Nevada commission cuts Conor McGregor some slack, but enough is enough

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Conor McGregor, shown here after losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in Las Vegas, was fined $50,000 and suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
Conor McGregor, shown here after losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in Las Vegas, was fined $50,000 and suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor got a break on Tuesday, and a pretty massive one at that. The former UFC champion will essentially miss zero time and the fine of $50,000 he was given for his part in a post-UFC 229 melee is not much more than chump change for a guy who made around $200 million over the last two years.

By a vote of 4-1, members of the Nevada Athletic Commission approved an agreement that his attorney, Michael Mersch, worked out with Nevada deputy attorney general Mike Detmer that suspended McGregor for six months and fined him $50,000 for trying to leap over the cage to join a brawl that began when Nurmagomedov went after his cornerman, Dillon Danis.

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Anthony Marnell III, the chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, said after the hearing ended Tuesday that while he didn’t condone McGregor’s actions, McGregor was defending himself and his teammates. Nurmagomedov, Marnell said, is the one who incited the fight. For that, Nurmagomedov was fined $500,000 and suspended for nine months, which can be reduced to six months if he produces an anti-bullying public service announcement.

Before we go any further, it’s important to note what happened the last time there was this sort of sordid event in a fight in Nevada. In 2006 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather was dominating Zab Judah in a welterweight title bout when Judah appeared to intentionally hit Mayweather low. For good measure, he punched Mayweather illegally on the back of the head.

Mayweather’s uncle/trainer, Roger Mayweather, entered the ring to confront Judah, and so Judah’s father/trainer, Yoel Judah, came in. A brawl broke out in the ring, but Floyd Mayweather’s actions are illustrative here:

He went to a corner and stood calmly, with his hands on the ropes, waiting for the police, security officers and commission officials to gain control of the situation.

That, without question, is what McGregor should have done but failed to do.

Mayweather has never in his career had any issue with an athletic commission and never committed a foul in the ring. McGregor, though, had a 2016 incident at a pre-fight news conference with Nate Diaz for UFC 202 that landed him a fine and suspension. Originally, Nevada fined him $150,000 and ordered him to do 50 hours of community service for the UFC 202 incident; on appeal, it was reduced to a $25,000 fine and 25 hours of community service.

By trying to leap over the cage on Oct. 6 and join the fight that Nurmagomedov had begun by doing the same and going after Danis, McGregor took a bad situation and made it exponentially worse. He was exacerbating a public safety issue and is fortunate the outcome wasn’t far worse.

Conor McGregor attempted to follow Khabib Nurmagomedov out of the Octagon after losing to the lightweight champion at UFC 229 on Oct. 6. (Getty Images)
Conor McGregor attempted to follow Khabib Nurmagomedov out of the Octagon after losing to the lightweight champion at UFC 229 on Oct. 6. (Getty Images)

He did all of this after having flown across the Atlantic in April after Nurmagomedov got into a confrontation with Artem Lobov at the fighter hotel in Brooklyn a few days before UFC 223. McGregor arrived with a gang and proceeded to attack a bus that Nurmagomedov was on.

In July, McGregor pleaded guilty to reduced charges. He was ordered to pay restitution for the damage he did, was given five days’ community service and required to take anger management classes.

Given his record, McGregor’s penalty Tuesday seems light. It’s why commissioner Staci Alonso cast the sole dissenting vote against approving the settlement.

It’s remarkably light when one considers what happened to Leonard Ellerbe, now the CEO of Mayweather Promotions but who in 2006 was working Mayweather’s corner against Judah. Ellerbe came into the ring after Roger Mayweather and Yoel Judah and attempted to be a peacemaker. He threw no punches and did not act aggressively in any manner.

He was fined $50,000 and given a six-month suspension. He had no previous record and did nothing other than to try to prevent a brawl and got the same penalty that McGregor received.

The major concern, though, is McGregor’s pattern of behavior. Marnell referenced it during the hearing and spoke of finding a way to get McGregor to tone down his pre-fight rhetoric. McGregor made many loaded comments prior to UFC 229 that were religious and ethnic in nature. Those comments no doubt stirred Nurmagomedov, who is Muslim and whose first language is not English.

It’s going to be difficult to have an athletic commission regulating trash talk, but UFC officials can play a role there with McGregor.

In his desire to be outrageous, he’s crossing lines and creating volatile situations that endanger people in the arena.

In 2018, McGregor essentially got away with attacking the bus and he largely got away from leaping over the cage. At his core, he’s a good man and he’s been great for the sport. A lot of people have made a lot of money off of McGregor and the intense interest he’s created in MMA.

But he needs to learn to rein it in. When he saw Nurmagomedov leap over the cage at UFC 229, he should have done as Mayweather did and retreated to a neutral corner and let the matter be worked out by the professionals.

He’s edging ever too close to the line of wholly unacceptable behavior which, coupled with his ability to rile up a crowd, creates legitimate public safety concerns. The UFC had enormous additional security costs at UFC 229, largely because of McGregor’s actions in the six months before the fight.

He should thank the Nevada commission for, once again, cutting him some slack.

And he needs to consider carefully the consequences he may face if the scene erupts one day and innocent people who came to watch a fight or a news conference are injured.

He’ll lose so much of what he has sweated and bled to earn.

Enough is enough. You can blame the commission and you can say that his manager, Audie Attar, and UFC president Dana White should talk with him. They should, but McGregor is an intelligent adult who knows all too well what he’s doing.

He should remember that even the greatest high-wire artists don’t make it all the way across the tightrope safely 100 percent of the time.

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