Fight fans, you deserve better.
Conor McGregor recently posted a picture of Khabib Nurmagomedov sitting beside his bride, whose face was covered in the traditional fashion of their religion. McGregor added the quote, “Your wife is a towel mate.”
It is the sort of comment that might have succeeded in getting him a laugh at the pub, but it has no place in professional sports. McGregor went too far.
While trash talk has always been part of combat sports, public criticism of an opponent’s wife and their religion is a shot below the belt.
Some say it comes with the territory. Trash talk has become a regular and celebrated part of the sport.
Muhammad Ali was notorious for trash talk. But Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, was thoughtful, provocative, and deliberate. And when the lights of the ring were off, he stood for something. He had values.
If Ali’s pre-fight banter was the New York Times, McGregor’s is Snapchat – quick and often poorly considered. They do not belong in the same category.
And this is not the first time McGregor has crossed the line.
Before fighting Floyd Mayweather, McGregor made jokes that were flat out racist. He identified himself as being black from the waist down. Then added insult to injury by saying “here’s a present for my beautiful black female fans,” before gyrating his hips on stage, standing only few feet from Mayweather’s teenage daughter.
Some of McGregor’s trash talk has become teenage humor at best. At its worst, as is the case with Khabib, it is the propagation of hateful and ignorant stereotypes.
It’s worth noting that he lost to both Mayweather and Khabib.
For the uninitiated, it is also worth noting that mixed martial arts have a long and rich tradition. The Olympics featured wrestling as early as 708 BC, boxing as early as 688 BC, and the mixed sport of Pankration entered the Olympic scene in 648 BC. In more recent times, Judo and Taekwondo have been added to the Olympic roster. Those competitors are serious athletes.
The UFC is something different. And the sad truth is, they do not seem to care. There is no incentive to care about the legitimacy of the UFC as sport; it is a business. It is a lucrative business. The more volatile its stars behave, the more people will tune in to watch the Pay-Per-View events.
“Stop following and liking his comments on social media… Or acknowledge that you are willing to endorse this sort of behavior.”
UFC President Dana White, this is on you.
It is basic behaviorism. The public is seeing the sort of behavior allowed by the governing body of the sport.
The UFC is turning the way of the WWE. This is no longer a sport, it is pageantry. If Dana White and company do not hold their athletes accountable, it will continue to slide down that slippery slope.
Dana has, in fact, addressed the social media exchange between McGregor and Nurmagomedov with the finger-wagging comment, “we are taking the necessary steps to reach out to both athlete camps and this situation is being addressed by all parties internally.”
That is a cop-out (tap-out?) by any standard.
To limit this sort of hateful behavior, it should be publicly addressed. Set a standard, Dana White.
Fight fans, this is on us.
It is basic consumerism. An estimated 50 million of us tuned in to watch McGregor battle Mayweather. That fight sold 4.3 million Pay-Per-View purchases.
Unsettling as it is to confront, we have collectively created this situation.
Don’t agree? See if you can stop watching him. Stop following and liking comments on social media. I bet you don’t want to.
Or acknowledge that you are willing to endorse this sort of behavior.
The only counterbalance to McGregor’s hateful noise is our silence. Your call.