If Khabib Nurmagomedov gets punished for his role in the post-fight melee that overtook UFC 229, it will likely come from the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) and not the UFC.
UFC president Dana White told TMZ this week that Nurmagomedov will “absolutely” not be stripped of the lightweight title he successfully defended with a fourth-round submission over Conor McGregor on Saturday in the blockbuster main event of UFC 229.
“He absolutely keeps his title,” White told TMZ. “And he’s going to get suspended, so maybe you give him a four-to-six month suspension.
“Listen, [the NAC] took his whole purse right now, and they’re talking about keeping his purse. I do not think that that should happen,” White added when asked about what should happen to Nurmagomedov. “You should not be able to keep his whole purse. ... I think they should take $250,000 from him.”
The brawl between Nurmagomedov’s team and McGregor’s team erupted at UFC 229 after Nurmagomedov scaled the cage and dove into McGregor’s corner to seemingly confront the Irishman’s teammate Dillon Danis. Chaos ensued, and White said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference that he was “disgusted and sick” by the messy scene that overshadowed an event that may very well be the most-watched MMA pay-per-view in history.
Speaking to TMZ this week, White said his mood was much improved — he admitted that he was “a little giddy” after starting to see pay-per-view numbers roll in — but he still reiterated his point that Nurmagomedov made the wrong decision on Saturday night.
“I don’t think there’s too many people who don’t understand why he did it, but he shouldn’t have done it,” White said. “He’s the world champion. He just beat Conor in front of the entire world. Stand up, get that belt wrapped around you. You won, you won. The guy who’s yelling at you means nothing. That guy means nothing.”
White also defended the UFC’s decision to not punish McGregor for his infamous dolly-throwing incident at UFC 223, which escalated the rivalry with Nurmagomedov.
McGregor ultimately received neither a fine nor a suspension from the UFC for his actions in Brooklyn, which forced two fighters to withdraw from UFC 223 due to injuries relating to his bus attack. Now Nurmagomedov is facing both a potential fine and suspension from the NAC for what happened at UFC 229, however White said the two situations were dissimilar.
“It’s different circumstances, you guys,” White said. “[McGregor’s incident] wasn’t at an event. This was in the bowels of the Barclays Center. It was a completely different situation. He was dealing with the state of New York and the police. In this thing (the UFC 229 brawl), [Nurmagomedov] was a part of something that was regulated by the Nevada state athletic commission. He was at an event with more people than have ever been at an event for a UFC event in Vegas. There were tons of fans there. It’s a much different situation.”
As for the reason for White’s self-professed giddiness, the UFC president hinted that early returns are already indicating that UFC 229 will smash the record for the highest-selling pay-per-view in MMA history and become the first UFC card to collect a buyrate above 2 million.
“We didn’t do 3 million ... but it’s so hard to crack 2 million in this [business],” White said. “I mean, even Tyson-Holyfield was at like 1.995 (million). Things like that didn’t crack 2 million. We’re way over 2 million, so I’m happy.”
White finished by noting that he isn’t sure what is next for Nurmagomedov.
McGregor has already stated that he wants at a rematch with the undefeated Dagestani champion. Nurmagomedov will first need to deal with the NAC before he is able to fight again, but White indicated that former interim UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson — who defeated Anthony Pettis in the thrilling co-main event of UFC 229 — could also be in the title conversation as well.
“I don’t know. We have to see how this stuff plays out with Khabib and what’s next,” White said. “Tony Ferguson looked amazing that night. That fight was incredible, so we’ll see what happens.”