- Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov threatened to leave the UFC after Dana White claimed one of his teammates would be banned from fighting with the company.
- White had said that Nurmagomedov’s teammate Zubaira Tukhugov would not fight with the UFC again due to his involvement in the post-fight brawl that took place after Nurmagomedov defeated McGregor.
- Nurmagomedov’s response shows that he’s not afraid to play hardball with the UFC, and as an undefeated champion who just took down the biggest star in the company, he couldn’t be negotiating from a stronger position.
Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is not afraid to show his power with the UFC.
The undefeated Russian fighter made headlines on Saturday after defeating Conor McGregor by submission in the biggest fight in UFC history to retain his lightweight title. After forcing McGregor to tap, Nurmagomedov’s first move in victory was to jump the cage, storming into the crowd and starting a brawl that ended in numerous arrests and Nurmagomedov’s fight check being withheld.
While Nurmagomedov’s chaos spilled out of the octagon and into the crowd, some of the crowd spilled into the octagon as well — Zubaira Tukhugov, another fighter on the UFC roster and teammate of Nurmagomedov, jumped into the cage as the mayhem ensued and attacked McGregor.
After the fight, UFC president Dana White claimed that Tukhugov’s career with the UFC was over, saying he would never fight with the company again. In an Instagram post on Thursday, Nurmagomedov said that if that happened, he’d walk away from the company as well.
“Why do you have to punish my team, when both teams fought,” Nurmagomedov wrote in the post. “If you say that I started it, then I do not agree, I finished what he had started.”
“You canceled Zubaira’s fight and you want to dismiss him just because he hit Conor. But don’t forget that it was Conor who had hit my another Brother FIRST, just check the video. if you decide to fire him, you should know that you’ll lose me too. We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother.”
I would like to address @ufc Why didn’t you fire anyone when their team attacked the bus and injured a couple of people? They could have killed someone there, why no one says anything about insulting my homeland, religion, nation, family? Why do you have to punish my team, when both teams fought. If you say that I started it, then I do not agree, I finished what he had started. In any case, punish me, @zubairatukhugov has nothing to do with that. If you think that I’ll keep silent then you are mistaken. You canceled Zubaira’s fight and you want to dismiss him just because he hit Conor. But don’t forget that it was Conor who had hit my another Brother FIRST, just check the video. if you decide to fire him, you should know that you’ll lose me too. We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother. If you still decide to fire him, don’t forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I’ll break it myself. And one more thing, you can keep my money that you are withholding. You are pretty busy with that, I hope it won’t get stuck in your throat. We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing. We intend to go to the end. #Brothers
In his post, Nurmagomedov made clear that he is much more concerned with respect than money, saying that White could keep the fight check that was currently being withheld from him.
Nurmagomedov also noted the inconsistencies between the proposed banning of Tukhugov from UFC and the punishments doled out when McGregor and his crew attacked his bus back in April, as well as McGregor’s constant insults regarding Nurmagomedov’s religion and homeland.
“Why didn’t you fire anyone when their team attacked the bus and injured a couple of people?” Nurmagomedov asked. “They could have killed someone there, why no one says anything about insulting my homeland, religion, nation, family?”
To answer Nurmagomedov’s question, it was to sell fights. UFC will always be willing to forgive fighters for their misdeeds if it leads to record-breaking PPV buys. Dana White put on a stern face in the days immediately after McGregor’s bus attack — for which he was charged with assault — but when it came time for him to fight Nurmagomedov, footage from the attack was one of the main features used in promoting the championship bout.
Meanwhile, Tukhugov is just four fights into his UFC career and has fought at just one PPV, thus making it much easier for White to ban him without worrying about potentially missed profits.
With this in mind, Nurmagomedov’s post is a solid power play to protect his teammate, and one he can certainly make good on. Nurmagomedov still holds an undefeated record, has what is likely the most coveted belt in the company, and just beat with ease the biggest draw that UFC has — White can’t afford to lose him.
We can’t be sure how everything will play out, but with the potential for a Nurmagomedov-McGregor rematch to be even bigger than their first fight, there’s little chance White follows through on his threat of a ban — more likely he’ll find a McGregor teammate that can fight Tukhugov in the undercard.
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