Melee at end of UFC 229 not damaging for MMA but still disappointing

LAS VEGAS -- Let's get one thing straight.

What happened in the aftermath of UFC 229's main event isn't going to hurt mixed martial arts or even tarnish it in the eyes of most.

Yeah, there probably were some new UFC viewers on Saturday who don't normally pay $64.99 for a pay-per-view. But I'm not sure how many of those were "soccer moms," as UFC president Dana White suggested -- soccer moms now so offended that they've written off MMA.

It seems more likely that the majority of those viewers were within the UFC's targeted demographic and didn't mind whatsoever that they got a little extra fisticuffs for their investment.

In all likelihood, this is probably a net positive for MMA. On Monday, some talk shows will condemn the UFC 229 postfight antics, but by the time the UFC starts talking about a rematch, we'll all be ready to revisit and salivate over the footage.

And you know that rematch is gonna sell.

So no, when the dust settles, this will not go down as the worst night in UFC history. It's probably not even "super duper, really super bad," as White told ESPN.

It is, though, in many ways, super duper, really super disappointing.

Because Saturday night's lightweight title fight was so good. It was brilliant. It was the epitome of what you hope and wait for in this sport. Two elite competitors who came mentally and skillfully prepared for each other's best, and delivered a world-class contest.

I wanted to hear from Khabib Nurmagomedov after a victory like this. And I wanted to hear from Conor McGregor, who talks less and less these days -- and when he does, it feels like he's half-selling us whiskey.

The loud, personal, political buildup to this fight was one thing, but I wanted Saturday to be solely about the actual fight.

That doesn't happen enough. Daniel Cormier made history at UFC 226 earlier this year against a historic opponent in Stipe Miocic, but we left the arena talking about Brock Lesnar. On Saturday, Tony Ferguson heroically returned from a serious knee surgery five months ago, delivered a Fight of the Year candidate -- but that will receive about 1 percent of the attention and coverage, unlike the postfight melee.

In the only brief statement Nurmagomedov made to the media on Saturday, he asked why anyone would question his actions, after McGregor had verbally attacked his family and religion and physically attacked a bus he was on back in April.

Why should Nurmagomedov act any differently after video of that attack was used to promote the fight? In a sport in which throwing bottles back and forth at a news conference results in higher buy rates and a WWE star coming off a drug suspension gets a title shot?

Saturday's actions are (arguably) what MMA in general has come to halfway encourage -- and it is what it is. There are worse things in the world than cage fighters acting out. There is even a case to be made that, at times, some ugliness can make a fight more compelling.

But it can also just completely overshadow it. Following an event as electric as Saturday's, it would have been nice if the fights could have been the biggest story.