UFC

One word ignited McGregor-Khabib war

A TEAMMATE of Conor McGregor’s at the centre of his feud with Khabib Nurmagomedov has revealed the genesis of their animosity.

McGregor and Nurmagomedov had a friendly relationship during their early years in the UFC and even took a photograph together after the Irish star triumphed against Dustin Poirier at UFC 178.

@TeamKhabib I love it champ!! The Russian Bear!!

But, according to Artem Lobov, a Russian fighter who trains at SBG Ireland with McGregor, that all changed when Nurmagomedov delivered one of the most severe insults you can give a man in Russia after the Dagestani defeated Michael Johnson at UFC 205.

“Things were good between all of us — Conor, Khabib and myself,” Lobov told ESPN. “We saw Khabib often at shows, Reebok launches and what not. We were always very respectful to each other. I’d always shake his hand, ask how he is … it was all good.

“That all changed when, for someone reason I don’t know why, Khabib started calling Conor a chicken. Conor had never said anything bad towards Khabib. Khabib decided to start calling him chicken.

“It might not sound very serious to you guys, but just so you know, chicken is one of the most severe insults you can give a man in Russia. That is a person who gets raped in prison. Khabib knows that and everybody knows that.

“Khabib keeps going on with this, chicken here, chicken there, at every interview he’s calling Conor chicken … again Conor is respectful, not saying anything, we don’t really know where this is all coming from. Khabib was very respectful beforehand.

“The more he says chicken, he sees the media picking it up, he sees all the attention, and I guess he enjoys that. He wants the PR and he keeps going with it.

“This goes on for about a year. And then in an interview, I get asked about this. A Russian journalist asks me, ‘what can you say about Khabib calling Conor a chicken?’

“Now of course, knowing the severity of this insult, I had to respond in a hard way. And I think anybody would have done the same. If I didn’t do that, then what kind of friend am I?

“My response was very harsh, but I spoke facts. I talked about Khabib pulling out from all the fights … How can he call him a chicken when he’s the one pulling out. Conor never pulled out. It was a harsh response but given the situation I thought it was an appropriate response.”

Khabib Nurmagomedov is held back outside of the cage after fighting Conor McGregor. (AP Photo/John Locher)Source:AP

Lobov said he saw Nurmagomedov several times after his interview at mixed martial arts events in Moscow and experienced no trouble.

But in April this year the two men clashed inside a New York hotel ahead of their fights at UFC 223.

Speaking about the incident for the first time, Lobov said Nurmagomedov initially approached him solo and they engaged in a heated argument.

Lobov said Nurmagomedov left, but returned soon after with a group of friends and that’s when things turned physical.

The attack is what prompted McGregor to fly to New York, where he would attack a bus filled with UFC stars inside the Barclays Centre in what Dana White labelled “the most disgusting thing that has ever happened in the history of the company”.

But it proved to be just the beginning as the rival camps continued to feud in the lead-up to McGregor’s fight against Nurmagomedov. The tension erupted post-fight as a wild melee broke out at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas leaving both men facing sanctions from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Khabib’s one-liner burns0:00

UFC: Khabib Nurmagomedov didn’t get much talk time in the UFC 229 press conference with Conor McGregor, but he made it count when he got the chance.


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