Black-eye for the image of UFC as things turn nasty
TV View: One man’s beauty is a blossoming rose, another’s is a rear naked choke
Khabib Nurmagomedov is restrained as he tries to continue his brawling outside the octagon at UFC 229 in Las Vegas. Photograph: John Locher/AP
Look, it’s not like BT Sport hadn’t warned us.
“This programme contains flashing images and scenes of violence,” read the screen before we were transported to Las Vegas into the care of Fox Sports, so we knew we weren’t tuning in to The Great British Bake Off.
What BT mightn’t have anticipated, though, was that the whole thing would take on the look of a late-night brawl outside a chippers kick-started by a row over a batter sausage, Rory McIlroy just about the only person in the T-Mobile Arena not throwing a punch. Although he might have been tempted if anyone had asked him how his putting’s going.
The Fox people were stunned by witnessing violence at a UFC event, when the rest of us might have thought this would be akin to finding a screwdriver in a toolbox. But their issue was that the unnecessary roughness had taken place outside the contest and outside the cage thingie and had also involved people not actually paid to pummel.
“It’s just so sad, it mars what was a beautiful thing and makes it ugly,” said a despondent Dominick Cruz, lamenting the fact that the shemozzle was taking all the attention away from the beauty that was the rear naked choke Khabib Nurmagomedov had used to incapacitate Conor McGregor.
One man’s beauty is a blossoming rose, another’s is a rear naked choke that can cause compression of the jugular vein which can result in the loss of consciousness unless the person being choked taps out, aka politely requests permission to carry on living.
But Karyn Bryant was appalled by it all. As were her guests Tyron Woodley and Michael Bisping, Tyron fearing that the trouble would spill out on to the streets of Las Vegas. Michael worried too.
“There might be some riots,” he said, “Russia versus Ireland.”
An unfair contest, that, especially without Richard Dunne in our rearguard.
But Michael was just at a loss to understand why Khabib – “he’s a big shot in Dagestan, you know” – had leapt out of his cage and carried on fighting when he should have been content with triumphing rather comprehensively in the cage.
The cynics among you – and you know you are – might have thought the ching-chinging in the background was the sound of Dana White’s cash register as it totted up what a rematch might yield. But that thought was far from our hosts’ minds on such a sombre night for the sport.
“Could something like this be a cause for an immediate rematch,” asked Karyn.
Well, from most of our hosts’ minds.
Michael, though, pointed out that Khabib could (a) end up in jail and/or (b) be denied a visa to enter the US again, so he had a couple of hurdles to surmount before he could think about rear nakedly choking McGregor again.
Our cage-side Fox team agreed.
“This is a black eye on the sport,” said Joe Rogan as one of the lads from an earlier UFC 229 contest limped by carrying his detached retina. (Lest you were wondering, the digit after UFC, in this case 229, does not refer to the number of arrests at a particular event, it’s just a sequential number used so that pay-per-view customers know which event they’re buying).
The real sadness about the rumpus was that it distracted from Derrick Lewis’s heavyweight triumph over Alexander Volkov, after which he removed his shorts.
Rogan asked him why he did this. “’Cos my balls was hot,” he replied.
You just never get this kind of searing honesty when, say, Marty Morrissey interviews the player of the match after a Munster final.
When Derrick later joined the panel for a chat, Michael informed him that “in England there is a term ‘betty swollocks’.” Derrick, Karyn and Tyron donned expressions of the entirely blank kind, like Michael had just spoken Swahili.
Karyn moved on, asking Derrick how he intended celebrating his triumph. “Last time it was a cheese plate with some wine,” she said.
“I’m probably just gonna go home,” he said, “throw my wife’s legs up in the air and see where it goes from there.”
Nope, it’s not The Great British Bake Off.