Combat sports has been a breeding ground, and a type of safe haven, for racism.
Camouflaged as “simply for promotion”, coded language and explicitly racist taunts have been a mainstay in combat sports. From the days of Jack Johnson, the spewing of racist vitriol has been witnessed across the world with fighters taking aim at their opponent through verbal ignorance.
The latest iteration comes from Conor McGregor, a common perpetrator of racist taunts and foolish actions all in the name of “promotion”. His target, once again, is the same one who choked him out last year, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
For those who don’t know, Conor went at Khabib the entire time leading up to their fight at UFC 229, insulting his faith and religion at every opportunity. Khabib, to his credit, rarely responded with the same venom.
Seething with every insult, Khabib waited until they got into the ring, where he ended the match by rear naked choke in the fourth round. After winning, all hell broken loose when Khabib, who had his fill of the insults from McGregor and his camp, verbally thrashed Conor, vaulted over the cage and went “Air Khabib” on McGregor teammate Dillon Danis, causing a melee to where the Las Vegas police had to get involved.
After Khabib made McGregor tap out, all hell broke loose when Khabib jumped the cage and let loose on Dillon Danis from Team McGregor. Was he wrong for jumping into the crowd? Absolutely. But when you insult a man’s religion, father and country, have someone from the opponent’s team get in your face after a press conference, have a cart thrown through a bus window at you and nothing is really done to truly deter all of the disrespect, it becomes a pressure cooker which explodes. _____ #ufc229 #khabibmcgregor #khabibvsmcgregor #khabinvsconor #khabibufc229 #khabibnurmagomedov #khabibjumpedthecage #khabibmcgregorriot #ufcbrawl #tslsports #tslmma 📽@yeroview
112 Likes, 2 Comments – The Shadow League (@theshadowleague) on Instagram: “After Khabib made McGregor tap out, all hell broke loose when Khabib jumped the cage and let loose…”
In the aftermath, both parties were punished, yet McGregor seemed to get off easy as his racist taunts only earned him a six month suspension and a fine of $50,000. Khabib, on the other hand, got fined $500,000 and was hit with a nine month suspension. The lesson in all of this?
Racism pays in MMA, especially if you’re Conor McGregor.
The McGregor Rules
“The McGregor Rules” have existed for some time now, mainly because his behavior has never truly been deterred. Need proof? Look no further than the drama which erupted on Wednesday when McGregor took to Twitter to attack Khabib with racist ignorance once again. Only this time, he went at his wife.
Conor McGregor breaks silence after ‘racist’ tweet aimed at Khabib’s wife https://t.co/FKbXVe1Ahw
“Your wife is a towel mate.”
Khabib, for those who don’t know, is Muslim. Conor, who thrives on confrontation, racism and ignorance, went well below the belt, exploiting Islamophobia while attacking Khabib’s wife.
Yet he doesn’t shy away when thrust into the spotlight. Instead, his strategy is to attack, like a rapper who needs to create an artificial beef when a new album is about to drop.
He employs tactics which attract attention, arouse the media circus, create the hate and energize the ignorant.
And which, ultimately, generates money for his benefit.
McGregor has been allowed to master this tactic essentially undeterred. Leading up to UFC 229, complaints were coming from everywhere about his antics. Fans, media outlets, fighters, athletes in general and team Khabib all voiced their displeasure about his behavior.
But the McGregor rules were in full effect at every UFC 229 press conference, organizers laughing off his comments instead of condemning them.
As a result, their inaction fanned the flames of hate to the point where many were more than happy to see Khabib choke McGregor out, talk smack to him while he was on the mat and then jump the cage to go after McGregor’s teammate. And while no one wanted to see that incident occur outside of the cage, it had been simmering and waiting to erupt.
And because Conor wasn’t checked, it exploded right in the center of the T-Mobile arena.
These are the McGregor rules. It’s essentially his own system that he thrives in and a system which he’s ALLOWED to thrive in. Look no further than UFC President Dana White’s comments at the post-UFC 229 press conference as evidence.
“There is trash-talking in every sport,” said White. “They do it in the NBA and the NFL. They do it in baseball. It is part of the game. That is never going to change here. We’re never going to tell anybody what they can or can’t say. That’s never going to change.”
