Artem Lobov on the message McGregor sent him after Khabib confrontation
Artem Lobov, Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov all used to get on quite well. Not any more.
Six months after his confrontation with Nurmagomedov in a hotel lobby, ahead of UFC 223, Artem Lobov has spoken out about what sparked the incident and led to the all-out feud between the Dagestani and McGregor's camps.
Ahead of his UFC Moncton fight with Michael Johnson, Lobov gave his first media interview in over half a year. He joined Ariel Helwani on his ESPN MMA show and spoke for 40 minutes about a range of topics, including a text message he immediately got from McGregor when footage surfaced online of him being braced by Nurmagomedov and his entourage.
Lobov explained that he used to get on well with 'The Eagle' - a fellow Russian - and that he also had a good relationship with McGregor. That all changed, in his opinion, when Nurmagomedov started to frequently call McGregor a chicken. He commented:
"That all changed when for some reason, and I don't know why, Khabib started calling Conor a chicken. I'm not sure why he did that, or why he started to, because everything was just fine before that. Conor had never said anything bad toward Khabib. But, for some reason, Khabib started to call him chicken.
"It might not sound very serious to you guys but, just so you know, chicken is one of the most severe insults you can give a man in Russia. In fact, you call someone a chicken in Russia, that is a person who gets raped, in prison; in a male prison.
"That's what a chicken is in Russia, and Khabib knows that. Everybody knows that. It is a very, very, very severe insult."
Lobov went on to say how McGregor still respected Nurmagomedov and did not engage with the "chicken" comments. 'The Russian Hammer' admitted he was very harsh in a Russian media interview, back in 2016, when he defended McGregor and pointed out Nurmagomedov had a history of pulling out of fights with injuries and issues.
Although the pair crossed paths on a few occasions after that, it was not until the week of UFC 223 that Nurmagomedov decided to press Lobov on the interview. Lobov says he only got physical - grabbing the back of his neck - when he was surrounded by several members of his entourage.
When footage of the testy encounter was shared online, McGregor was immediately in touch. Lobov says, amid a flurry of messages and interview requests, only one person had his back and displayed genuine concern about the scrape he found himself in - Conor McGregor.
"There was only one good message, from Conor.
"[He wrote] 'I'm on the way, I’m coming over, and I don’t care what, when, who, why. I don't give a f**k. You're my brother and I’m on the way over'."
McGregor was on a private, chartered flight within hours and arrived in Brooklyn the next day. The plan, Lobov says, was to confront Nurmagomedov during the UFC 223 media day at the Barclays Center but McGregor & Co. got there too late and headed down to the loading bay.
Matters got out of hand, once there, and windows of the bus carrying Nurmagomedov were smashed. Lobov insists no other fighters were in danger and that McGregor only wanted to go face-to-face with Nurmagomedov.
Lobov was pulled from the UFC 223 fight card in the aftermath of the bus attack and has kept his counsel ever since. However, now that McGregor and Nurmagomedov have fought - at UFC 229 - he wanted to get his side of the story out before concentrating again on his upcoming fight.
— ESPN Podcasts (@espnpodcasts) October 22, 2018
Lobov touched on a lot more during the interview - targeting a fight with Zubaira Tukhugov [the man who hit McGregor from behind at UFC 229], boxing offers and taking on Johnson - and it is really worth a listen.