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Khabib Nurmagomedov once wore a shirt into Brazil that said “If Sambo were easy, it would be called [Brazilian] Jiu Jitsu”, walked out into an arena of people chanting his death, and knocked his Brazilian opponent out cold. The man grew up wrestling bears. He learned to walk on a wrestling mat. While beating down Michael Johnson at UFC 205, he calmly informed Johnson, “I need to fight for the title. You know this. I deserve it” while dropping elbows on Johnson’s face. The Dagestani is a serious guy.
Yet, of all the unbelievable things Khabib has ever done, declaring solidarity with his teammate after he was cut during a brawl Nurmagomedov started in the aftermath of UFC 229 is his best ever, for four big reasons.
Firstly, Nurmagomedov told the UFC if they were going to cut Zubaira Tukhogov, “don’t forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I’ll break it myself.” That willingness to walk away from the Ultimate Fighting Championship comes off as completely genuine. Khabib is not kidding. He doesn’t need the American-based promotion. Russia is its’ own market and Khabib is a national star there. The UFC, though, definitely stand to lose if Khabib walks. He just headlined the biggest UFC Pay-Per-View of all time, just under 2.5 million buys, and choked out the biggest draw in MMA history. That puts him in a position of unprecedented leverage.
Secondly, he told the UFC to keep their money. Who scoffs at millions of dollars? Khabib’s entire purse is currently being held by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), unlike McGregor’s. “I hope it doesn’t get stuck in your throat” is also a ridiculously cool line. This is the part that really lets us know, Khabib isn’t playing games. If he is leaving that much money on the table, he is truly willing to walk away. That is a terrifying man to sit across a bargaining table from, because it means the UFC have no leverage over him. Nurmagomedov does not care about the money.
Thirdly, this is the first time I can recall where a fighter of Khabib’s stature threw his entire weight behind a teammate in solidarity. That’s not a small thing. Fellow AKA fighter Josh Thomson wondered if this could be a dawning of a new collective consciousness in fighters’ minds. Despite the team format of MMA gyms, most fighters have an extremely individualistic approach to fighting. When Aljamain Sterling tried to get a better deal from the UFC and the company decided they would rather let him go than pay him more, it never occured to Chris Weidman to put his own position in the company at risk to support his gym mate. Project Spearhead, the anonymous card-collecting effort to unionize the UFC, just had another of their most public supporters- Kajan Johnson- leave the promotion. It may be too much to hope that this display galvanizes a collective identity among fighters, but it sets a bold precedent.
Lastly, Khabib set out his case in a way that made sense to people. “We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my brother” is the kind of stirring line that people instantly connect with. From what I can tell in the comments sections, Khabib’s stand is wildly popular with fans. It was Khabib, after all, that started the brawl. Everything flowed from his actions, and from that perspective his ‘brothers’ were just backing him up. It makes sense for Khabib to take all the blame on his shoulders and not let his teammate suffer for something he started. He also pointed out that in his mind, he defended his honor. That “realness” is a quality people have an appetite for. In a world known for it’s bluster and promotion, Khabib doesn’t play.
Artem Lobov doesn’t want Tukhugov cut, he wants to fight the guy.
Daniel Cormier might be reaching a little bit with this one. Lobov didn’t hurt anyone personally. Zub jumped into the cage and punched McGregor.
Breaking news: nothing has happened yet in regard to suspensions.
This story shared by MMA legend Frank Shamrock is so sad. The United States doesn’t do a good job caring for people with mental health issues.
UFC 230 is still a great fight card, especially if you forget the fights that could have been.
Well… this might be one more good thing to come from the incident
Stipe Miocic is miffed Cormier openly took the Lewis fight because he considered it easier on short notice.
Daniel Cormier was not taking prisoners online today
The best of Khabib and DC
Chael Sonnen wants Bellator to re-sign Eddie Alvarez
That’s a very big check for a regional show.
DC defends his stance on Zubaira
Fedor is also very cool, the original Russian GOAT.
Dillon Danis denies using an Islamaphobic slur
Derrick Lewis and DC’s backstage conversation is very funny.
Combat sports this weekend include Derrick Crawford and not one but two Bellator events
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