WASHINGTON POST - In what was almost certainly the final act of his UFC career, Zubaira Tukhugov climbed into the Octagon and attacked Conor McGregor during the chaos that followed McGregor's loss on Saturday (Oct 6, US time) to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229.
An apparently unrepentant Tukhugov took to social media on Sunday to say that in striking the Irishman, he had followed through on a promise.
Tukhugov was among three members of Nurmagomedov's entourage arrested in the wake of the post-fight melee that marred the UFC lightweight champion's victory in the much-hyped event. The men were reportedly released after McGregor declined to press charges, but it's likely just a matter of time before Tukhugov is formally dismissed from the company.
If so, it may well have been worth it to Tukhugov, judging by his remarks on Sunday, in a video posted and translated in part by Karim Zidan of the MMA blog Bloody Elbow.
"I slapped him as promised," Tukhugov said of McGregor to a camera. "I promised to make him answer for his words, and I did."
Nurmagomedov made brief comments at a post-fight news conference in which he apologised for sparking the fracas by leaping out of the cage to violently confront a training partner of McGregor's who was yapping at him during his four-round triumph.
However, the undefeated Russian was also quick to ask reporters why the focus was on his actions rather than what he saw as unacceptable remarks by his opponent leading up to the event.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A7Y-bzvmPw
"He talk about my religion. He talk about my country. He talk about my father," Nurmagomedov said of McGregor, 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 was referring to his father being called a "quivering coward" in a social media post by McGregor about a month before the fight, as well as verbal jabs that included "Dagestani rat". McGregor also tauntingly offered whisky to Nurmagomedov, a practising Muslim, and called his Egypt-born manager, Ali Abdelaziz, a "terrorist".
Nurmagomedov also brought up McGregor's April attack on a bus carrying UFC fighters and staffers, an attempt to confront his nemesis over a previous confrontation between Nurmagomedov and Artem Lobov, a UFC fighter who is close with the Irishman.
McGregor ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanour in July, a punishment Nurmagomedov made clear he found insufficient.
Immediately after the melee, UFC president Dana White vowed that whoever jumped into the Octagon to attack McGregor "will never fight here" in his company.
A "disgusted" White included Nurmagomedov in claiming: "These guys are in big trouble. It is going to be ugly."
Nurmagomedov's US$2 million (S$2.75m) purse has been withheld by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, pending an investigation into the fracas. He could receive a lengthy suspension that White indicated could cost Nurmagomedov his belt.
Tukhugov, also a Russian and devout Sunni Muslim, was scheduled to fight Lobov at UFC Fight Night 138 later this month, but he presumably won't be in the company at that point, let alone on the card. Shortly before UFC 229, Tukhugov said that after squaring off with Lobov, he looked forward to taking on McGregor himself - "outside" of the Octagon.
He explained that he was deeply offended by McGregor's comments in an Instagram post last month that if Tukhugov were "a true Chechen", he "would never assist in a Dagestani-led attack on another Chechen", referring to Nurmagomedov's confrontation with Lobov.
In comments earlier this month to MMA Fighting, Tukhugov said in halting English: "McGregor wants Chechen and Dagestani upset with each other - never do this, never, because we're brother republics."
Tukhugov added that instead of lobbing shots via Instagram, "If you're a man, you tell him (to his) face," and said his preference was to have "no cage" for his planned showdown with McGregor.