Many are predicting that Conor McGregor’s actions last night at the 3Arena will go unpunished, or that the UFC lightweight champion will be given a mere slap on the wrists for jumping into the cage and laying his hands on referee Marc Goddard in the aftermath of his teammate Charlie Ward’s KO win over John Redmond at Bellator 187 – such is his importance to the continued prosperity of MMA and the resultant power that he wields within the sport.
However, a post-fight statement from Mike Mazzulli, the director of the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation and the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions, suggests that McGregor might not get off so lightly.
Due to the fact that Ireland does not have it’s own athletic commission to oversee MMA, the Mohegan commission and Mazzulli served in a regulatory capacity at the event.
While the Irish superstar’s behaviour is indicative of the belief that the rules no longer apply to him, Mazzulli last night assured MMAJunkie’s Steve Marrocco that, “Mr. McGregor is not bigger than the sport of MMA.”
ABC President Mike Mazzulli, who was serving in a regulatory capacity at Bellator 187, just texted me: "Mr. McGregor is not bigger than the sport of MMA!!!"
— Steven Marrocco (@MMAjunkieSteven) November 10, 2017
In the past, fighters have been severely punished for becoming physical with referees. Jason High was handed a one-year suspension and a minor fine by the New Mexico State Athletic Commission after he shoved referee Kevin Mulhall in the aftermath of a stoppage loss to Rafael dos Anjos in June of 2014. He was also released by the UFC as a result of his actions. Last year, then UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson was handed a nine-month suspension by the Brazilian Superior Justice Court of MMA for kicking referee John McCarthy following his win over Antonio Silva at UFC Fight Night 95 in Brasilia. The suspension was later reduced to six months and a fine of $13,700 after Nelson issued a formal apology to McCarthy.
It should also be noted that McGregor committed the added offence of slapping a Bellator employee.
If McGregor were handed a suspension by the Mohegan commission it would not automatically mean that other commissions would respect that decision and uphold the suspension in their respective jurisdictions, but that would be the likely outcome.
This could potentially scupper the proposed fight between he and interim UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, which is reportedly being discussed for UFC 219 in Las Vegas on December 30th.
This isn’t the first time that McGregor has fallen foul of an athletic commission, of course. ‘The Notorious’ one was landed with a hefty $75,000 fine, ordered to contribute $75,000 toward the funding of an anti-bullying PSA and complete a period of 50 hours community service by the Nevada State Athletic Commission(NSAC) for his participation in a now infamous fracas at the UFC 202 post-fight press conference in 2016.
When that punishment was handed down, many felt that McGregor had been harshly treated and that the oft-derided NSAC were on a power trip.
At a subsequent re-hearing, however, the severity of the sanctions were reduced. McGregor was ultimately forced to pay just $25,000 and complete 25 hours of community service.
If McGregor receives a significant sanction for his actions on Friday, it’s unlikely that the MMA world will be critical of Mazzulli or his commissioners the way it was of the NSAC last year. In fact, Mazzulli & Co. might be lauded.