On Thursday afternoon in the loading dock at Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, New York, one of the craziest incidents in UFC history took place, and it didn’t even involve any fists being thrown. According to various eye-witness reports and video footage readily available on social media, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor and his team were involved in an alleged assault that left several fighters injured and off of Saturday’s UFC 223 card. The attack has let to McGregor being detained by New York police, and as of Monday morning he is facing several criminal charges in relation to the incident, one which UFC president Dana White called “one of the most disgusting acts” in UFC history.
In the videos, which made it clear McGregor was directly involved in the attack, numerous objects were hurled into a bus window carrying the red corner fighters set to fight at UFC 223. Glass broke when objects were throw into a glass window, injuring both Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg in the attack. As a result, the UFC was forced to cancel the Chiesa vs. Anthony Pettis and Borg vs. Brandon Moreno fights as both fighters were not cleared to compete by doctors. Chiesa suffered numerous facial cuts and Borg got a piece of glass in his eye that left both men injured and unable to fight. McGregor’s teammate Artem Lobov was also pulled from the card for his involvement in the ruckus, leaving opponent Alex Caceres without a fight. All told, three fights were cancelled, and UFC 223 is now down to just 10 bouts. Considering Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov was cancelled just a few days ago, it’s safe to say this has been one of the craziest fight weeks in UFC history.
First and foremost, the incident has resulted in injuries to at least two fighters and that’s obviously a terrible thing. Both Chiesa and Borg were innocent victims and were unfortunately at the wrong place at the wrong time, as McGregor was allegedly after Khabib Nurmagomedov and his team, not the other fighters. But both men were injured by glass and are now not fighting. The ricochet effect means their opponents Pettis and Moreno aren’t fighting either, and neither are Lobov or Caceres, though that’s Lobov’s fault. But at least five fighters who did absolutely nothing wrong now do not have a fight this Saturday, which must be extremely disheartening after all these fighters went through long training camps and were ready to compete. As someone who is fighters first, I feel really bad for all of them, and hopefully all these guys get their full purses of show, win and Reebok money. White said Friday morning on ESPN the affected fighters would be paid, but later reports said they would only be paid a portion of their purses, which seems completely unfair considering the affected fighters did nothing wrong.
Now, having said that the health and safety of the innocent fighters is the first and foremost concern here, I have to go ahead and be the one to say it: This bus attack is great for business. The UFC 223 card suffered a big hit when Ferguson pulled out last weekend but now has a ton of buzz behind it. Everyone on social media is talking about it. McGregor’s name is helping MMA websites stay alive because of all the clicks he’s bringing. Even though White and the UFC have come out and condemned the event, there’s no doubt they realize that this could potentially be great for business because McGregor’s return fight is going to be even bigger now. And even the sportsbooks have been helped by this as more bets have been coming in on the card. So again, while it’s unfortunate and sad that several fighters were injured as a result of the attack, overall there’s been a net benefit to the industry because of it.
I hate what McGregor did, and I hope this kind of incident never happens again. It’s not fair that three fights were cancelled and five innocent bystanders were affected by the attack. But I also realize this incident is great for business. More people are talking about UFC 223 than they were before and McGregor’s return to the Octagon is going to be even bigger than before. It’s just sad that several fighters had to be hurt in all of this. We’ll see what the fallout from this incident is as far as legally goes, but right now, the UFC is loving that more people are talking about UFC 223 and trust me, MMA websites are loving it too.