In addition to the fines and suspensions that were dished out to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor for their involvement in UFC 229's post-fight brawl, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) also caused waves earlier this week when it proposed to potentially punish fighters for obsessive language and trash talk.
This especially applies to McGregor, who is known to verbally belittle opponents to gain a mental edge and promote the fight itself. "Notorious" leaned heavily on this tactic to pick apart Khabib's personal life prior to UFC 229. McGregor's words didn't have an affect on Khabib's performance as the Russian choked out the Irishman in the fourth round, but it played a major role in UFC 229's post-fight melee.
“I think it’s gotten to the point with certain unarmed combatants to where it’s become totally unacceptable,” said NSAC Executive Director Bob Bennett. “There’s not any other athletes, that I’m aware of, that have spoken in various press conferences the way Mr. McGregor has. I definitely think, unequivocally, that’s something we need to take a more active role in and take an active role in for their language.”
While NSAC seems to be doing everything it can to eliminate the possibility of a UFC 229 repeat, it may be crossing the line by trying to silence fighter speech.
At least UFC president Dana White thinks so.
“I think it’s crazy,” White told reporters at UFC 235's press conference earlier this week (h/t MMAjunkie). “I think it’s insane. I think it’s unconstitutional, first of all. I don’t think you can legally do that. These guys get into a cage and they punch each other in the face, they can knock each other unconscious, they can choke each other, but they can’t say mean things to each other? It's pretty ridiculous."
With McGregor on track to return to the Octagon sometime in 2019 we're going to find out quickly how serious NSAC really is. White, who understands the verbal warfare often shared between two fighters before a fight, offered more feedback about the NSAC's outlook in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“It’s a very scary slippery slope when you start talking about fining or suspending people for speech,” White said. “Unconstitutional. I don’t even think it’s legal. … I’m shocked that that was even said. I wasn’t there. I didn’t hear it. I don’t know what happened, but it’s shocking. But we do everything in our power to work with the athletic commission, and Nevada has been great to us. Nevada has been very good to us. And I highly doubt that’s going to happen. It’s crazy talk to me.”
White may be right to consider NSAC's idea to downplay pre-fight trash talk (at least the extreme versions) completely crazy, but the brawl between Team Khabib and Team McGregor following UFC 229's main event was utter insanity.
We'll just have to wait and see how this whole thing shakes out once McGregor starts taking pre-fight jabs at his next opponent.
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