UFC lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov may have put Conor McGregor into his rearview mirror after dispatching him by fourth round submission less than two weeks ago but the origin of their beef is still stuck in his head.
While the fight that played out at UFC 229 made the most sense from a competitive standpoint, the real crux of the rivalry between Nurmagomedov and McGregor reaches back to a pair of altercations that took place earlier this year.
The first was Nurmagomedov and his crew surrounding UFC featherweight Artem Lobov for a heated conversation after he had allegedly talked bad about him in a previous interview. That culminated in McGregor then flying from Ireland to New York for a business meeting with the UFC that turned into a full out assault on a bus where Nurmagomedov was sitting with other fighters about to travel back to their hotel following a media obligation.
McGregor was later arrested and pled guilty to disorderly conduct for his role in the brawl but Nurmagomedov can’t help but wonder if the UFC didn’t play a part in setting it all up in the first place.
“Let me tell you how that all played out,” Nurmagomedov explained when speaking on Russian television as transcribed by RT Sport. “I had a team of about 20 men. We had a bus just like that, hired (for us) to go to the gym, press conferences all the media activities and so on. But you know what’s interesting, on that day the UFC told me that on that media day I had to arrive alone. So I was traveling with all the other fighters who would fight from the red corner. I was in the red corner as well as a favorite. With me there was only one person (from my team) and my manager.
“And if you watch the footage, you can see that the bus almost gets to the gate, and then suddenly it stops and pull back. Why? If you see that some people are attacking the bus, then you should keep moving and get outside (from the parking lot). But then you stop and pull back. Why? For me there are a lot of questions. I don’t know whether the UFC made it all on purpose or not.”
Nurmagomedov isn’t convinced the UFC played a part in McGregor’s assault on the bus but he definitely appears to have questions about the possibility.
UFC president Dana White has previously denied the conspiracy theory that the UFC somehow had a hand in McGregor’s assault because the footage was later used to help promote his fight against Nurmagomedov.
“They started to attack (the bus), break (windows). It was a crowd of around 20 men. Inside (the bus) we had three security guards. And as you can see (in the video), there were security guards outside as well, trying to stop Conor,” Nurmagomedov stated.
“In my opinion, I give 70-percent that it was a set-up. I wanted to get outside, and all the fighters who were in the bus, already confirmed it in their interviews, as well as all the managers. It all happened in about one or two minutes. I don’t know, but this incident leaves a lot of questions for me,”
Nurmagomedov wasn’t finished with the coincidences that led him to believe the UFC may have been involved in the entire disastrous incident.
“One more thing that I want to mention. Back in 2017 we were talking (on Twitter private messages), before [Conor] moved to the lightweight division. And (those messages) still exist. We had a good relationship back then. After what had happened (between me) and his team, if he thought that I crossed the line, why couldn’t he just message me and say, ‘hey, we need to figure things out.’ But he flies over (from Ireland) and comes with cameras and his PR team, who were filming the whole thing,” Nurmagomedov said.
“And one more thing. It was Barclays Center, a big arena for 20,000 spectators. How did they find out where exactly we were? It’s for one. For two, when around 20-30 furious men entered the arena, the UFC staff didn’t ask any questions? Conor wasn’t part of that media day. They should have informed the (arena’s) security that 20 to 30 men had just entered the building. They didn’t say anything. Instead they led them to our bus. You know some people think that I am just an athlete. But I am an educated man, and during 15 years of my career I have never even been knocked out. So believe me, my brain works well,”
McGregor has essentially dealt with the court case surrounding his assault on the bus but he’s still facing civil actions stemming from the incident including a lawsuit from fellow UFC fighter Michael Chiesa, who was injured during the bus melee.