Then, he arrived on-scene at the brawl and had a moment of clarity.
“I was like, ‘Wait a minute, what…am I thinking?’” Cormier (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) told reporters, including MMAjunkie, during a Friday media day ahead of UFC 230 title defense against Derrick Lewis (20-5 MMA, 12-3 UFC).
As pandemonium swept over the octagon in the moments after the Oct. 6 pay-per-view event, Cormier watched as Nurmagomedov (27-0 MMA, 11-0 UFC) fought Conor McGregor (21-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) teammate Dillon Dannis (1-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA). He saw Zubaira Tukhugov (18-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) take a swing at McGregor, who had taken a swing at another teammate of Nurmagomedov.
Cormier might be a professional fighter, but he’s also a dual champion and a UFC commentator to boot. Jumping in the fray probably wasn’t the best idea, so he decided to try and defuse the situation.
Right out of the gate, he struggled to calm his teammate, who was yelling at his rivals. Suddenly, the comedy of the whole scene struck him.
“(Khabib is) going crazy,” Cormier said. “It was the funniest (expletive) I’ve ever seen. I’ll admit this. For me, it sucks that it was in front of all these people, but it was a whole bunch of dudes just kind of fighting and acting crazy. It was like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ It’s like every city in every country every Saturday in some street bar – or a club – this is going on. It just happened between a whole bunch of Russian guys and a bunch of Irish guys in front of millions of people.
“So for me, I had the separate the idea that I was laughing to going, ‘Guys, we are probably in front of the biggest viewership we’ve ever had.’”
If the UFC’s record pay-per-view estimates are accurate, Cormier’s assessment was right. It wasn’t the best look for the sport to have a riot in the middle of the octagon, he said. Cormier tried to get Nurmagomedov to understand that, but the 155-pound wasn’t in the most receptive mood after submitting McGregor in the headed grudge match.
“(UFC security guards) have Khabib,” Cormier said. “He sees me (and says), ‘This is my captain. Let him talk to me.’ I said, ‘Yo.’ He goes, ‘What?’ I go, ‘What the (expletive) is going on? What are you doing?’
“He goes, ‘I want my belt.’ I go, ‘OK, OK, just relax.’ He goes, ‘Just give me my belt.’ So I go, ‘Guys, let’s just take him back in the cage, we’ll get his belt, and we’ll get out of here.’”
But it wasn’t that simple. Fearing a riot in the McGregor-friendly crowd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, UFC President Dana White refused to put the belt on Nurmagomedov.
“He goes, ‘People are going to throw stuff into the octagon, and it’s going to get bad,’” Cormier said. “‘It’s going to get ugly in here.’”
Cormier promised his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Nurmagomedov he would get his belt when they got back to the locker room. Even without the belt, garbage pelted them on the way there.
Finally out of the fray, Cormier asked Nurmagomedov a heartfelt question.
“So what was the desired outcome there?” Cormier recalled asking Nurmagomedov. “Did you want to step on his head? Like, what did you want to do? What, in your mind, were you wanting to accomplish? Were you going to drop kick him? Were you going to double-kick him? What were you doing?”
According to Cormier, Nurmagomedov replied, “Brother, I don’t know. I lose my mind.”
Cormier agrees the incident was not a good moment for MMA. But he’s hesitant to sign off on the idea that it was a “black eye” for the sport, as many have characterized it. The way he sees it, this is cage fighting, and things like these are bound to happen.
They’re particularly likely if the build-up to a fight is as contentious as it was for UFC 229, so Cormier isn’t surprised Nurmagomedov lost his mind. He remembers an incident in practice where he accidentally hurt the champ and found himself surrounded by Russian teammates.
“They were about to kick my ass,” Cormier said. “They all started standing up and they were kind of surrounding me. Those guys don’t play around, man. I was like, ‘Hey man, don’t ever come in here and jump me. This is my gym.’ But they don’t mess around, man, and Khabib is the crowd jewel of that circle. They love him, and rightfully so.
“So when he felt that that was happening, I just didn’t know what was going to happen. But I know during the build up, he wasn’t building a fight. He was just getting madder, and madder, and madder. And Conor is still just building. So it was just that they were on two different wavelengths.”
That’s the nice way of describing what happened after Nurmagomedov’s win. Check out the video to hear Cormier’s thoughts on the rest of the fallout from the brawl.
- Daniel Cormier: Khabib Nurmagomedov 'would get beat up for 12 rounds' by Floyd Mayweather
- Daniel Cormier taking Derrick Lewis seriously: 'There's no Hail Mary's' against me
- Derrick Lewis says he isn't kidding about UFC 230, but will it make a difference against Daniel Cormier?
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Daniel Cormier's hilarious, detailed recounting of the UFC 229 brawl