Conor, of course, stirred the pot. That’s his brand. At the conclusion of the UFC 223 media day on April 5, McGregor, in apparent retaliation to the war of words exchanged between Khabib and Conor’s training partner, Artem Lobov, flew his gang on a private plane to Brooklyn and threw a steel dolly through the bus in which Khabib was sat. Conor wasn’t fired for bringing the “sport” into disrepute, or ruining the pay-per-view. He was rewarded with the biggest money MMA fight ever.
To promote it, he offered Khabib, a muslim, a shot of his own whiskey brand. Khabib—or as McGregor called him, “sh*t on the bus”— naturally declined. “I bet you’re some buzz at parties, you mad backwards c*nt,” McGregor said. He also referred to Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, as a “mad terrorist snitch”.
Mere, utter dominant victory was not sufficient to temper Khabib’s anger. Khabib was unrepentant in the wake of it all, pointedly apologising only to the Nevada Athletic Commission.
“I don’t understand how people can talk about “I jump out the cage”. He talk about my religion, he talk about my country, he talk about my father, he come to Brooklyn and broke bus, he almost killed couple of people. What about this? What about this sh*t?”
Khabib’s point—“you can’t talk about religion”—felt like the explanatory RAW heel promo 24 hours after the pay-per-view, given the free nation to which he spoke.
This sort of promotion is part of the fight game, but it’s a game Khabib wishes to change. The so-called “double turn” echoed Steve Austin and Bret Hart’s famous WrestleMania 13 classic, but really, this was more in keeping with Hart Vs. Shawn Michaels: a philosophical clash exacerbated by a gleeful promoter to the point of no return. This was the best of 1997 WWF.