LAS VEGAS • Dillon Danis, the coach and team-mate of Conor McGregor who exchanged blows with Khabib Nurmagomedov after the Ultimate Fighting Championship 229 lightweight title bout last Saturday, has denied inciting the Russian with an anti-Muslim slur.
Danis described media reports accusing him of having made the incendiary comments as a "smear" and said on Wednesday that an official investigation into the ensuing melee would vindicate him.
McGregor's jiu-jitsu coach was in the Irish fighter's corner when Nurmagomedov punctuated his successful title defence by climbing out of the cage and jumping into the crowd seated nearby.
Nurmagomedov was led away from the skirmish and later had his US$2 million (S$2.7 million) purse withheld by the Nevada State Athletic Commission pending an inquiry into the incident.
According to a report published on Monday by TMZ Sports, which cited a "ringside witness", Danis had enraged Nurmagomedov by calling him a "f****** Muslim rat" towards the end of the bout.
"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 investigation which will reject this b***s*** claim and put the blame where it belongs."
In an update to its report, TMZ noted that representatives of Danis had told the website that "the witness we spoke with is dead wrong".
However, TMZ claimed that it spoke to "multiple groups of people who were sitting very close" to Danis, who insisted that "they heard him shouting insults" at the Russian.
In a post-fight news conference on Saturday, Nurmagomedov apologised for his behaviour but questioned the double standards with comments made by McGregor, who insulted his religion, country and father in the lead-up to the fight, allowed to stand.
The unbeaten Nurmagomedov yesterday threatened to quit the UFC amid reports that the mixed martial arts promotion is planning to cancel its contract with his team-mate Zubaira Tukhugov, who was one of three men who entered the Octagon to assault McGregor.
In a post on Instagram and Twitter, Nurmagomedov hit out at perceived injustice with no action taken by the UFC against McGregor despite the infamous bus attack in April, before adding that he was willing to forgo his winning pay cheque.
He said: "Why didn't you fire anyone when their team attacked the bus and injured a couple of people? They could have killed someone there, why no one says anything about insulting my homeland, religion, nation, family?
"You cancelled Zubaira's fight and you want to dismiss him just because he hit Conor... If you decide to fire him, you should know that you'll lose me, too. We never give up on our brothers in Russia.
"If you decide to fire him, don't forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I'll break it myself.
"You can keep my money that you are withholding, I hope it won't get stuck in your throat.
"We have defended our honour and this is the most important thing."
Russian President Vladimir Putin also agreed that Nurmagomedov post-fight actions were understandable. "Anyone could have jumped (from the cage) in the same way," he told Russian TV channel RT on Wednesday, after meeting the fighter to offer his congratulations.