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Dana White: ‘It’s not 100 percent certain’ that Khabib Nurmagomedov will retain his belt

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS – In the chaotic end to what’s being considered the biggest fight in UFC history, neither Khabib Nurmagomedov or challenger Conor McGregor walked out of the Octagon after the UFC 229 main event wearing the lightweight title.

And according to UFC president Dana White, it’s uncertain if Nurmagomedov — who was the 155-pound champion going in — will be wearing it anytime soon.

In the post-fight presser, White was asked if Nurmagomedov would 100 percent retain his title after the melee that took place at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night.

“No, it’s not 100 percent,” White said. “The thing is, we’re regulated by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, or whatever state we’re in, right? The Nevada State Athletic Commission is going to go after him, I’m sure pretty hard. He doesn’t have to worry about me right now, he has to worry about Nevada.”

Here White threw up his hand, as if to emphasize the kind of worry he meant.

“The Governor [Brian Sandoval] was here tonight,” he said. “The Governor went running out of the building. That’s not good. The Governor running out of the building isn’t good. He’s in trouble.”

Seconds after Nurmagomedov tapped McGregor with a rear-naked choke in the fourth round, words were exchanged between McGregor’s corner and the Dagestan fighter. Nurmagomedov took out his mouthpiece and threw it at McGregor’s cornerman Dillon Danis, before hopping the fence to go after him.

From there bedlam ensued, as Nurmagomedov’s corner then rushed the cage, with a couple of his team attacking McGregor. As the brawl died down and police regained order, the tension was still very thick in the arena. White had to explain to Nurmagomedov why he wasn’t about to put the belt around his waist, given the circumstances.

“[Khabib] said put my belt on me, and I said no, we’re not going to put the belt on you because I think that the fans are going to go crazy and they’re going to throw stuff in here,” White told the media gathered at the press conference. “And he says, ‘I don’t care. I’m ready for this,’ I said, ‘yeah, but the other 20,000 people that are sitting here and paid for tickets aren’t ready for this.’

“And he said, if I have to be arrested, then I have to be arrested, but I want my belt put on me.’ And then finally, [Daniel] Cormier and [Luke] Rockhold did a great job of helping contain the situation and get him out of there.”

If Nurmagomedov is able to escape serious punishment and fight again within a reasonable time table, White said he wasn’t sure who would be next to challenge him. When asked specifically about Tony Ferguson, who defeated Anthony Pettis in the co-main event via TKO (corner stoppage), White said that was the furthest thing from his mind.

“I am completely not even thinking about that shit,” he said. “I’m not even thinking about pay-per-views, that’s how messed up I am right now, so yeah, I’m not even thinking about that stuff.”

Traditionally, an athletic commission has no jurisdiction to strip a champion of his title in MMA. The decision to do so is ultimately up to the UFC. However, the Nevada State Athletic Commission is holding Nurmagomedov’s $2 million purse from the fight as the incident is being investigated.

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