Dillon Danis recounts role in UFC 229 brawl: 'It was kind of fun'
After Nurmagomedov (27-0 MMA, 11-0 UFC) forced a fourth-round tap from McGregor (21-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) to defend his UFC lightweight title, all hell broke loose when Nurmagomedov jumped out of the cage and went after Danis (1-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), a McGregor friend and training partner who was cornering the famed Irishman.
Although it seemed Nurmagomedov’s wrath toward Danis only came out at the conclusion of the bout, the Bellator fighter said he got warning signs from the UFC champ throughout the contest.
“This started in I think the third or second round,” Danis said on “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show” on ESPN’s YouTube page. “I was behind the cage and he was on the other side and he kept trying to come. He was pointing and saying stuff to me and I was thinking in my head, ‘Man, this guy is crazy.’ I’m trying to focus on my friend. He kept coming and saying stuff and cursing and I’m like, ‘This dude is insane.’
“Even in between rounds, they were close to the fence and he was like eyeing and mouthing stuff. It started during the fight, that stuff was going on. I could kind of sense he was in a different state of mind.”
After putting McGregor away in the fourth round at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nurmagomedov slipped past security to jump the octagon fence in a wild visual. From there, utter chaos ensued as multiple people got involved, including some of Nurmagomedov’s teammates attacking McGregor inside the cage.
According to Danis, he got some strange vibes when Rizvan Magomedov, who is part of Nurmagomedov’s management group at Dominance MMA, came within his personal space during the bout. Danis was focused on guiding McGregor through a difficult affair, though, and said he tried not to pay any mind to what was going on.
Even after watching McGregor lose, Danis said turning the situation into a physical altercation was not part of his mindset.
“After the fight, even with Nate Diaz or any of them, after a fight it’s usually respect,” Danis said. “I would never, ever start a fight with someone after a fight. I’m a martial artist from the beginning, since I was a kid and that’s just not who I am.”
That said, once he was locked in the heat of the moment, Danis said there was no turning back.
“I actually didn’t mind it,” Danis said. “I don’t necessarily say I like stuff like that, but that’s just like another Saturday night where I come from. It was kind of fun.
“When he jumped, it was such a weird act because he had his hands and his feet up and it’s like, ‘How do I block this?’ I was really confused. I was like, ‘Is he going to drop kick me?’ In my head I just wanted to block. I don’t know if he hit me with a hammerfist. I don’t remember. I think most of the marks I had was from after when the guys were punching me and stuff. He didn’t really hit me.
“I remember I hit him with a right hand and then I got him in the clinch and had like a collar tie on him and was throwing uppercuts. It was weird because usually when you fight someone they want to fight you. He wasn’t coming toward me, he was going away from me and I kept trying to bring him back in the collar tie. It was the weirdest thing ever. It was just mayhem after that.”
During the fallout of the UFC 229 brawl, Danis was accused of provoking Nurmagomedov through the use of religious insults directed at Muslims. Danis vehemently denied that aspect of the story.
“No,” Danis said. “There was how many people in that arena? There was not one video of me saying that. I’m pretty sure that was just (Nurmagomedov’s manager) Ali (Abdelaziz) trying to start trouble, which is very disheartening because I have very close friends that are Muslim and of many religions and that hurt me actually.”
Once the dust settled from the melee, Danis was one of the people targeted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) for disciplinary action coming out of UFC 229. Even after Nurmagomedov, McGregor and other role players were handed punishments, Danis was waiting for his.
Just this past month, the NSAC announced it’s punishment for Danis, which was a seven-month suspension and $7,500 fine. Danis would’ve preferred the timeframe be shorter, but said his overall complaints are minimal.
“I think they did a good job,” Danis said. “Seven months is a little bit long, but I’m just glad it’s over because now I can fight. That’s what was really killing me. I love to fight. It sucked, seven months of not fighting. You’re sitting there kind of lost just like, ‘I want to fight. Get back with my career. I’m only 25.’ It takes a lot of time out of my young career.”
Danis will resume his career on May 11 when he meets Max Humphreys at Bellator 221. He is focused on staying active in 2019, he said, but is eagerly anticipating the day McGregor and Nurmagomedov run it back, because he has the utmost belief it will be a different result.
“I don’t think it will ever be dead. I can’t wait for Conor to get that back when he knocks him out. It’s going to feel so good. He’s such a better fighter than him. I can’t wait for everybody to see that. 100 percent they have to do it again. In my opinion, and I think a lot of people’s opinions, Conor is the best fighter in the world.”