By Keith Idec
OMAHA, Nebraska – There has never been any love lost between Bob Arum and Dana White.
But even Arum doesn’t blame his fellow promoter for the ugly brawl that marred UFC 229 on Saturday night in Las Vegas. The blame, according to Arum, solely belongs to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The undefeated UFC lightweight champion claims Conor McGregor and his handlers antagonized him into leaping out of the Octagon and attacking one of McGregor’s trainers, Dannis Dillon, on the floor following his fourth-round submission victory over McGregor at T-Mobile Arena. Nevertheless, the Nevada State Athletic Commission temporarily suspended Nurmagomedov and McGregor on Thursday, pending a hearing October 24.
“I think that was disgraceful,” Arum told BoxingScene.com on Thursday. “That was really, really bad. But I, for one, don’t blame Dana. I mean, he was trying to stir up stuff, you know, words and so forth, which I think is OK to help the pay-per-view. Nothing wrong with that. He should’ve taken steps to prevent the melee from happening, but ultimately, it’s on this Khabib. What he did was inexcusable and the commission has to deal with that.
“So, you know, you can’t blame the promoter. Here, for example, if there were an incident, which I believe there won’t be because I’ve taken steps, hopefully, to prevent that from happening, it’s not my fault. It’s their fault.”
By here, Arum meant he has taken extra measures to ensure that nothing happens outside the ring between Terence Crawford and Jose Benavidez Jr. as their fight approaches.
Crawford, the WBO welterweight champ, and the unbeaten Benavidez strongly dislike each other. They continued talking trash during their final press conference Thursday, but Arum made sure their camps are stationed at different hotels in downtown Omaha, so that there aren’t any incidents before they fight Saturday night at CHI Health Center (ESPN; 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT).
Their promoter also issued a warning to Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) and Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs) before they stood face-to-face for photo opportunities following the press conference.
“I’m in favor of all of that stuff that really hypes a fight, as long as it’s verbal,” Arum said. “I didn’t want anybody to take the position that we were exasperating the situation to create an incident, in order to get more viewers, to sell more tickets. I don’t wanna do that. I think that this back and forth that [Crawford and Benavidez] have had is normal and I think that’s OK. But I told them when they got up to pose together, ‘No f*cking around. First guy who throws a punch ain’t getting paid.’ ”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.