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EDITORIAL: Nevada Athletic Commission shouldn’t ignore role of UFC president in Saturday’s brawl

The Nevada Athletic Commission plans to take action against both Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov in response to a melee that broke out following their UFC bout Saturday.

But the commission would be derelict if it ignored the man in charge: UFC President Dana White.

After Mr. Nurmagomedov won by tapout in the fourth round, he climbed the cage and went after Mr. McGregor’s corner. Several fans reportedly crashed barricades to join the brawl. Media reports noted that Mr. McGregor attempted to scale the ring but was restrained until he took a swing at a member of Mr. Nurmagomedov’s team. Metro officers swarmed the scene.

“It’s definitely not a good thing,” Mr. White said. “It’s not who we are. It’s unfortunate that on the night when the most people are watching, it turns into a s—t show.”

Perhaps Mr. White’s bank account will help him cope with his remorse. Fact is, he has tolerated — even encouraged — this sort of nonsense between fighters as a promotional tactic. That it eventually blew up in his face should be of no surprise, given Mr. White’s reluctance to turn down the volume. Recall the April incident in Brooklyn when Mr. McGregor attacked a bus in which Mr. Nurmagomedov and his people were riding. Police arrested Mr. McGregor, but Mr. White did little in response, helping to foster the climate that fed Saturday night’s explosion.

Yes, UFC — like boxing — is rife with camp, showmanship and trash talk. It’s all part of the game. But there is an obvious problem when the controlled violence inside the ring spills out and threatens spectators and bystanders. The responsibility extends to those who run the sport, particularly Mr. White.

On a purely practical note, the incident represents a step backward for a sport seeking mainstream acceptance. Yes, appealing to the lowest common denominator can be lucrative. But Saturday’s fiasco potentially alienated the type of corporate sponsors necessary to help UFC continue to grow and thrive. Such incidents will also likely accelerate calls from critics for federal oversight and regulation.

That’s why it’s imperative the Nevada Athletic Commission consider more than the traditional suspensions, fines and wrist slaps. In addition, those who authorities can confirm participated in Saturday’s extracurricular violence — including fans and the fighters themselves — should face criminal charges.

“These guys are in big trouble,” Mr. White said of the consequences for Saturday’s free-for-all. “It’s going to get ugly.”

Good. But the commission should also demand that Mr. White explain why he lost control of the Romper Room he is supervising and what he plans to do about it.

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