UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor was the UFC's biggest pay-per-view event ever. It was also one of its biggest debacles, but company president Dana White was still surprised by how harsh the Nevada State Athletic Commission's sanctions were for Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Though UFC 229 set all sorts of records financially, much of the celebrating was marred by a post-fight brawl when tensions between Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor's camps boiled over.
After Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor, cementing his status as the UFC lightweight champion, he ejected himself out of the Octagon to attack McGregor teammate Dillon Danis. McGregor also scaled the fence, but was contained by cageside officials, although he had a physical altercation with two of Nurmagomedov's teammates who climbed into the cage.
The NSCA on Tuesday doled out its punishment, fining Nurmagomedov $500,000 and suspending him for nine months. McGregor was assessed a $50,000 fine and a six-month suspension. If he chooses to comply, Nurmagomedov could reduce his suspension to as little as six months if he produces and distributes a Public Service Announcement.
White thinks that Nurmagomedov's sanctions were a bit extreme.
"I was obviously surprised by how much they put on Khabib. You’ve got a half-a-million dollars and six months [suspension] if he does some [public service announcements]," White said Tuesday night on ESPN's SportsCenter.
"What he did was wrong; he jumped out, [but] we had the whole thing contained in seconds. I don’t know. It was a little harsh in my opinion, but it is what it is."
Aside from the actual altercation, NSAC officials zeroed in on something they felt they weren't currently able to address, which is the banter and insults that led to the post-fight melee.
In NSAC commission chair Anthony Marnell's view, he is tired of the escalating trash talk and would like to find a way to curb it.
"I think we would all concur, the verbal part of the promotion, in my opinion, has gotten so far out of line, it's embarrassing," said Marnell during Tuesday's hearing, adding that he wants the commission to explore what action it could take against perpetrators of such egregious promotion, including fines and suspensions.
White didn't sound as if he was on board with Marnell's approach.
"Here’s the thing — it’s a fight. At the end of the day, it’s a fight. Sometimes you come across people that don’t like each other and there’s a lot of bad blood. That was the case in this fight. This is what we do. This is the fight business. These guys are talking about fighters saying mean things to each other and all this other stuff," White told ESPN.
"If you break it down and go back to when [Muhammad] Ali fought [Joe] Frazier and you look at the times when that happened, the stuff that he said about Frazier and was saying to Frazier was horrible. Horrible things that you don’t say to somebody else back then."
The NSAC did not discuss the matter of incendiary talk any further on Tuesday, tabling the matter for a future hearing.