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Thoughts on McGregor versus Nurmagomedov

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Khabib Nurmagomedov (left) and Conor McGregor

2,177 words

“It´s just business.”
–Conor McGregor

“We have defended our honor. That is all that matters.”
–Khabib Nurmagomedov

Conor “the Notorious” McGregor made his professional boxing debut in 2017 against the undefeated Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Like many others, I watched the fight on Pay Per View and hoped that Conor would emerge victorious from the bout. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of fighting knew, of course, that he would not. Conor is a very skilled striker from a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) point of view. But a skilled striker cannot compare to a skilled boxer, and to the surprise of no one knowledgeable, Floyd emerged victorious by Technical Knock Out in the tenth round.

The reason that I and many people that I know – and certainly many White Nationalists – rooted for Conor is that he rose to prominence as a white man in a sport where black people have been dominant for long periods of time. It is sometimes said that Elvis Presley was celebrated by the music industry because he was a white man who could perform rock-n-roll like a black man. Similarly, Conor is a white man who can punch like a black man. Floyd Mayweather also struck me as a despicable creature: obsessed with money, owning strip clubs, and simply being an extraordinarily boring fighter. It would have been nice to see Conor knock him down.

But really, was Conor any better? The answer is no. Conor is certainly entertaining to watch. He is one of the finest strikers in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). When he first emerged, he certainly seemed like a starving wolf, hungry for fame and glory, willing to do whatever it took to succeed in the MMA league, in which champions become contenders and contenders become champions, as the saying goes. It added to his story that he came from a humble background: from the Irish working class. He worked as a plumber during his youth, and he and his family relied on the support of the welfare system prior to his MMA career taking off.

It could have been a beautiful story of how a man from a poor background worked hard and with determination to become the champion of his nation. Whenever Conor enters an arena, he always flies the Irish colors, and he always accepts his victories while wrapped in the Irish flag. This patriotism is an honorable trait. But unfortunately, the workings of modernity got in the way.

When I write “workings of modernity,” I mean a specific tendency, perhaps even a moral imperative, that exists today, which holds that the truest measure of success is making tons of money. It proves the old saying that the worker should be considered a capitalist who is temporarily prevented from owning capital.

In this view, forget things like honor and glory, or even something as basic as having the slightest bit of dignity. The thing that matters is having money, and lots of it. This, it seems to me, is the morality of the upcomer – perhaps not in all cases, but in all too many of them. As soon as an upcomer enjoys a little success, he says goodbye to virtue. On a superficial level, the bout between Conor and Mayweather was fought between a white and a black, and was about whether one from the underdog group could challenge someone from the dominant group on his own terrain. But like Martin Heidegger said of the United States and the Soviet Union, they are both based on materialism, whatever else can be said about their differences. The same goes for Conor and Mayweather. Although to be fair, Conor brags more about money than a guy who has “money” as his middle name.

There was a more recent bout, however – one that was far more heated and with much more at stake – that Conor was involved in. I’m referring, of course, to the notorious fight between Conor and Khabib “the Eagle” Nurmagomedov on October 6. Khabib, the lightweight champion of the UFC, defended his recently-won belt against Conor, who once had it but lost it due to inactivity. I do MMA myself, as well as being a fan of the sport, and whatever can be said of the fight from a more theoretical point of view, it was interesting purely as a sports event.

It was the classic setup of the striker versus the grappler. When a striker and a grappler are pitted against each other, the victory usually goes to the latter. So even though Conor, once again, would have had a hard time in defeating the expert grappler Khabib, I still cheered for him. After all, Conor is one of my own – a white man – and Khabib is not. But much more was going on this time than when Conor fought Mayweather. That fight was between two materialists. To such people, it’s all just a game, and just business. They don’t care about the trash talk; it’s just part of selling the fight to an audience who loves it.

One of the reasons why Conor has become so popular is not just his entertaining style in the octagon – it’s his trash talk. Most fighters accept this as part of the game; they don’t take it personally and they don’t care about it. Some, like Mayweather, surely see it as strictly business, and even as a good thing since it helps to sell the fight. They are all part of the game of modernity, and in this game, honor is an anachronism. But this time around, the funny thing was that Khabib wasn’t interested in playing the game. When he and Conor met, things got real. It was not a money fight for Khabib, it was a question of him basically wanting to kill Conor for his various slights and insults against him.

It was widely reported that in April, Conor attacked a bus in New York City that Khabib, as well as several other UFC fighters, was travelling in, throwing a trash can and a dolley at it and breaking some of the windows, injuring fighters Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg. Many others could have been injured as well, of course. The reason was that McGregor’s teammate, the Russian fighter Artem Lobov, had earlier had a confrontation with Khabib and his crew. One must admire Conor’s loyalty to his friend, but it would have sufficed to take it up with Khabib personally rather than by attacking completely innocent bystanders. But this is how the McGregor-Nurmagomedov conflict began in the first place.

