Following the chaos of UFC 229, Firas Zahabi would break down the fight that happened inside the Octagon between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor.
The Tristar gym coach spent specific focus on fouls done by McGregor that he was able to get away with during the fight.
“I know Herb Dean. He’s a great referee. The man’s a professional fighter as well, he knows what’s going on in there. He understands jiujitsu, he understands striking. But McGregor got away with so many fouls,” Zahabi said. “To the point that Khabib — he left his corner between round three and four to tell the ref ‘hey, why are you letting him get away with all these things?’
“First of, the worst foul: he kneed Khabib illegally from the bottom,” he explained. “Khabib was in side control and McGregor knees Khabib in the head from bottom side control. He should’ve gotten a stern warning, or maybe even a point (deduction).
“McGregor was holding the fence on the last takedown. When Khabib pulled to take his McGregor’s back, he was blatantly holding on to the fence. That was probably his seventh or eight foul that night.
“Before that, he had held the shorts. He had grabbed on to Khabib’s shorts as Khabib was trying to take him down,” Zahabi continued. “He has put his toes on the fence after being told not to. He was obviously grabbing Khabib’s gloves… maybe two or three times. Khabib was talking to the referee saying ‘he is holding my gloves.’
“He was doing foul over foul,” Zahabi said of McGregor. “I think he should’ve taken a point, or at least a stern warning. Those fouls were just one too many.
“Especially holding the fence at the end. I would’ve let the action go, but if for some reason McGregor got on top, I would’ve stopped the action. I would’ve taken away a point,” he said. “You cannot do anything that interferes with the fight. It was a blatant fence hold. Everybody saw it. It wasn’t something that was insignificant. Khabib still got on top of him, but it was just not a fair tactic by McGregor.”
Zahabi was shocked that McGregor would fight outside of the rules, as that’s out of the norm for the Irish star.
“Why would McGregor do this? He doesn’t seem to do this in his other fights,” he said. “That’s a question for him, but I think he might have been fighting for his life. He might have felt ‘look, I am being overwhelmed here, I need every single ounce of help I can get.’
“He might have been in a panic mode, and I think I could understand. Being so smashed against somebody so heavy, so based, and you feel you can’t move him — you start to get desperate. You’ve never felt anything like that, a pressure like that. You might panic a little.
“I assume he was getting desperate. He probably felt like he was suffocating in there,” he said. “Khabib’s top game reminds me a lot of Georges (St-Pierre)’s game. I’ve felt this and know what it is. If you don’t have a good answer for that, it’s a very devastating position to be in.”