When lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted Conor McGregor at UFC 229, it was a career defining moment for the undefeated Russian. Unfortunately, his win was quickly overshadowed by the mayhem that followed.
After the win, Nurmagomedov scaled the Octagon fence and went after McGregor’s training partner Dillon Danis. Members of Nurmagomedov’s team entered the cage and went after McGregor. The post-fight incident drew international attention and widespread criticism.
While no one condoned the actions of Nurmagomedov, UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten understands why the Russian did what he did.
“Okay, first, let’s say this, it shouldn’t have happened, it’s wrong. I know that it’s all wrong. It should not have happened. I’m not for it; not at all. But I can totally get it, right? We’re all human,” Rutten said during an appearance on Submission Radio.
“He’s been taking insults for the last six weeks, two months, every day. Every day he decided not to say anything back. Yeah, a little here and there, but you know what it is? That’s a drop in a bucket, and it keeps on going and it keeps on going and it keeps on going. And after the fight, finally, the fight is over, they’re finally unloading, and then the coach for McGregor starts saying something to him. That was the drop that made the bucket flow, and he just lost it at that moment. Then, everything came back – all the insults about his family, about his religion, about his country. You know, there’s a lot of things (Conor said).”
What happened after the UFC 229 main event on Oct. 6 didn’t start there. It had been building for months, and perhaps years. Trash talk is part of all sports, but in recent years it has escalated into personal attacks on family members, nationality, and religion.
“And everybody says the same thing, but people go, ‘Come on, Bas, you can understand it?’ I say, you can’t understand that? Of course I can understand. Everybody is human. What, he’s a machine? He doesn’t get affected by it? If somebody talks about my family and my religion and my culture, ‘oh, these stupid people from Holland,’ and it’s constantly going, and ‘your friends are terrorists,’ and it just keeps on digging, eventually, yeah, you’re going to hit a snare somewhere. And then when the moment presents itself and they keep on going after it, yeah, I can completely understand it,” he explained.
“Should it have ever happened? Of course not, I’m not for it. I’m not saying it’s good; absolutely not. But I can understand it happened. That’s the only thing I’m saying.”
On the other side of the coin, Rutten understands McGregor’s mental warfare. It’s a strategic part of McGregor’s success and fame, but there are lines that can’t be crossed.
“McGregor has a way to get into people’s heads, right? And that’s why he’s doing it. Because he wants to stir up that serotonin and he wants to make sure that they’re gonna be angry. And if they’re angry, they’re gonna make mistakes. That is the whole set-up here. He’s very smart with what he’s doing,” said Rutten.
“But he should understand that some things you simply can’t say. You can’t start talking about family. That’s a bad one. About religion, that’s a really bad one as well. It’s almost like talking politics here in America. It’s the same thing. You can’t say it because somebody from the other side – it’s right away panic.”
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