The two fighters’ stories became forever intertwined on that fateful media day in April when Chiesa was just 48 hours away from a fight with Anthony Pettis at UFC 223 in Brooklyn. That fight would be end up being re-scheduled when McGregor made a shocking appearance at the Barclays Center loading area in an attempt to confront rival Khabib Nurmagomedov.
In a clip that has been replayed ad nauseam, McGregor hurled a dolly that shattered the window of a bus that was transporting Nurmagomedov and several other fighters. Chiesa was one of them. He suffered a cut on his head that resulted in medics ruling him ineligible to compete and five months later, Chiesa and his attorney officially filed a lawsuit against McGregor, McGregor Sports and Entertainment, Barclays Center, and McGregor’s associates, for negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery.
The lawsuit is ongoing, and in the meantime Chiesa has had to deal with fans who aren’t exactly understanding of his situation. Thick as his skin is, it’s the collateral damage to friends and family that upsets him.
“I’m gonna tread lightly with this, obviously I can’t say a whole lot. But it just has not been good,” Chiesa told Luke Thomas on The MMA Hour on Monday. “Even my girlfriend and my mom get messages and comments. They’re not a part of this and it’s kind of a shame when — my mom’s a sensitive lady and I do my best to protect her and stuff. And when she tells me about some of the mean things that are getting sent her way it’s really, it’s a shame.
“Anybody can say whatever they want to me. This is about me, this isn’t about my family. And, you know, today hasn’t been great.”
Chiesa’s beef with McGregor extends beyond their close encounter and into the realm of the brash Irishman’s persona in general. It’s no secret that McGregor’s gift of gab has been a major part of his success in addition to his thrilling victories inside the Octagon, but Chiesa thinks that kind of behavior has a negative effect on the product and the fanbase in the long run.
He sees a connection between the attitude of the most popular fighters and the volatile opinions expressed by their most ardent followers.
“I think it’s bad,” Chiesa said, asked about whether he thought trash talk in MMA is going too far. “In the era when it was Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes and those guys, MMA fans weren’t the way they are now. They weren’t mean, they weren’t volatile, they weren’t calling people names, bantering their social media; granted, social media platforms weren’t where they were now, but it’s definitely like as athletes we have a fanbase, some smaller than others, where they follow us and they emulate us in a lot of different ways. And I think that when we’re promoting fights by talking s**t to each other, belittling each other and all that, the fans they absorb that and I think that that’s what creates this toxic fanbase.
“I hate hearing people say, ‘MMA fans are the worst.’ It’s like, I don’t want to say that because I think MMA fans are great but in the same sense I don’t ever see people that don’t like LeBron James say volatile, mean ass s**t about him. But for some reason MMA fans, they throw a lot of shade to a lot of the athletes and it can be pretty bad.”
Chiesa acknowledged that he’s been involved in his own fair share of verbal warfare, most notably ahead of his June 2017 fight with Kevin Lee. After Lee made a brief mention of Chiesa’s mother, an incensed Chiesa had to be held back from getting into a physical altercation with “The Motown Phenom”.
However, Chiesa considered that heat to be organic as opposed to manufactured, unlike in his next fight with Pettis. The former lightweight champion is actually someone that Chiesa had admired for years, so trying to sling mud in the build-up to that fight never felt right.
“I think there’s a certain line. I think if it’s authentic, let it happen,” Chiesa said. “For instance, with me and Kevin, when we had our beef. That was real. There was nothing scripted, there was nothing staged there, that wasn’t forced. Dude piped off about my mom, I flipped out. That created authentic heat. The Pettis thing was just me forcing something.”
Up next for Chiesa, he makes a move up to the welterweight division to fight Carlos Condit, another fighter he has a great deal of respect for. Though there’s plenty of time for Chiesa and Condit to trade insults before they meet at UFC 232 on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas, Chiesa doesn’t plan to take part in that.
“I learned my lesson,” Chiesa said of the Pettis fight. “I don’t know if that’s why I was meant to lose, I got beat by a better guy that night, but you can’t just look at it like that. You’ve got to take more from it and I think that was just like a reality check. Even if I might not get more followers on my Instagram, I’m just not going to be that guy that talks s**t anymore. That’s just not who I am. That’s not how I was raised. That was not my upbringing.
“I’m a blue collar guy from Spokane, Washington, who was raised to just be respectful, be a sportsman, and just speak with your performances, and I’m glad that I’m back to my old ways.”