Some form of punishment is likely coming down the pike after the brawl that erupted following Saturday's UFC 229 match between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Just what that punishment will be isn't yet clear, but Nurmagomedov, who defeated McGregor in the lightweight bout, is already setting the stakes. He promised in an Instagram post Thursday that UFC "[will] lose me too" if the organization cuts ties with Zubaira Tukhugov, a MMA fighter who climbed into the Octagon and attacked McGregor during the mayhem in T-Mobile Arena. Nurmagomedov added that UFC President Dana White "can keep my money that you are withholding. You are pretty busy with that, I hope it won't get stuck in your throat."
For Nurmagomedov, what happened before, immediately after and since the fight is a matter of honor.
"We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother," he wrote in the lengthy Instagram post. "We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing. We intend to go to the end."
Tukhugov was among three members of Nurmagomedov's entourage arrested in the wake of the post-fight melee that marred a wildly hyped event. They were reportedly released after McGregor declined to press charges, but Tukhugov's dismissal from the company seems to be a foregone conclusion, and UFC already canceled his next fight. Nurmagomedov's $2 million purse was withheld as the Nevada State Athletic Commission investigates the brawl, and White has said that suspensions could be handed down after what he said was a mess that left him "disgusted and sick."
Nurmagomedov pointed out Thursday that the incident has deep roots, which date well before the ugly news conferences during the fight's "Bad Blood" promotion. In April, McGregor crashed the UFC 223 media day, throwing a metal handcart through the window of a bus that was carrying Nurmagomedov and other fighters and staffers at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. McGregor, who was reportedly looking to settle a perceived score with Nurmagomedov, pleaded guilty to a single count of disorderly conduct last summer as part of a deal with the Brooklyn District Attorney's office in which he was given no jail time and will not have a criminal record. He also was ordered to pay full restitution to the bus company. Michael Chiesa, whose injuries led to his removal from the UFC event held at the arena, filed suit against McGregor earlier this month, alleging that McGregor's actions caused him physical, emotional and financial harm.
"Why didn't you fire anyone when their team attacked the bus and injured a couple of people?" Nurmagomedov asked in his Thursday post. "They could have killed someone there, why no one says anything about insulting my homeland, religion, nation, family? Why do you have to punish my team, when both teams fought. If you say that I started it, then I do not agree, I finished what he had started."
The fighter went on to say if punishment is necessary, it should be applied to him, but not to Tukhugov.
"If you think that I'll keep silent then you are mistaken," he wrote. "You canceled Zubaira's fight and you want to dismiss him just because he hit Conor. But don't forget that it was Conor who had hit my another Brother FIRST, just check the video.
"If you decide to fire him, you should know that you'll lose me too. We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother. If you still decide to fire him, don't forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I'll break it myself.
"And one more thing, you can keep my money that you are withholding," he wrote. "You are pretty busy with that, I hope it won't get stuck in your throat. We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing. We intend to go to the end."
The bad blood between the two camps escalated as UFC 229 approached, even as it was used to help sell the fight. McGregor's verbal jabs included the epithet, "Dagestani rat," while he referred to Nurmagomedov's father as a "quivering coward" in a social media post. In addition, McGregor tauntingly offered whiskey to Nurmagomedov and called his Egypt-born manager, Ali Abdelaziz, a "terrorist."
"He talk about my religion. He talk about my country. He talk about my father," Nurmagomedov said of McGregor after the fight, adding, "This is a respect sport, this is not a trash-talking sport. . . . You cannot talk about religion, you cannot talk about a nation, you cannot talk about this stuff. For me, this is very important."
Nurmagomedov apologized for the mayhem, but has repeatedly asked why the focus is on his actions rather than McGregor's words before the event.
As for the melee, Dillon Danis, who trains with McGregor and was working his corner during the fight, denied reports that he had used an anti-Muslim slur that incited the brawl.
"Khabib fans are attempting to smear me in an effort to justify his actions," Danis said in a statement published by ESPN. "I have never and would never denigrate anyone's religion. I look forward to the results of the Nevada Gaming Commission investigation which will reject this [expletive] claim and put the blame where it belongs."
Somehow, Russian President Vladimir Putin figured into all this, too, with Putin saying during a meeting with Nurmagomedov on Wednesday that the post-fight actions were understandable giving the goading.
"Anyone could have jumped [from the cage] in the same way," Putin said (via RT). "If we are attacked from the outside, not only you, we could all jump in such a way . . . there could be hell to pay."
"But," he added, "it's better not to reach that stage."