LAS VEGAS — Daniel Cormier had the best seat in the house when Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted Conor McGregor and then started a full-scale brawl with McGregor’s teammates at UFC 229. Although he is teammates with Nurmagomedov, Cormier was wearing his analyst hat that night as part of the cageside commentary team.
"At first I was like, 'Oh, my God, I'm going to go help my teammate.' Like, I was about to go fight," Cormier recalled Friday during a media day at the UFC Performance Institute for his heavyweight title defense against Derrick Lewis at UFC 230. "But then when I got out there I was like, 'What am I thinking?’”
In a now-infamous scene, Nurmagomedov climbed out of the Octagon and went after McGregor's jiu-jitsu coach Dillon Danis, which sparked an all-out melee between the teams. It took time to restore order and Cormier had to inject himself into the fray in an attempt to calm the UFC lightweight champion.
"When we got to the locker room, I said, 'Hey, what was the desired outcome there? Did you want to step on his head? What did you want to do? What were you trying to accomplish?' He said, 'Brother, I don't know, I lost my mind,'" Cormier said with a laugh.
Part one of the McGregor-Nurmagomedov post fight brawl through the eyes of Daniel Cormier who is...— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) October 19, 2018
A) Khabib’s teammate
B) Doing commentary pic.twitter.com/RI41cicBfv
He chuckled because he understood where his teammate was coming from, not because he shares a bond with him as part of American Kickboxing Academy, but because he found himself in a similar situation with Khabib’s circle of friends where things could have gone south in a hurry.
"No (I wasn’t surprised at what happened), because one time I hurt his neck in practice and they were about to kick my ass," he said. "Seriously. They all started standing up and surrounded me. Those guys don't play around. They don’t mess around. They were really going to jump me.
"Khabib is the crown jewel of that circle. They love him. When he felt that the disrespect (from McGregor) was happening, I wasn't sure what exactly was going to happen, but I know that during the buildup he wasn't building a fight; he was just getting madder and madder. Conor was just building a fight. They were on two different wavelengths."
Part 2. Cormier also reveals the time Khabib’s people were going to jump him. Also, he made fun of the guy who Conor McGregor socked in the face during the melee. pic.twitter.com/FsD4nWSuBd— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) October 19, 2018
Many believe that the free-for-all will play a major role in putting McGregor and Nurmagomedov back in the cage for another record-breaking pay-per-view. Cormier praised McGregor's performance, even in defeat.
"Conor actually fought well. It was a testament to his toughness and preparation," Cormier said.
As far as a rematch is concerned, though, the two-division champion isn’t so sure.
"Financially? Yes (they should fight again), but if you’re Conor, I don't know why you think a rematch would play out any differently," Cormier said. "I thought he fought well but I don't know how much more he can learn to change the outcome. There's a big gap between those two on the ground."