Just like any other year, there was good and bad in MMA in 2018. Below are some instances of those in the business who were naughty, and those who were nice.
Naughty: Khabib Nurmagomedov Jumps Over Cage
There’s no question UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov tops the naughty list after jumping over the fence at UFC 229 and going after Conor McGregor’s corner. Regardless of what Team McGregor said to Nurmagomedov in the lead-up to the fight, he had no business scaling the fence and then launching himself into the crowd. Nurmagomedov hasn’t even received his full punishment for the incident yet, and he is likely headed for more fines and suspensions. But the worst thing about this is that the lightweight division finally had some momentum again and this incident stalled it. The UFC might want to book the rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor just because it will sell big bucks, but the promotion shouldn’t even risk something like this happening again.
Nice: UFC Lets Demetrious Johnson Go, Completes Trade with ONE
After losing the flyweight title in a huge upset to Henry Cejudo at UFC 227, the UFC granted Demetrious Johnson his release and helped orchestrate a trade to ONE Championship for Ben Askren. The UFC could have been sticklers and made Johnson fight out his deal with them, but chose to do the right thing and let Johnson go off to greener pastures. The UFC makes a lot of selfish decisions, but letting Johnson go to ONE — not to mention Sage Northcutt and Eddie Alvarez — was a good PR move, and just a good-will move to give one of the greatest fighters of all time the right to pick his next home.
Naughty: UFC Signs Greg Hardy
What wasn’t the greatest PR move was the UFC signing Greg Hardy to a contract. Yes, Hardy is an intriguing heavyweight prospect with huge knockout power and raw athleticism who could be something special. But you can’t ignore his past, and his domestic violence incident will always stay with him. The sport of MMA has a lot of people in it who have done some bad things, so Hardy shouldn’t be completely singled out, but the UFC signing him and then booking him on the same card as Rachael Ostovich was a terrible move.
Nice: “Jacare” Holds Up From Hurting Chris Weidman
In one of the ultimate acts of sportsmanship, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza knocked out Chris Weidman at UFC 230 but refused to throw any follow-up punches once Weidman landed on the canvas. Unlike Dan Henderson, who viciously punched Michael Bisping on the mat even though he was knocked out back at UFC 100, Souza refrained from hitting Weidman any more, and later on the two posted pictures with each other and kind words on social media. Souza and Weidman are two of the most respectful and genuinely good guys in the game, so did you expect anything less?
Naughty: 48-year-old Chuck Liddell Fights in 2018
Golden Boy MMA goes on the naughty list for actually booking Chuck Liddell to fight in the year 2018. Liddell had no business coming out of retirement and it wasn’t shocking at all to see him get brutally knocked out by Tito Ortiz at age 48. Shame on the promotion, shame on the commission, and shame on the fighter. This fight was embarrassing and should have never happened. Liddell should truly never fight again, and at this point it looks like Golden Boy MMA itself may never put on a fight again, either.
Nice: Chan Sung Jung and Yair Rodriguez Take Hospital Photo After Epic Brawl
Arguably the best fight of 2018 was the wild brawl between Chan Sung Jung and Yair Rodriguez at the UFC’s 25th anniversary event. The two featherweight sluggers went at each other for nearly five full rounds before Rodriguez landed an insane upward elbow with one second left in the fifth round to pick up maybe the single-greatest knockout in MMA history. After the fight, the two warriors posed in the hospital for a memorable picture that exemplified the respect and true martial arts that the bedrock of this sport was built on.
Naughty: Conor McGregor Bus Incident
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the bus incident back at UFC 223. Conor McGregor threw a dolly through a bus window which ended up injuring several fighters and leading to multiple fights being scrapped. It was one of the ugliest outside-the-cage incidents involving an MMA fighter all year, perhaps only eclipsed by Nurmagomedov jumping over the fence at UFC 229, depending on how you look at things.
What are some other examples of naughty and nice in MMA in 2018? Leave a comment below with your examples.