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07th Oct 2018

Here’s what Khabib’s corner told him to do just before the fourth round

Patrick McCarry

They sensed the end was near.

Conor McGregor went to the championship rounds against Khabib Nurmagomedov but he did not go the distance. His corner did a fine job at keeping the Dagestani focused when he was not even sure what round he was heading into.

Nurmagomedov put in a dominant display against the former UFC lightweight champion and would have been leading by three or four points (39-35 or 39-36, depending on the judge) going into the final round before he snapped in the neck crank and forced a tap.

McGregor did well to last the guts of four rounds with the Dagestani but it all kicked off before that fourth and final round.

McGregor’s hooking of Nurmagomedov’s gloves – tying him up so he could not bring about a take-down – clearly got under the champion’s skin. He was distracted by McGregor’s tactics and was fired up mid-round and, as we all saw, after the fight.

UFC commentator Joe Rogan spoke about the Dubliner’s glove-hooking after the fight. He told UFC on FOX:

“Khabib was angry because Conor was grabbing Khabib’s gloves. He was hooking against his gloves and he was doing it illegally.

“Khabib said it to Herb Dean, he said that Conor did it three times. That’s what it was all about. That’s why he was fired up.”

McGregor gloves

The pay-per-view broadcast picked up the instructions from Nurmagomedov’s corner between the third and fourth rounds.

Javier Mendez, his trainer, had an interesting conversation and it was clear Nurmagomedov was a bit confused.

MENDEZ: “He’s tired, brother. He’s tired. Don’t let him work, don’t let him work. Just pressure him.”

NURMAGOMEDOV: “This is the fourth round?”

MENDEZ: “This is the fourth round. Just drink some water.”

NURMAGOMEDOV: (To referee Herb Dean) “Three times he do it [hook the gloves]. Three times… You say to him ‘Two times. One more time you lose a point’ and he still [does it].”

MENDEZ: “Concentrate on the fight.”

The advice from Mendez must have permeated as Nurmagomedov followed it to a tee in the fourth round. He traded in the stand-up with McGregor but waited for an opening and took him down.

Once he had a wilting McGregor on the mat, he drove home the advantage and cranked the neck.

There were some doubts about Nurmagomedov’s true pedigree against, in McGregor’s words, running with the big dogs. After UFC 229 – despite the controversial scenes after the fight – those doubts have been well and truly erased.