Khabib Nurmagomedov apologised for instigating a brawl following his stunning defeat of Conor McGregor at UFC 229.
McGregor’s mixed martial arts return after a near two-year hiatus fell flat as he tapped out midway through the fourth round, but Nurmagomedov soured a career-best performance with his actions immediately afterwards.
The Russian, whose victory meant he retained his lightweight title, threw his gumshield, vaulted the cage and attacked someone from McGregor’s camp.
While that was happening, McGregor was set upon and attacked by at least two men who entered the cage as the bad blood between the camps came to a head.
Nurmagomedov expressed his regret at what had unfolded but showed his disdain for McGregor’s behaviour leading up to the fight, including the notorious bus attack in April that left several rival fighters injured.
The 30-year-old said: “First of all I want to say sorry to Nevada Athletic Commission and second to Vegas. I know this is not my best side. I’m a human being.
“But I don’t understand how people can talk about how I jump on the cage. He talked about my religion, he talked about my country, he talked about my father.
“He came to Brooklyn and he broke a bus, he almost killed a couple of people. What about this s***? Why do people talk about me jumping over the cage? I don’t understand.
“This is a respectful sport, not a trash-talking sport. I want to change the game, you cannot talk about religion, about nationality.”
An event which was billed as the biggest in the UFC’s history had an unsavoury end, and company president Dana White appeared shell-shocked by what had happened.
He revealed Nurmagomedov’s fight purse was being held back by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and that three potential members of the fighter’s camp had been arrested.
However, White said that because McGregor did not want to take the matter further, the trio were later released.
White said: “The Nevada State Athletic Commission pulled the footage from us and there’s an investigation going on.
“They are withholding Khabib’s purse but not Conor’s. They looked at the footage and felt there was no need to withhold Conor’s.
“The way it works is Conor is one of the guys attacked, Conor refused to press charges. The guys they had they released.
“There were three guys from Khabib’s team arrested, I think they were from Khabib’s team, I don’t know.”
Nurmagomedov knocked McGregor down in the second round with a thunderous haymaker and was ahead on all three of the judges’ scorecards when he emphatically finished the fight.
Unfazed by the hostile reception he once again faced from a largely pro-McGregor crowd, Nurmagomedov took the Irishman down and locked in a rear-naked choke three minutes and four seconds into the penultimate round.
White, though, refused to confirm whether Nurmagomedov would hold on to his 155lb crown and believes any sanctions handed down to the fighter by the NSAC could force his hand.
White added: “It’s not 100 per cent certain. We’re regulated by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. They’re going to go after Khabib. The governor was here and he ran out of the building.
“The Nevada State Athletic Commission is going to hand out some type of fine, suspension or whatever. If he gets suspended, it depends how long his suspension is.”
Nurmagomedov was not presented with his belt and neither were there any interviews in the octagon, as is customary after a title fight.
White explained he did not want to incite crowd trouble as the reason for not allowing Nurmagomedov to celebrate in the octagon.
“I felt if we put the belt on him in the middle of the octagon, it was going to rain (with missiles),” White added.
“I thought people would throw whatever they had into the octagon and I thought it would be a dangerous situation so I didn’t do it.”
McGregor’s comeback was supposed to be a night of triumph for the UFC, which was expecting to set a new benchmark for pay-per-view figures, but this incident has cast a dark shadow on the sport.
White said: “I’ve been doing this for 18 years and I couldn’t be more disappointed.
“I should be in here bragging about the pay-per-view but I haven’t even looked at that or talked about it with anybody.
“We should all be celebrating how when you put on the right event with the right guys at the right time, it works.
“It was a very good week for everybody. It just sucks to end it like this, instead of celebrating we’re saying ‘that was pretty s***’.”