2018 Story of the Year: Conor McGregor Bus Attack Dominates the Headlines

January 4, 2019

It’s not unusual that Conor McGregor dominates the headlines across mixed martial arts or even the mainstream media these days but the biggest story for the former two division UFC champion in 2018 had nothing to do with his work inside the cage.

Instead, McGregor was the most talked about athlete on the planet for the span of a few days back in April after he led an assault on a bus filled with fighters ahead of UFC 223 in Brooklyn, New York.

Without context that statement sounds just as insane as it’s written but the entire altercation actually only lasted for a couple of minutes but that incident ultimately led to McGregor being arrested, several fighters being knocked out of their bouts and eventually lawsuits being filed as well as the biggest fight in UFC history.

It all started earlier in the fight week at UFC 223 when McGregor’s long time teammate and good friend Artem Lobov had a seemingly innocuous encounter with Nurmagomedov and his team at the host hotel in New York.

Lobov had talked about his fellow countryman in the media and Nurmagomedov decided to confront him about it after they crossed paths. Unfortunately, Lobov was all by himself and Nurmagomedov had his entire team with him, although the situation never got physical.

Instead it was a back and forth war of words that ended without a single punch being thrown as UFC officials eventually interceded and sent everyone their separate ways.

After hearing about this altercation, McGregor loaded up a private plane with a slew of his friends and teammates and bolted from Ireland to New York to back up Lobov. McGregor’s trip wasn’t initially about vengeance, however, as he was originally planning a trip to Brooklyn to sit down with UFC president Dana White to hopefully hammer out his return to the cage after not fighting inside the Octagon for all of 2017 while focusing on his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather.

In fact there had even been early talks about McGregor stepping into an interim title fight against Rafael dos Anjos at the UFC even in Brazil in May. That obviously never came together after McGregor arrived at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, made his way through the arena to an awaiting elevator that took him down to the ground floor of the facility.

It’s there the fighters from UFC 223 were loading up into buses for a return trip to the hotel after spending a couple of hours answering questions from the media.

McGregor, who isn’t best known for his punctuality, showed up after the media day had ended, which meant his plan to confront Nurmagomedov was spoiled so he decided to go after the Russian while he was on the bus instead.

McGregor and his friends made a bee line for the bus where Nurmagomedov was seated and they began demanding that he come out to meet them. When the bus doors didn’t immediately fly open, McGregor then led an assault on the bus by throwing objects including a metal gate and a moving dolly that smashed several windows.

Much of the incident was caught on film by fighters who were in the bus being attacked as well as the adjoining bus with the other half of the athletes on the card. The UFC cameras also caught much of the incident as they were there filming for the UFC Embedded videos that are released throughout fight week.

McGregor’s assault didn’t last that long but his actions and the subsequent reaction ended up being the most talked about story in all of 2018.

Following that incident, UFC president Dana White tore into McGregor for his abhorrent behavior before then using footage of the bus assault to promote the Irishman’s fight against Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October.

Sadly, McGregor throwing the moving dolly into the bus resulted in two fighters — Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg — being removed from the card after they were cut by the glass from the shattered window. Chiesa later filed a lawsuit against McGregor, which is still ongoing in New York. Even Lobov, McGregor’s teammate who was involved in the initial confrontation with Nurmagomedov, was removed from the event after he was part of the crew that led the bus assault.

McGregor was ultimately arrested later that night after surrendering to authorities but he later pled down the charges to a single misdemeanor for disorderly conduct that cost him restitution for the damaged bus as well as anger management classes.

It was a real flash in time looking back now but those few days from the bus assault to the warrant being issued for McGregor’s arrest to his walk out of the police station in handcuffs was just about all anybody could talk about for days after the altercation took place.  

McGregor’s actions continued to reverberate throughout 2018, eventually leading to his fight against Nurmagomedov, which ended up being the most successful card of all time for the UFC with more than 2 million pay-per-views sold.

While Nurmagomedov won the fight that night, he also benefitted financially from McGregor’s assault on the bus as their showdown was that much bigger after that altercation back in April. Even with the fight being rather one-sided, White has already said that he hopes to see a rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor in 2019.

Considering the pending lawsuit against him right, McGregor will undoubtedly continue to deal with the fallout from the incident into 2019.

Still for better or for worse, McGregor’s bus assault was definitely the biggest story of 2018 in all of mixed martial arts.