Vladimir Putin: "We can respond in a way that not to be taken lightly"
At the 7th International Forum Russia – Country of Sports Vladimir Putin took part in the plenary session titled 'Physical Education and Sports: New Development Targets' in Ulyanovsk. More than 3,000 people from Russia and other countries, including heads of federal and regional government bodies, leaders of world sports, as well as representatives of the Olympic movement and international sporting organisations, attended the forum.
On the sidelines of the forum, Putin met with Russia's UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who recently defeated Ireland’s Conor McGregor during the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 229 tournament in Las Vegas on Saturday, defending his lightweight title. After the fight, Nurmagomedov had a conflict with McGregor's jiu-jitsu coach Dillon Danis, and Khabib jumped out of the cage and attempted to beat up Dillon.
At a meeting with Nurmagomedov and his father, Putin congratulated both and said: "Let me wish you success in the bouts to come. There is a lot of talk, for sure. I saw the way they received you at home. Of course, this was a commercial event, but it is still sport, and I must agree with those who believe that certain rules should be adhered to, and not just the written rules but the general rules of morality in sport. I hope everyone will follow these rules in this sport, as well."
The president also said: "Yes, you performed as an individual, not representing a country, but, you are a Russian citizen and we are not indifferent to how our citizens are treated wherever they are and whatever they do. This is why we closely follow everything, and we were definitely very concerned about you. And I will ask your dad not discipline you too severely because you achieved your main goal: you won the fight, and you did it with dignity and convincingly. I would like to express hope that the ideals of sport will prevail, will prevail over money, advertising (I am referring to your rival’s team, of course), and that inroads will ultimately be found to normal communication, friendship between competitors, sport friendships. These are the goals sport is dedicated to and promotes. And you will build up good and kind-natured relations with your rivals, relations of rivalry, yet good-natured, human ones. Anyway, nobody can reproach you for not striving for this. I want to express hope that this will also be appreciated by your rivals, your adversaries, and that everything will be settled in a personal and athletic way."
Nurmagomedov, in turn, expressed hope that the audience would appreciate not only his jumping out of the ring, but also his performance: "So far, they are only talking about my jumping out of the ring even though my performance was not bad, and unlike his [McGregor’s] coming in and showing disrespect for my side, my parents, my country, I behaved with dignity, but I did not hold back either, of course, because the provocations continued through the fight. I hope the hearing that is now underway will rule in our favour."
Putin supported the athlete’s assessment, using the incident as an allusion in the political arena: “We understand that this was done on purpose to make you lose control, to get some advantage during the fight. We are one big family in our country. And we must avoid extremes; we must not allow this behaviour no matter what happens. We have a very big and diverse family, and anything can happen in a family, but we never permit ourselves to go beyond certain limits. But, if we are attacked from the outside, then all of us, not just you, can respond in a way that will not be taken lightly. I hope it never gets that far."