On Saturday night, Khabib Nurmagomedov spoiled a dominant victory over Conor McGregor at UFC 229 by jumping the cage and attacking McGregor’s cornermen. Members of Khabib’s corner also jumped into the cage and attacked Conor. It was a giant fiasco that horrified some and entertained others. Some felt it was justified after Conor’s own attempt to brawl with Khabib back at UFC 223, others took the ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ stance.
In the end, the only opinions that matter are those of the state of Nevada and its athletic commission. It seems like Nurmagomedov’s team may avoid criminal charges after McGregor refused to press them, resulting in the release of three men arrested by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department following the brawl. But there’s no doubt the Nevada State Athletic Commission will be taking action.
צילום מתוך האולם של הקרב. וגם של הסיום של חביב-מקגרגור pic.twitter.com/7DtRWJK79m— Ram Gilboa (@RamGilboa) October 7, 2018
They’ve already decided to hold Nurmagomedov’s $2 million pay while allowing McGregor’s $3 million to clear after reviewing footage of the incident. That should make it obvious that they plan to come down harder on Khabib than Conor, even though some have noticed the Irishman took a swing at Khabib’s cornermen before anyone had attacked him. Fortunately for Nurmagomedov, even if the NSAC was able to keep his entire pay (they can’t), it won’t stop him from making his undisclosed pay-per-view cut from the UFC.
How much of a fine Khabib faces really depends on how upset NSAC heads are at the incident. After Mike Tyson’s infamous 1997 ear biting incident with Lennox Lewis turned into a brawl, Tyson was facing a 5 year suspension, but commission regulations would have capped his punishment at $250,000. Instead, the NSAC got creative and revoked his boxing license instead, which allowed them to hit Tyson with a $3 million fine (which was 10% of his $30 million purse).
Revoking Tyson’s license was a de facto 12 month suspension. At the end of that 12 months, Tyson could apply for another license, but Nevada was free to refuse him. Tyson did eventually box in Las Vegas again, two and a half years after the Holyfield incident.
But that was obviously a bigger deal, given the unique nature of Tyson biting a chunk of Holyfield’s body off. What about just a straight brawl? Jon Jones dragged Daniel Cormier into a crowd and threw punches at a UFC 178 media date. The NSAC didn’t suspend them or call off their fight. Instead they levied a 10% fine on both fighters’ disclosed purse.
Leading up to UFC 202, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz got into a bottle throwing incident at a press conference. Initially, the commission once again considered taking a 10% cut of disclosed purses. Instead, they decided on a $150,000 fine for McGregor (5%) and $50,000 for Diaz (about 2.5%), with both men getting 50 hours community service. After McGregor’s team appealed, that amount was further dropped to $25,000 and $15,000 respectively with 25 hours community service.
The closest example we have to the UFC 229 brawl is the Strikeforce Nashville brawl in April of 2010. Following Jake Shield’s win over Dan Henderson in the main event, Jason “Mayhem” Miller interrupted Shield’s victory speech to demand a rematch. Punches started flying and an all-star lineup of Jake Shields, Jason Miller, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, and Gilbert Melendez were facing disciplinary action from the Tennessee Athletic Commission.
The TAC offered a pretty sweet deal to make the whole situation go away, though. Each fighter faced a $5000 to $7500 fine and 3 month suspension ... but if they contested that decision, they faced a $20,000 fine and 9 month suspension. Unsurprisingly, everyone accepted the slap on the wrist, even Nate Diaz, who wasn’t licensed in Tennessee and technically wasn’t under their authority. He paid up rather than risk having the TAC contact other athletic commissions recommending they not license him.
Being licensed is a key element in whether or not a commission can make your life hell for a brawl. At a World Series of Fighting event, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Nate Diaz got into a fight outside the cage that later spilled out onto the Vegas strip in full on brawls. But because those involved weren’t currently licensed for a fight from the commission, the commission had no authority to get involved. That’s also why Conor McGregor managed to walk away from the UFC 223 bus attack incident without sanctions from the New York State Athletic Commission.
Obviously, no one knows what to expect from the NSAC until they declare their intentions. But based off a history of past actions, I expect a fine of 10% ($200,000) and a suspension between six months to a year for Khabib. If they really want to put the screws to Khabib, they could revoke his license, making it an open ended suspension that puts him into a limbo state for the foreseeable future.
What do you think, Maniacs? Does that sound fair?