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With his ultimatum to the UFC, Khabib Nurmagomedov has a point – even if it’s not the one that will likely matter most

MMAJunkie logo MMAJunkie 10/11/2018 Ben Fowlkes
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Video by Sports Illistrated

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov seems to have finished with the faux-apology phase of his reaction to the post-fight melee at UFC 229. Now he's on to mitigating the consequences - and not just for himself.

It seems that Nurmagomedov heard UFC President Dana White's claim that any fighters involved in attacking Conor McGregor in the octagon after Saturday's main event "will never fight here."

To Nurmagomedov's ears - and a lot of other people's, as well - that sounded like UFC featherweight Zubaira Tukhugov, a teammate of Nurmagomedov's, may be on his way to the banned list. A quick review of the video shows a guy who looks an awful lot like him jumping into the cage shortly after Nurmagomedov had jumped out, and it sure looked like it was Tukhugov who took a swipe at McGregor in the ensuing fracas.

Still, Nurmagomedov sees no reason for him to be fired from the UFC as a result, and he's willing to put his own head on the chopping block to protect Tukhugov's if he needs to.

"(I)f you decide to fire him, you should know that you'll lose me too," Nurmagomedov wrote on Instagram. "We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother. If you still decide to fire him, don't forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I'll break it myself."

So far you could maybe write the whole thing off as bluster. He also told the UFC it could "keep my money that you are withholding," which a) it's the Nevada State Athletic Commission doing that, and b) no one ever means it when they tell you that they don't care about receiving their millions of dollars.

Also, no matter how mad he might be if Tukhugov is fired, it's not like Nurmagomedov can just resign as UFC champion if he doesn't like how he's being treated - ask Randy Couture.

But as part of his social media rant, Nurmagomedov also made a pretty solid point: Why didn't the UFC fire anyone over McGregor's bus attack in April?

If one fighter attacking another outside the parameters of a professional fight is cause for a ban, how did McGregor manage to throw a hand truck into a bus full of UFC fighters, injuring some of them, with his teammate and UFC featherweight Artem Lobov along for the ride, and yet no one lost their jobs over it?

We mostly know the answers to these questions. UFC executives like White made a lot of angry noises over McGregor's bus incident, but ultimately the promotion took zero action on it. That's because the company's only real interest was in getting McGregor back in the cage so it could get back to making tons of money off him.

And it did. UFC 229 was, by all early indications, a huge success. It was even helped along by ads showing McGregor in full freakout mode, launching what White described as a "disgusting" attack on a bunch of fellow fighters who were simply caught in the crossfire.

So how can you do nothing about McGregor's misbehavior, then take such an opposite stance when it's Nurmagomedov and his team causing all the trouble? How are we supposed to interpret it as anything but an egregiously uneven application of justice, with consequences determined not by what you do but by how much you're worth to the UFC?

Not that that would be anything new, mind you. Other fighters have already been banned from the UFC for less than what both McGregor and Nurmagomedov have done. Then again, those other fighters didn't have a McGregor or a Nurmagomedov speaking up on their behalf, which is what might actually make a difference in this case.

Now the UFC has a tough choice to make. White can stick to his vow to make sure no one who jumped in that cage ever fights for the UFC again, or he can back down and placate his lightweight champ, who he's probably going to need in the very near future.

Both decisions come with consequences - even the decision to do nothing at all. If you don't believe that, just look back at how we ended up here.

For complete coverage of UFC 229, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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