GLENDALE, Ariz. — Michelle Waterson watched Conor McGregor’s meltdown in Brooklyn last week at the Barclays Center, but unlike many within the mixed martial arts community, she had stake in the game when the former lightweight champion wreaked havoc upon a fighter bus and caused the cancellation of three bouts just days out from UFC 223.
Waterson’s teammate at JacksonWink, flyweight contender Ray Borg, was one the athletes directly affected by McGregor’s indiscretions. Borg was seated next to the window that “The Notorious” shattered with a dolly during his antics. He subsequently suffered multiple corneal abrasions that led to a hospital trip and forced him out of his scheduled fight against Brandon Moreno.
Yet, despite being a victim in the incident, Borg received widespread vitriol online for withdrawing from the fight, to the point where he felt compelled to post a doctor’s note on Twitter that confirmed his injuries.
All of this occurred just as Borg was readying for a fight for the first time as a father. Borg’s first child, a baby boy, was born just weeks before UFC 223.
So for Waterson, to be so close to the situation and see what Borg had to go through was a sad affair.
“I was extremely bummed for Ray,” Waterson said Thursday at UFC on FOX 29 media day.
“That fight had already gotten pushed back and he just had his baby. His baby was in the ICU. I’m sure he wanted nothing more than to bring home a ‘W’ and a bonus for his family, his brand new family. And for all of that to happen, to me, is really disheartening. I feel like Conor has had the opportunity to build himself, to build his ground, to build his fight career, and has been really successful at it. And for him to do the things that he did was very selfish, in my opinion.
“We are in the sport that, if you have personal beef, you can deal with it and get paid for it, instead of trying to go behind the scenes and wreak havoc among people that have nothing to do with your drama, and affect not only the fighters, the coaches, the fighters’ families, the employees of the UFC, the employees of the arena — and list goes on and on, right? We just got into New York, and I’m sure the commission is shaking their heads right now, thinking why did we let these fighters come in?”
Waterson meets Cortney Casey in a main-card bout on Saturday at UFC on FOX 29, which takes place at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz.
Compared to the chaos last week in Brooklyn, UFC on FOX 29 fight week has been a routine affair. No dollies have been thrown and no windows have been shattered. Nonetheless, the UFC has been slow to announce what, if any, punishment McGregor will face for his actions. UFC president Dana White walked back his initial harsh tone at UFC 223’s post-fight press conference by stating, “there’s a lot worse that goes on in all the other sports, so I’ll take a dolly through a window any day.”
The comments were a sharp departure from the fury White expressed immediately after the incident. It’s also likely the UFC will sometime down the line use footage of McGregor’s bus attack to promote a fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov.
And that is what worries Waterson the most.
“What concerns me is if nothing happens to him so that he does change his ways, that a lot of the fighters will assume that that’s what they have to do in order to gain popularity, in order to gain fame, in order to gain financial stability,” Waterson said. “And I’m sure a lot of the fighters will have no problem reverting to those ways.
“But the thing is, we’re trying to make this a professional sport and we’re trying to allow people to see us as humans and as martial artists, because it is mixed martial arts and a lot of us have that martial arts background, and we have the respect and the honor, and we should have the humility and control, right?
“That’s what martial arts is all about, controlled chaos. And I’ve always looked up to Conor and his ability to control his emotions inside the cage, which is what makes me sad about the whole situation, because I would think that Conor would have the emotional control to figure out a way to use the situation to his benefit in a different way.”