Mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor turned himself in to police Thursday and was arrested and charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief after his role in a fracas that left UFC fighter Michael Chiesa in the hospital with a facial laceration. The incident took place after a media event ahead of Saturday’s UFC 223 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
According to the Independent, McGregor was held overnight and remained in police custody early Friday morning as he awaited a court appearance in Brooklyn. MMA Fighting reported that Cian Cowley, McGregor’s SBG teammate, also was charged with one count of assault and one count of criminal mischief over the incident.
McGregor was led out of the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn for a court appearance Friday morning, according to video posted by New York’s WNBC. His court appearance is not expected to be lengthy, with a judge setting bail and a future court date and then releasing him. It’s unknown whether he will be allowed to return to his native Ireland.
Three matches scheduled for Saturday’s UFC 223 card were scrapped because of the incident, cutting the card to 10 bouts. Chiesa, who was to fight Anthony Pettis, was cut in the face and was in the hospital; he has been deemed unfit to fight by the New York State Athletic Commission and the UFC medical team. Ray Borg, a flyweight who was scheduled to battle Brandon Moreno, also was deemed unfit to fight after suffering corneal abrasions. Artem Lobov, a McGregor friend and ally who was part of the incident, also was pulled from the card.
Separately, Max Holloway, who was scheduled to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC lightweight belt in the headline bout, was declared medically unfit to fight by the athletic commission before Friday’s weigh-in. The status of the title bout remains unclear. According to MMA Junkie, Anthony Pettis - who had been scheduled to fight Chiesa - has been called upon to fight Nurmagomedov, although reports indicated other fighters might still be chosen.
UFC President Dana White said Friday morning that he had been in contact with McGregor, and that the fighter had attempted to justify his actions. White said the fracas was not prompted by McGregor getting stripped of his lightweight belt earlier this week, but rather by previous bad feelings between McGregor’s camp and Nurmagomedov, the Russian fighter scheduled to face Holloway for McGregor’s vacated belt in Saturday’s main event. Nurmagomedov was filmed in a confrontation at a hotel with Lobov, the McGregor friend, earlier this week.
“Conor and I talked through text yesterday, obviously the worst conversation we have ever had, “ White said during a Friday morning appearance on Fox Sports 1’s “First Things First,” adding that the conversation took place before McGregor turned himself in. “It’s not that I don’t think he understood what happened, it’s just . . . he justified it, it was justified to him. . . . [He thought] it had to be done.”
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White said McGregor and his crew - “20 hoodlums they flew in from Ireland” - gained access to the arena thanks to “people on the inside” who were covering the event for McGregor’s company. The confrontation came when the McGregor entourage attacked a bus filled with fighters and staffers, including Nurmagomedov, as the bus began to leave Barclays Center following Thursday’s media event.
“These buses are full of a ton of fighters and their cornermen,” White said. “And they’re just throwing things into the windows not caring who they hit. . . . They hit Mike Chiesa. Mike Chiesa has nothing to do with this. . . . Many of the fighters and cornermen have nothing to do with this situation.”
In an appearance later Friday on ESPN’s “Get Up!” White said the incident was not a stunt meant to generate publicity for UFC, which has lost a number of star fighters in recent months to boxing (McGregor fought Floyd Mayweather in a lucrative bout last year), pro wrestling (Ronda Rousey) and a combination of wrestling and failed doping tests (Brock Lesnar).
“This is the last stunt on Earth we would ever pull. I mean, this is embarrassing for the sport and obviously for the UFC,” White said. “This is the furthest thing from a stunt.”
White added that McGregor won’t be getting any sort of bailout from UFC.
“Normally, yes - I would dive right in and do everything in my power to help one of my guys,” White said on the ESPN show. “But not in this situation. He came into the Barclays Center, attacked our fighters, and attacked my staff with a bunch of guys - no. You don’t get my help on this one.”
Videos posted to social media showed a chaotic scene Thursday, with at least one guardrail being flung and general disorder.
“Conor went bananas and put a beating on the van that we were in,” Chiesa’s coach Rick Little told MMA Junkie. “A million security guards had to restrain him. Mike’s cut up now. He’s got marks on him, for sure. I don’t think too serious. Everything happened so fast, it was just like we got jumped.”
Little told the site that his fighter had been cut by shattered glass. And some media members at the arena reported that the target of McGrergor’s ire was apparently Nurmagomedov, who seemed to believe that was the case.
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“I am laughing inside,” the Russian told MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani. “You broke window? Why? Come inside. If you real gangster why don’t you come inside? This is big history gangster place. Brooklyn. You want to talk to me? Send me location. I am going to come. No problem.”
White on Thursday called the incident the most despicable thing in UFC history, according to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.
“You want to grab 30 [expletive] friends and come down here and do what you did today?” White said in a video posted by Okamoto. “It’s disgusting. And I don’t think anybody is going to be huge Conor McGregor fans after this. I don’t know if he’s on drugs or what his deal is, but to come and do this and act like this?”
White had announced earlier this week there would be “no interim champ” following Saturday’s scheduled lightweight main event between Max Holloway and Nurmagomedov.
“When this fight is over, champion,” White said at a news conference, gesturing to Nurmagomedov and Holloway. “One of these guys will be the champion.”
This news was not taken well by McGregor, the previous permanent holder of that title.
“You’s’ll strip me of nothing,” he tweeted very early Thursday morning, before calling UFC officials an unprintable word.
McGregor won the lightweight title by defeating Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in a November 2016 bout but stepped away from the octagon to train for last year’s lucrative boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. Tony Ferguson stepped in to win an interim lightweight belt in McGregor’s absence, but White said Saturday’s bout between Nurmagomedov and Holloway will decide a new official champion.
“Tony Ferguson isn’t being stripped. The only person here who is losing a belt is Conor. Conor’s losing the belt, these two are fighting for the belt,” White said at the news conference.
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Before Thursday’s fracas, White insisted that McGregor “is coming back this year, 100 percent,” adding, “We’ll see how this thing plays out [with the lightweight title], and we’ll go from there.”
He later reiterated that stance on Fox Sports’ “UFC Tonight,” saying: “Conor does want to fight. Conor and I have been talking a lot. Conor does want to come back, he does want to fight, so he will fight this year.”
That was before Thursday’s events, which figure to forever change McGregor’s relationship with UFC.