Undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vowed that the result of his blockbuster UFC 229 main event bout against Conor McGregor would do little to squash the intense rivalry between their camps.
He was clearly right.
Chaos erupted inside and outside the cage immediately after Nurmagomedov finished off a mauling of McGregor by forcing a tapout with a rear-naked choke at 3:03 of the fourth round Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Nurmagomedov leaped over the cage after the win and appeared to be going after Dillon Danis, a Bellator fighter who serves as McGregor’s jiu-jitsu coach, who was yelling from outside the cage.
The skirmish between Nurmagomedov and Danis sparked a massive brawl with fans pushing their way through barricades and attempting to join the fray.
As all the attention was focused on Nurmagomedov, more scuffles were ignited inside the cage when two members of Nurmagomedov’s team began trading punches with a startled McGregor, who had tried to follow Nurmagomedov over the cage fence only to be thwarted by security.
One of the men appeared to be Zubaira Tukhugov, a UFC featherweight who is scheduled to fight McGregor’s friend and teammate Artem Lobov this month.
UFC president Dana White said anybody under contract involved in the brawl outside of McGregor and Nurmagomedov would not fight in the organization again.
Police handcuffed several people, and McGregor and Nurmagomedov were escorted from the cage before the official announcement was made declaring Nurmagomedov the winner.
“It’s going to be awhile” before police tally if, or how many, people were arrested, Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Jay Rivera said around 10:50 p.m. Saturday.
White said McGregor declined to press charges. White added that it was his understanding that all three members of Nurmagomedov’s camp who were detained were eventually released. An officer on scene could not confirm that information.
Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett told the Review-Journal he could not comment because the commission already has begun what he said would be a thorough investigation into the incident.
The commission originally withheld the purse of both fighters, but have released McGregor’s check after an original review of the video, White said. Nurmagomedov’s check will remain with the commission pending the investigation, White added.
“First of all, I want to say sorry to the Nevada (Athletic) Commission,” said Nurmagomedov, who took one question during his three-minute news conference. “Sorry to Vegas. I know this is not my best side.
“I don’t understand how people can talk about I jumped the cage, but what (about) him (McGregor)? He talked about my religion, he talked about my country, he talked about my father.”
White said the event generated a live gate of $17.18 million and had an announced attendance of 20,034. But those numbers became an afterthought because of the melee, he said.
“The biggest night ever and I couldn’t be more disappointed,” White said. “It’s unfortunate that the night that the most people are watching is a (expletive) show.”
It’s the latest incident between the two lightweight superstars and their camps.
McGregor was arrested in New York in April for throwing a dolly through a bus window in an attempt to go after Nurmagomedov, who had confronted Lobov two days earlier.
Nurmagomedov could be the one facing discipline for Saturday’s incident, but when he returns, he will almost certainly face top contender Tony Ferguson, who solidified his spot as the top contender in the division with a stoppage of Anthony Pettis in what certainly will be in consideration for fight of the year.
Pettis’s corner stopped the fight after two insane rounds of back-and-forth action when the former champion complained of a broken hand.
Ferguson, who is less than six months removed from major knee surgery, has won 11 straight fights.
Heavyweight Derrick Lewis stole the show by salvaging a victory over Alexander Volkov with a thunderous knockout in the closing seconds of the third round.
Lewis was on his way to a loss after dropping the first two rounds only to land a massive overhand right and follow up with short rights on the ground to finish it off with 15 seconds left in the fight.
It was the third straight win and ninth in the last 10 for Lewis, whose postfight interview might be remembered as much as the knockout that brought the crowd to its feet.
Lewis removed his fight shorts while still in the cage and had them slung over his shoulder while he talked to commentator Joe Rogan because his “(area) was hot.”
“I knew that I was down on the scorecards going into the third and I had to just go out swinging and pray to Jesus that I landed something,” said Lewis, who joked that President Trump had asked him to make his Russian opponent look bad.
Rising light heavyweight contender Dominick Reyes remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over Ovince Saint Preux, though the method of victory was controversial.
Reyes appeared to knock out Saint Preux just as the final horn sounded, and he backed away to celebrate the victory. The referee, however, didn’t wave off the fight and it went to the scorecards, where Reyes was awarded the comfortable win anyway.
It was just the second time an opponent had gone the distance with Reyes in 10 career fights.
Michelle Waterson stated her case to make a move in the women’s strawweight division with a solid win over veteran Felice Herrig in the first fight on the pay-per-view card
Waterson got the better of the exchanges in the standup as expected, but even found a way to win from her back as she negated a takedown with several big elbows that allowed her to get back to her feet.
It was her second straight win and fourth in six bouts, with the losses coming to current champion Rose Namajunas and contender Tecia Torres.
Flyweight contender Jussier Formiga scored the most significant win of the preliminary card even if it wasn’t the most exciting.
He wore down Sergio Pettis, the younger brother of Anthony Pettis, as he grinded out a unanimous-decision win for his third straight victory.
Vicente Luque pounded out welterweight newcomer Jalin Turner with a first-round knockout and women’s bantamweight prospect Aspen Ladd overcame a brutal weight cut to make quick work of Tonya Evinger.
Lightweight Scott Holtzman landed a series of elbows on the ground to stop Alan Patrick in the third round and Tony Martin stopped welterweight Ryan LaFlare with a head kick in the third round.
Las Vegan Gray Maynard was knocked out by lightweight Nik Lentz in the second round and Yana Kunitskaya, who trains in Las Vegas, won all three rounds over women’s bantamweight Lina Lansberg on her way to a decision win.