The brawl that ended UFC 229 had the potential to be a much uglier thing than it was. Riled ethnic tensions, religious tensions, and the high testosterone atmosphere of cage fighting all mixed together to create a violent outburst that spilled over into the crowd and left drunken fans fighting throughout the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas just two weeks ago.
With all the dust settled, however, it has become much easier to see the fracas between team McGregor and team Nurmagomedov in more sympathetic tones. There have been no reports (yet) of serious injury stemming from the event, either among fighters involved, or fans caught in the crossfire. The UFC has already made it clear that they aren’t too interested in stripping Khabib of his belt, and the commission will likely trend toward a penalty just harsh enough to not be meaningless for those involved.
In six months from now, footage of the post-fight brouhaha will probably even end up as part of a UFC promotional package.
All of which seems like it would be just fine to Daniel Cormier. The current UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion was cage-side for the event when he found himself jumping into the Octagon to help talk down his AKA teammate, Nurmagomedov. And while he’s not necessarily excusing Khabib’s actions, in a recent media scrum he downplayed it as a serious concern (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“It’s no black eye for the sport, man,” Cormier said. “We fight. That’s what we do – we fight. You got a lot of very smart, educated men in this game, but sometimes emotion drives the ship. And on that night, emotions drove the ship. This fight was kind of built in a very bad place.”
Cormier added that, for him, the brawl itself wasn’t so much the problem as the image it presented to the massive audience tuning in for the pay-per-view. UFC 229 ended up as the highest selling event in UFC history, which meant more eyes than ever before were tuned in to Khabib Nurmagomedov jumping off the cage to drop-kick Dillon Danis.
“For me, it sucks that it was in front of all these people,” Cormier explained. “But again, it was just a whole bunch of dudes just kind of fighting, acting crazy. Like, what are you guys doing? Every city in the country, every Saturday in some frickin’ street bar or a club, this is going on. It just happened between a whole bunch of Russian guys and a whole bunch of Irish guys in front of millions of people. So for me, I had to kind of separate the idea that I was kind of laughing to try and to go like, guys we are probably in front of the biggest viewership we’ve ever had.”
To further illustrate the heightened emotions at play, DC even recounted his own run-in with Khabib’s entourage. After accidentally injuring the Dagestani lightweight champion’s neck during training, he remembered the ‘Eagle’’s crew surrounding him.
“No,” Cormier said, when asked if he was surprised by Nurmagomedov’s actions, “because one time I did him something, hurt his neck in practice and they were about to kick my ass. Like seriously, they all started standing up and they were kind of surrounding me. … Those guys don’t play around, man. They got up. They actually got up. I was like, ‘Hey man, don’t ever come in here and jump me. It’s my gym.’ But they don’t mess around, man. Khabib does not play around and he is honestly the crown jewel of that circle. They love him and rightfully so. We all do, too.”
Cormier is currently getting ready to defend his heavyweight title against Derrick Lewis in the headlining fight of UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden on November 3rd. The New York PPV event is expected to include middleweight bouts between Derek Brunson & Israel Adesanya, Jacare Souza & Chris Weidman, and David Branch & Jared Cannonier, as well as a women’s flyweight top contender fight between Sijara Eubanks and Roxanne Modafferi. Stay tuned for more updates as the event approaches.