Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: The Madness Begins
Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: The Madness Begins
Things are heating up between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor. How will the madness unfold? We investigate.
By Justin Golightly for FloCombat
BROOKLYN, NY — Conor McGregor is an hour late.
"Maybe he chicken. This is nothing. UFC pay me big money to sit here if he come or not," Khabib Nurmagomedov says from his perch.
Dana White said it was important for the UFC to come back to Brooklyn to make it up to the fans after McGregor's UFC 223 riot.
His "disgusting" onslaught shattered the record of views for the Embedded series like those infamous bus windows. Now, the footage is a sizzle reel to promote what is being called the biggest fight in UFC history.
Still, with millions of dollars on the line, White is adamant that if McGregor fails to show up today, he'll be pulled from the card. The media members in attendance aren't convinced.
"Do not give him way out, Dana. We must finish this business. Let him be Burger King. Everybody know it's Khabib Time," Nurmagomedov says.
Nurmagomedov broke out of his shell during the dizzying flip-flop from Tony Ferguson to Max Holloway to Al Iaquinta before UFC 223 on April 7. It almost seems like that exhausting gauntlet was training for this, as if his uncanny winning streak was all to prepare him for this career-defining battle. Inshallah, Alhamdulillah.
Despite English as a second language, he's owning this press conference. You almost don't miss McGregor—until he shows up.
Dressed to the nines and cackling like the Joker if he had kidnapped the audience, Conor McGregor struts onto the stage.
Anger and a distinct red hue fade from Dana White's face. The UFC president smiles ear-to-ear and bursts into applause. The two hug and a mic is put in McGregor's hand.
"Don't worry, Brooklyn. Your city is safe," McGregor says.
From then on, it's his show. ...And it's spectacular.
* * *
LOS ANGELES — The Staples Center feels like it's inside a plasma globe. This is Thunderdome, and McGregor has been spitting lightning at Nurmagomedov for 15 minutes.
The crowd sizzles. A flash goes off and McGregor swoops in to snatch "The Eagle's" UFC lightweight belt off the dais, but he's not fast enough. Nurmagomedov holds his title high as six large men dressed all in black shroud McGregor like a storm cloud.
"You try and steal belt because you are criminal now?" Nurmagomedov says. "You'll never get this. I can't wait to smash you, man."
The crisp, white suit the Irishman claims was crafted from woolly mammoth tusks emerges as security falls back. He dusts himself off with an evil grin and sits back down. Dana White makes a nervous joke asking if someone made sure to take the cans of Monster Energy drink away.
"A criminal, yeah? You saw what happened," McGregor says. "I signed some autographs, slid some people a couple of mid-carder wages, and that's it. I run the UFC. I book my fights and I promote them. That footage of me scaring you and your pus*y manager shitless sells this fight and makes us millions. On behalf of McGregor Sports and Entertainment, congratulations and you're welcome."
Hate the answer all you want, but McGregor is right. Shirts of his mugshot were sold, Joe Rogan has a collage of the photo in his studio, the legal problem has gone away, and all that is left in the eyes of his fans is what he's always been to them: Tyler Durden. He looks the way they want to look. He fights the way they want to fight. He talks the way they want to talk.
Even when it comes to other dangerous men and women who make their living by fighting in a cage, he's free in all the ways they are not.
* * *
MOSCOW — Conor Mcgregor is late again.
"Maybe something happen to his bus."
Khabib Nurmagomedov's quip can barely be heard over the roar in Russia.
"Don't worry, Dana. Your chicken is safe. We're not in Dagestan."
The UFC lightweight champion smiles. Fedor Emelianenko is in attendance. Khabib Time. Nurmagomedov's father looms from backstage. Khabib Time.
It almost seems like there are more fighters here than fans and media. Nurmagomedov's entire Eagles MMA team arrived for support.
M-1, Fight Nights Global, and Absolute Championship Berkut promotions are all represented in the churning mosh pit of a crowd.
Although, some shady looking people in the front row seem oddly calm. Too calm.
"Sorry I'm late. I had to track down Khabib's only childhood friend and slaughter him in the street."
Cue McGregor walking out shirtless wearing kaleidoscope pants and draped in the pelt of a bear.
The quake of the venue feels like it could open up and swallow him, but he avoids it like the consequences of his actions. Dana White clutches his stomach in laughter. McGregor flaps and slings his cloak of brown fur around. You either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.
McGregor is whichever label pays the most at the time.
"You funny, stupid guy. You really funny," Nurmagomedov answers. "I don't know who more crazy, you or Tony Ferguson."
McGregor chuckles, slamming his hand down on the table before wooing like Ric Flair.
"It's me, Khabib. I'm an absolute madman."
PETA and the Native American community later took offense at Conor McGregor's decision to wear a bear as a headdress.
As his private jet takes off, McGregor hits send on a controversial tweet.
* * *
DUBLIN — Dana White screams at a monstrous sea of green.
He says it's "the craziest shit" he's ever seen. He said the same thing in Russia.
Soccer songs have put Khabib Time on snooze. Nurmagomedov smirks and raises his hands above his head, encouraging Dublin's hate. When White introduces Conor McGregor, you can only hear the first part of his name. The cheers break the sound barrier and puncture eardrums. The Champ Champ™ stomps in front of the nation he vowed to take over the world with, and he's carrying both the UFC featherweight and lightweight titles.
"You're looking at the last three real things in the UFC," he says. "Bunch of f*cking clones they are, bitches chasing fake belts and small checks."
Nurmagomedov patiently waits for a lull to speak. It's the same stoic demeanor he'll need during the actual fight, as McGregor stands in front of him muttering curses. That is unless the Russian just decides to bulldoze him straight away and turn it into the war McGregor had with Chad Mendes at UFC 189 in 2015—a battle that left a scar McGregor still carries across his brow.
"This is real belt. I say this before: Irish, only six million. Russia, 150 million. First Muslim UFC champion, undefeated, 26-win streak," Nurmagomedov says. "What can you say to this? You can say nothing. I'm going to smash your face, man. You'll see. After fight with me, you retire."
If it goes to the ground, Nurmagomedov can make it look like a Quentin Tarantino film. If McGregor keeps it on the feet, his mutant-powered left hand can erase the mind of anyone not named Nate Diaz. Away from this world tour spectacle, that suspense makes this clash of titans everything it is hyped to be.
"Get out of here with that shit," McGregor says. "You played patty-cake with a house salesman and still got clobbered. I knock people dead. You're going to dive at me with that big dumb head of yours and end up buried in the f*cking dirt—if you even make it to the fight at all, you sloppy bum."
McGregor declares the only way he loses this fight is if Khabib kills him.
Nurmagomedov simply and matter-of-factly says, "OK."
The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is sold out.
Special thanks to Russian consultant Karim Zidan.
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