In what was one of UFC's most hyped fights this year, Dagastani champion fighter, Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his title against the notorious Irish, inner-city Dublin star, Conor McGregor. What started off as a fantastic display of raw MMA talent from two of the best in the game, ended with a battered McGregor and a flared Khabib who was being touted as a disappointment and embarrassment to the UFC name. After a long and tiring night for the eventually defeated McGregor, Khabib burst into the crowd and launched himself at McGregor's training partner, Dillon Danis. Joe Rogan, one of the commentators of the night, describe how Danis was hurtling abuse at Khabib after his win. At this point, McGregor threw a punch at Khabib's teammate and was punched back by another person, whereupon a mini riot of unexpected delirium flooded the cage. Both Khabib and McGregor were eventually escorted out of the ring by security. The former being booed and bombarded with garbage from the audience as he left, with UFC officials refusing to belt him for fear of more riots ensuing. What remains interesting however, is what transpired after the climactic win for Khabib. A frenzy of media outlets flooded to label the Dagestani fighter of disrespecting McGregor and the UFC, and for ruining the name of the sport itself. UFC were threatening to withhold the belt and title from Khabib as well as fine him for his misconduct. Khabib, who has an untainted history of composure both before and after fights, rarely engages with opponents outside and inside the cage. And here he is, being alienated and assailed both by and from a sport that profits off him, whilst McGregor is painted as a victim and his outlandish, dangerous, and racist behaviour is overlooked as just a side-effect of his personality. Rewinding back to earlier this year, McGregor and his friends from Dublin attacked a bus carrying Khabib and his teammates. McGregor threw glass bottles and almost blinded a man. McGregor also spewed racist comments at Khabib for months prior to the fight during promotions, and trash talked his family. Conor has a long history of taking belts off people in the cage and for being aggressive, but nothing happens. His unmitigated temerity is encouraged and often celebrated by UFC fans. The unwavering sense of entitlement, and arrogance McGregor embodies is part of the appeal of the UFC and in turn, part of how the money comes in. Most notable, were McGregor's racist and Islamophobic remarks during the press conference pre-fight. McGregor made derogatory, and inflamed comments about Khabib's religion, at one point, offering him a drink of his new whiskey. Khabib responded by saying he never drinks upon which Conor screamed and asked why and began calling him a c**** and referred to him as a terrorist. This was just the tip of the iceberg because McGregor had thrown abuses at Khabib for weeks prior to this, at one point, attacking Khabib's father and disrespecting him by calling him a "quivering coward." Conor also accused Khabib's manager for being a co-conspirator for the terrorist attacks. The list is endless, Conor crossed all lines and disregarded all limits all for the sake of exposure and promotion. Khabib sat and listened. Knowing he would be able to respond once he was in the cage. And that he did, triumphantly and with ease. Conor was battered effortlessly and tapped out in the fourth round. Khabib would have choked him to death if he hadn't. If roles were reversed and Khabib was the one aggressing against McGregor and his family and his values, no one would vilify Conor if he were to retaliate eventually. Why? Because Conor is the supposed poster boy. In a piece written for TRT World, Tallha AbdulRazzaq perfectly addresses the hypocrisy of MMA fans and the UFC. "Conor has been extraordinarily violent outside of the cage, racist, Islamophobic, and generally abusive in a manner that transcends the trash talk that these fights are famous for. He took his hatred of Khabib and used his superstar platform to amplify his very personal attacks against the champion, before his bravado came crashing down around him and he ended up tapping to a sublime performance by the grappling master. Why is Conor allowed to get away with a litany of abuses while still being lauded as a “great performer”, “showman” and “champion”, while Khabib is vilified as someone who has completely let down the expectations we collectively have of him as a champion? It gives the impression that there is one moral standard for Conor and yet Khabib will be crucified for allowing a chink in his otherwise gleaming armour of exemplary conduct throughout his 27-0 career as one of the greatest fighters in combat sport history."
Unlike McGregor, Khabib's noble character is what shines through the press tour. Khabib, who hails from the small region named the Republic of Dagestan, is a proud, and practicing Muslim. He doesn't shy away from being unapologetically himself, especially despite the fact that his family, beliefs, and religion, are constantly attacked in the public sphere. He has been lauded as a remarkable role model for young Muslims living in the West for his courageous capacity to never feel inadequate or alien for simply being Muslim.
His Instagram is littered with pictures of sporadic verses from the Quran, dinner with family on special holy days, and meetings with young children who have memorized the Quran. For press, he isn't afraid to be himself. Under such images, hateful, racist, derogatory and Islamophobic comments filled the comments. Enraged fans and supporters of McGregor took to social media to verbally assault Khabib and his family. Once again, Khabib, ignoring the noise, posted photos of his family, and father, in celebration of a defeat worth more than just a belt. At the post-fight conference, Conor didn't show, but Khabib made a brief appearance and apologized for his lashing out.
"This is not my best side, I'm a human being and I don't know how people can talk about me jumping out the cage. What about him talking about my family, my religion, the bus? Why are people talking about me jumping over the cage? My father talks to me about respect. They call him a two-time champion, two-weight world champion but he taps.
People, the media change MMA. This is a respect sport, not a trash talking sport. Guys, you cannot talk about religion. This stuff is important. I know my father is going to smash me when I go home, Nevada, sorry, Vegas, sorry. Thank you so much, I am very proud."