As usual, former UFC champion Conor McGregor and current UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov are talking wild shit about each other. Both fighters are currently serving suspensions stemming from a violent brawl that popped off in the crowd the last time they fought, while McGregor is also under investigation for sexual assault.
This week’s back-and-forth, however, was significantly more pointed and nasty than usual. It started when McGregor got super racist towards Nurmagomedov’s wife on Tuesday, an obvious provocation intended hype up a rematch, which McGregor also called for.
Nurmagomedov responded by calling McGregor a rapist and told him he wasn’t safe after insulting the Muslim faith.
Here we have McGregor—a man who’s gotten away with supporting a teammate calling Nurmagomedov a “Muslim rat,” claiming his manager was involved in 9/11, joking about enslaving and murdering Brazilians, and making even more racist jokes on the Floyd Mayweather press tour—doing what he always does. McGregor has basically never shut the fuck up, and his schtick has always involved crossing lines.
Rather than ever attempt to tone down McGregor or try in any way to stop their biggest star from doing racist troll acts, the UFC has aggressively marketed McGregor as a bad boy expressly because he always goes too far. The company’s marketing tactics only range from “This guy hits hard!” to “These guys hate each other!”, and McGregor fits both bills. Hell, they even used McGregor’s unhinged bus attack to sell his fight with Nurmagomedov. It’s good for business, if you’re run like the UFC, to have McGregor be a flagrant asshole all the time.
So it’s pretty rich that UFC boss Dana White had to put out a statement calling this latest round of trash talk “unacceptable.” It is, of course, unacceptable, but it’s also the inevitable result of the UFC actively fostering a climate where their biggest money maker is constantly getting rewarded for saying and doing unacceptable things.
Nurmagomedov already showed that he takes McGregor’s taunts personally when he went ballistic after UFC 229, and it’s easy to imagine this feud reaching a variety of ugly endings. Both men escalated things this time, which has to make White nervous given that both McGregor and Nurmagomedov keep some aggressively unsavory company. Dana White stood there and laughed when this fire got started, but now it’s gotten too big for him to put out.