, but when you try to fight with referee, this is not good.”
Khabib did cut McGregor a fair bit of slack, citing his own history of celebrating teammates victories by rushing the cage during regional European events. However, he also pointed to the fact that referees are not professional athletes capable of defending themselves in the same manner that another fight could, as a reason that it’s important McGregor show more restraint than he has recently.
“Why he don’t slap me when we go very close like UFC 205? Because he understands I don’t stop. Maybe he slaps him because he understands he’s not fighter, he cannot give him back.
“I never slap somebody if this guy cannot fight with me. . . You cannot fight with me. I can kill you. I can punch you and I can take you down and smash your face. You have to stay relaxed. Sometimes you have to say this because you’re a professional athlete and you can kill people.”
In the meantime, Nurmagomedov is preparing for a December 30th bout against Edson Barboza at the aforementioned UFC 219 fight card in Las Vegas, NV. The ‘Eagle’ hasn’t been seen in competition since his 2016 win over Michael Johnson, now over a year ago. A planned interim title fight against Tony Ferguson was scrapped back in March due to a failed weight cut by Nurmagomedov.