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UFC stars Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov are set to come face-to-face for the first time since a violent backstage confrontation involving the pair sent shockwaves through the sports world — and resulted in criminal charges against McGregor.
On Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, McGregor and Nurmagomedov headlined a press event at New York City’s famous Radio City Music Hall to promote their upcoming world title bout at UFC 229.
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The presence of the outlandish, trash-talking McGregor — already one of the top draws in combat sports today — made this event a larger spectacle than the usual pre-fight press conferences.
And that was before last April, when the always-controversial McGregor was at the centre of what UFC President Dana White called “the most disgusting thing that has ever happened” in the history of his promotion.
On April 5, McGregor and members of his entourage were involved in a backstage melee during another UFC press event at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center, when they attempted to physically assault members of Nurmagomedov’s entourage.
McGregor was allegedly trying to get at Nurmagomedov, already a heated rival of his in the fight game, because the Russian had been involved in a hotel altercation with fellow fighter Artem Lobov, who was a close friend of McGregor’s.
Video of the incident shows the Dublin native and his entourage tossing trash cans and guard rails at a bus that was carrying many of the fighters who were scheduled to compete in the event later that weekend.
McGregor and his entourage were let into the Barclays Center by credentialed media members with The Mac Life, McGregor’s website and YouTube channel, Dana White later revealed. He said the approximately 20-strong group made their way to a loading dock area where fighters were getting on buses to go back to their hotel after the press conference.
UFC lightweight fighter Michael Chiesa suffered cuts to his face and head, while women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas narrowly avoided being struck.
“What happened [that day] was criminal, disgusting, despicable, makes me sick and we as an organization need to make sure that this never happens again,” White told reporters just hours after the violent backstage fracas.
McGregor would later turn himself in to authorities, and was arraigned the following Friday on charges of felony criminal mischief charges and misdemeanour assault, menacing and reckless endangerment.
He was released on US$50,000 bond.