Lifetime Ban Possible, but What Penalties Should Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor Actually Expect?

October 24, 2018

Nevada State Athletic Commission chair Anthony Marnell is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to the Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor post-fight brawl that occurred on his watch on Oct. 6 at UFC 229 in Las Vegas.

After Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round, months of animosity between their camps boiled over when Nurmagomedov leapt over the Octagon fence to attack McGregor cornerman Dillon Danis on the T-Mobile Arena floor.

Mayhem ensued, with McGregor at one point trying to scale the fence and get to his teammates outside of the cage. He was unsuccessful and was attacked inside the cage by a Nurmagomedov teammate that climbed the fence to get inside of the Octagon and sucker punch the Irishman.

It was an unprecedented turn of events in UFC history, and one in which the NSAC is taking deliberate steps to adjudicate properly.

On the night of the fight, based on video evidence that Marnell and the commission’s executive director Bob Bennett reviewed, Nurmagomedov’s $2 million fight purse was withheld. The footage at that time was not as extensive as what was revealed later, otherwise McGregor would not have received his $3 million purse either.

“If I had the video that we now have, I would have held Mr. McGregor’s check, also,” Marnell stated at Wednesday’s athletic commission hearing in Las Vegas.

The commission issued temporary suspensions shortly after the event, but on Wednesday extended those suspensions so that they remain in effect until the disciplinary action is fully investigated, reviewed, and adjudicated.

The next public step isn’t likely to occur until the commission’s December meeting, at which point Nurmagomedov and McGregor are required to appear before the commission in person. 

“I will require them to personally appear and will not waive personal appearance. I’m not going to do that hearing over the telephone,” Marnell said of the December meeting.

He’s got good reason for that. While the post-fight brawl is under the commission’s jurisdiction, it actually could have fallen into the court system, as some of the actions that transpired could have had legal ramifications if charges were filed. 

Not only that, but the commission’s own regulations allow for some heady punishment, depending upon what direction the commissioners eventually determine is appropriate. 

Just how serious? The commission regulations state that not only could the commission decide to keep an athlete’s full fight purse, it could also ban the athlete from competing in unarmed combat sports in Nevada for life.

“Pursuant to NRS 467.158, when disciplinary action is taken against a person related to and taken in conjunction with a contest of unarmed combat, the commission may impose a maximum fine of 100 percent of the purse and impose a lifetime ban from participation in unarmed combat in Nevada,” Deputy Attorney General Caroline Bateman told the commission on Wednesday.

“I’m not implying that that is what the commission will do in this matter, but I did want to provide the commission with that information, that that is the extent that is available to you based on your review of the disciplinary matter in December.”

Marnell went on to clarify with Bateman the specific regulations that allowed for the combatant’s purse to include not only the fight night payment, but also pay-per-view points, etc., and the commission’s ability to ban the combatant from competing in Nevada for life. 

“Again, just wanted to make that clear for the record that it’s all in play,” Marnell added.

That’s not to say that the intent is to penalize Nurmagomedov or McGregor equivalent to either one’s entire fight purse or to ban either for life. That sort of move would be unprecedented. 

Even in the case of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Zab Judah in 2006, which is a similar but not duplicate incident, such a “death penalty” was not imposed. 

In the case of that championship boxing match, a Mayweather cornerman entered the ring with time remaining in a round after the fight was temporarily halted because of an illegal punch by Judah. That sparked others to jump into the ring. During the fracas, Judah punched Mayweather’s manager.

Judah was eventually fined $250,000 of his $1 million fight purse and had his license revoked for one year. One of his cornermen and one of Mayweather’s cornerman were also fined and had their licenses revoked for a year. 

That incident could give a hint to where today’s commission might head with the Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor incident. Though the commissioners could go into the deep end of the pool, they’re not likely to give either fighter the Lance Armstrong treatment with a lifetime ban.

After Wednesday’s hearing, in which the commission released half of Nurmagomedov’s $2 million fight purse back to him, it is also unlikely that they will seek to reclaim that money or even more, despite regulations that allow them to do so.

Until the incident is hashed out at the December hearing or if settlements are reached prior to the hearing, it is still at the commission’s discretion to determine what route to go with the eventual punishment. Marnell also warned that Wednesday’s hearing shouldn’t be considered much of an indicator of how severe the commission’s eventual sanctions would be.

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“I wouldn’t read anything into what was done today. I just wanted to make it clear for the record because this is a very unprecedented action and we need to follow the law to the T,” Marnell said after the hearing, not exactly tipping his hand.

“But again, I would not read anything into this as to what the final action will be for either fighter.”

If the commission follows its own footsteps, which it hasn’t always done, it is likely that Nurmagomedov and McGregor will pay fines well into the six figures, as well as face a suspension or license revocation.

The other licensed parties that were also involved in the melee (cornermen, teammates that were licensed fighters or corners at the time, management, etc.) should also be expecting to face fines and/or suspensions or revocation.

Initial Nevada Commission Meeting Addressing Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor UFC 229 Brawl

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