Ugly scenes marred an otherwise fantastic card at UFC 229 this past Saturday with outsiders taking aim at the legitimacy of this “so called sport”.
As I write, it is now 11 hours since Khabib choked out Conor McGregor in the fourth round of an epic battle at UFC 229.
It is also 11 hours since the Russian scaled the Octagon fence to try and attack Dillon Danis, a team mate of Conor McGregor’s. This of course incited a mass brawl in and out of the cage with Khabib’s team mates attacking McGregor while in the cage.
It is one of the ugliest scenes that has ever occurred at an MMA event with millions of eyes tuning in most of whom would be casual fans who only have an interest in the sport when Conor McGregor is fighting.
What Khabib and his team mates was wrong and I won’t sit here and tell you that Conor McGregor is an angel either. This entire build up to the fight has been fraught with controversy. Personal attacks in press conferences and throwing a dolly through a bus back in April.
I am a fan of Conor McGregor and his fighting style. I have defended some of his actions in the past but on the flip side, I have gone on record through various articles and radio stations condemning him for his out of competition activities.
I’m a fan of the sport as a whole. It is my passion. It is a sport I’ve invested a lot of time and money into over the years and I have loved every minute of it.
Due to Conor McGregor’s rise to fame and the millions he has made through combat sports and various other ventures, he has become a very polarising figure and that’s ok. Heroes and villains are what make this sport fun to watch. Everybody has their favourite in most fights.
When “The Notorious” is involved, it ramps up to a whole other level and the mainstream media focus more on the legitimacy of the sport and comment sections are filled with bluster from people claiming that the “so called sport is barbarbic”, “it’s disgusting” and “should be banned”.
I’m not saying that opinions aren’t welcomed. Of course they are. However, when it comes to mixed martial arts, such derisory comments are often made by people who have never watched an MMA event or have seen a 20 second promo clip and have decided that it’s disgusting.
Look, mixed martial arts isn’t for everybody just like cricket and golf are not for me. I don’t belittle them as sports, I simply choose not to watch them.
It’s perfectly acceptable to not like Conor McGregor but to dismiss the sport in its entirety because you don’t like one athlete in the sport is wrong.
What we saw last night was a bad look for the UFC and MMA I’ll admit that. I can handle a profanity riddled press conference in the build up to a fight but I’ll never accept fighters seeking to incite a brawl after a fight is over.
The fight is the fight and that’s where scores are settled and last night’s fight was such an epic battle that it is now being forgotten about because of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s actions after the victory.
It’s a real shame because UFC 229 had everything that was great about MMA. From back and forth wars, heart, courage and a monumental comeback victory, it epitomised everything that is great about the sport that is sadly not getting the coverage it truly deserves.
Unfortunately, MMA is not a recognised sport in Ireland and scenes like last night, do not help its cause nor does it do anything to rid the image that MMA fans are “thuggish”.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan called it a “black eye on the sport” and it’s hard not to disagree with him. Wars are usually fought in the Octagon not outside of it and like him or loathe him, UFC president Dana White has done a tremendous job in taking MMA from the underground to a a huge global sporting event.
Closer to home, the amateur scene has never looked better as far as I’m concerned and the work that promoters do in getting shows up and running is often overlooked and the positives of local MMA gets brushed aside by those who are so quickly to dismiss it.
It is perfectly ok to criticise Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov for their antics in the build up and what happened afterwards.
It is not ok to tar the sport as a whole with the same brush and dismiss the hard work local and other international fighters put into their craft.
There is more good than bad in mixed martial arts and despite the ugliness of last night, there is absolutely no reason why the show can not go on.