After the bus incident, Khabib challenged Conor to fight him, and thus we saw the origin of what some have called “the greatest MMA fight of all time.” The sports site MMA Junkie soon reported that Conor had insulted Khabib’s father as well, calling him “a quivering coward” on Instagram. But the climax of Conor’s trash-talking occurred at the UFC 230 press conference. He threw so many insults that there were too many to recount, but in his tirade he did manage to insult Khabib several times by calling him a coward, among other things, as well as attacking his country (Dagestan), his faith (Islam), and his family – basically all the things that any real man should consider holy and beyond the limits of mockery. Throughout Conor’s tirade, Khabib remained stoic.

MMA lacks the more spiritual traditions of those martial arts which are traditionally practiced in the Far East. But from my own experience, I know that respect for your opponent, your comrades, and your trainer are vital if you happen to find yourself in a good fight club. In the UFC, however, things are quite different. As I mentioned earlier, trash talk is an accepted business strategy to sell fights and make them more interesting for the public, which is one of the reasons why Conor McGregor is exalted in the eyes of the UFC’s President, Dana White.

Another thing that bothered me about the press conference was that Conor used it to advertise his own brand of whiskey, Proper. He came across as a cheap merchant rather than as one of the best fighters of his generation.

I’ve taken a critical stance towards Conor in this essay, but I’ve never doubted his bravery in the cage. He went up two weight classes to fight Nate Diaz – a fight he lost. Then he did the same thing again, only to emerge victorious in the second bout. And it cannot be denied that it was brave – or perhaps just foolish – to walk into the cage against Khabib, a man who remains undefeated and who viciously plays with his opponents like a cat with mice, most especially given the insults he had hurled at him.

Sadly, for Conor, he had the worst fight of his UFC career – perhaps ever. Not only was he beaten on the ground, which was to be expected, but he was also outboxed by a fighter who is not known for his striking. Khabib got tired of playing with him in the fourth round and made him tap with a so-called neck-crank, giving Conor the new nickname “McTapper.” Where was the hungry wolf? Where was the tattooed Irish warrior, who seemed to be born for nothing else but fighting? That Conor was destroyed by money and his own success, no doubt. He seemed to be more concerned with selling whiskey and spending the money on watches, cars, clothes, and other lavish things, even while fighting in the cage. Sad, to quote President Trump.

Despite all of this, I rooted for Conor for the reason I stated earlier: he is one of my own, after all. In the aftermath of the fight, I could not help but think of a book by Julius Evola I had read and reviewed a few years back: A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism. One of the things I took to heart from it was his view that race alone is not enough: An individual needs to aspire for something higher, and not drown in the swamp of modern life. A white man, of however good stock he may be, is still only a lump of meat if he doesn’t strive for the higher aspects of existence.

For people on the Right, this can become a contradiction, because there is a natural egalitarianism that results from nationalism, given that it implies a sort of “my people, right or wrong” attitude. We take the side of our own, even if they happen to be wrong. We also recognize our own kind as being our own, regardless of their merits or character. But in practice, nationalists are often influenced by various elitist strands, be they modernist or Traditionalist, in which it is not enough merely to be part of a particular race. The individual, too, has a duty and an obligation to stand up for the values of dignity, honor, honesty, and loyalty. The individual should strive to transcend the baseness of modern life, such as by overcoming its notion that material wealth is the highest good that one can achieve in life. Greed must be rejected in favor of spirit.

Conor does the exact opposite of all this. He has completely embraced the materialist values of modern life. He thinks that insulting someone’s nation, faith, and family is “just business.” This is literally true, by the way, because when the audio of the fight was released, we could hear Khabib repeatedly saying “let’s talk” to Conor, referring to the fact that Conor did most of the talking prior to the fight. To which Conor responded, “It’s just business.” This is how a merchant, not a warrior, speaks to an opponent.

The aftermath of the fight is well-known: Khabib attacked Conor’s disgusting teammate, Dillon Dannis. I don’t really care much who started it or who did what in the situation. But I respect Khabib for what he said afterwards, when his teammate was threatened by the UFC with suspension and the withholding of his money for punching McGregor. Khabib said that if they fired his friend, then they should break his own contract, too, and keep the money. I’m sure that Khabib has some less favorable character traits as well, but in this case, he came across as a man of spirit who chose honor over money and commercial success.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to cheer for a non-white in favor of a white, regardless of his character and merits. I want to root for one of my own. But I don’t feel very comfortable in having to choose between an honorable non-white and a dishonorable white who disgraces his people by sinking from a warrior to a salesman who will do anything if the price is right.

But let’s not end on a negative note. Watch Joe Rogan’s interview with Tyson “the Gypsy King” Fury on Rogan’s podcast [2]. It’s the tale of a great fighter who has hit bottom, then risen again and realized what is most important in life. And it’s not making as much money as possible.