The UFC has been criticized in many corners for the way the company chose to promote the UFC 229 main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor. And that criticism has only intensified after a near-riot occurred at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas following Nurmagomedov’s fourth-round submission victory on Saturday night.
At the heart of the critiques is the fact the UFC incorporated footage of McGregor’s April 5 attack on a van containing Nurmagomedov and several other fighters following the UFC 223 media day in Brooklyn, N.Y. That the company would use footage of a criminal act for which McGregor copped a plea deal only served to add fuel to the fire on the very real grudge between the two fighters, ultimately leading to the post-fight melee.
But UFC president Dana White is pushing back against the critics. Appearing on the ESPN show “First Take” on Monday, White was asked to respond to a USA Today quote by a cornerman (actually manager Ali Abdelaziz) for Nurmagomedov.
““Let’s be real,” Abdelaziz said to USA Today. “The UFC promoted this fight with the videos. They didn’t promote this as going to a golf tournament. They promoted this as a fight.”
White was then asked if the UFC was culpable at all for the situation by how they promoted the fight.
“Dumbest quote I have ever heard in my life. You are an idiot whoever wrote that. This is a fight. The way that we promoted this fight, was exactly the way that this thing played out,” White said. “That’s all part of the storyline.”
White said that this is far from the first time two fighters who have competed against one another have legitimately disliked each other, nor is it the first time the company has incorporated real-life hatred between opponents into their publicity building up the bout.
“Believe me, we’ve had, almost 20 years I’ve been doing this,” White said. “We’ve had plenty of fights, where there’s tons of bad blood, and all kinds of things like this happen, and, you know, we don’t have fights after the fights. We’ve had scuffles with guys in the back, I mean, this is the fight business, and a lot of people don’t like each other.”
At the end of the day, T-Mobile Arena drew a gate of nearly $17.2 million, and the bout is expected to the biggest event in UFC history. So White dismisses the idea his company crossed a line in the way it handled the fight promotion.
“That’s just, that’s a stupid opinion,” White said.