That’s never going to change, so why bother trying. That’s the implication. Actually, that’s not the implication.
It’s the accepted practice.
And trash talking in the other sports is penalized in some way when it happens. It’s not allowed to flourish or be used as promotional tool, and it’s denounced and punished almost immediately.
But when your name is Conor McGregor, you’re exempt.
Promotion Of Islamophobia
After McGregor’s shocking tweet about his wife, Khabib responded. Whether you feel it was appropriate or not, what could you expect from someone who is continually targeted and now had his wife insulted. But Khabib refrained from administering some “act right” in person, and instead clapped back on Twitter.
Rapist, you are Rapist. You are a hypocrite who is not responsible for your actions. Justice will find you. We will see. @TheNotoriousMMA
Most expressed their displeasure with Conor’s blatantly Islamophobic tweet, imploring the UFC to denounce his ignorance.
“I am aware of the recent social media exchange between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor,” Dana White said in a UFC press release. “The ongoing situation has escalated to a level that is unacceptable. As such, we are taking the necessary steps to reach out to both athlete camps and this situation is being addressed by all parties internally.”
Yet that didn’t appear to work as Conor took to Twitter immediately after Dana’s statement.
Many McGregor fans, as expected, were just fine with him going after Khabib. It was racism and Islamophobia at its best, all justifiable in their eyes as it fell under “how to pick and promote a fight” section of the McGregor rules.
Can he be punished for his venomous hate and sparking of Islamophobia? If you look at the UFC’s code of conduct policy, it speaks directly against what McGregor did recently and last year. Per Zane Simon of Bloody Elbow:
“Fighters shall conduct themselves in accordance with commonly accepted standards of decency, social convention, and morals, and fighters will not commit any act or become involved in any situation or occurrence or make any statement which will reflect negatively upon or bring disrepute, contempt, scandal, ridicule or disdain to the fighter or the UFC.”
The contractual provision includes various violent and non-violent criminal offenses, PED and substance abuse, ‘violent, threatening or harassing behavior,’ and…
“Derogatory or offensive conduct, including without limitation insulting language, symbols, or actions about a person’s ethnic background, heritage, color, race, national origin, age, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.”
It even includes clauses about inappropriate “online behavior” and “conduct that undermines or puts at risk the organization or promotion of a UFC event.”
But his punishment, if it even comes to fruition, remains to be seen.
The McGregor Rules – Cause And Effect
While McGregor has deleted the highly outrageous and offensive tweets, they’ve already done the damage they were meant to inflict.
While nothing has been confirmed, I’m sure many are assuming that the UFC is already thinking about when and where McGregor vs. Khabib can take place. If that’s the case, then the McGregor rules remain intact.
Recently, McGregor went back to Twitter to tweet out his new thoughts of peace and wanting to move on.
I want to move forward, with my fans of all faiths and all backgrounds. All faiths challenge us to be our best selves. It is one world and one for all ❤️ Now see you in the Octagon.
Regardless of the attempt to make peace with everyone, McGregor exploited the fear and hatred of Islam for the benefit of promotion.
But it’s not promotion when you have the power and platform to spark, incite, inflame and motivate a group of people with hatred in their hearts and that are itching for a reason to prey upon Muslims. To essentially give a group of weak-minded racists an excuse to rev up the hate and take it out on innocent Muslims.
His insults make all Muslims a target, not just Khabib. And many of these racists are so ignorant that they assume Muslims, Hindus and Sheikhs are all the same, widening the net of their potential targets. All, thanks to McGregor, for the sake of promotion.
“Now see you in the Octagon.”
For Conor McGregor, it’s all about the fight. His racist strategy, regardless of his feelings or intent, puts the bulls-eye on everyone but himself as he’s able to simply hurl insults without a notion of responsibility.
But for those who are impacted negatively by his ignorance, specifically Muslims, he’s exploited a fight that they face in their daily lives, one that has nothing to do with MMA. It’s a daily fight against ignorance, racism and bigotry, and that’s a fight bigger than any octagon can capture.