Samaa Kabbar, The Circle

I have come to a personal realization that when it comes to sports, I don’t just think of it objectively. I don’t see people in terms of numbers, strength, agility, etc. I see them as people and value them as such. It explains why I had such admiration for Paulinho when he went to FC Barcelona because of the struggles he endured to get there, and the underdog he was. Paulinho was given extremely bad reception when he joined Barcelona from Guangzhou Evergrande, part of the Chinese Super League for 40 million euros. People labelled him as inadequate and mocked the decision to buy. Despite almost no jersey sales after he was signed on, Paulinho shocked Barca fans by becoming one of the key midfield players by the end of the season. For me I think performance isn’t the number one driving factor when it comes to me liking an athlete. I will root for the underdog and for those less represented, politically and socially. I look at the person’s character. Are they humble and selfless like Lionel Messi or are they obnoxious and inconsiderate like Sergio Ramos?

If it’s a UFC fight I’ll root for the Mexican, for the African American, or for anyone who looks like they’ve struggled to get where they are at currently.

In regards to the recent brawl after the UFC 229 match between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, my opinions remain the same. I rooted for the Dagestani Muslim who was facing one of the rudest competitors in the business. I’m not in anyway endorsing the violence Khabib has shown post-match, and I truly believe that his victory would have been much stronger had he withheld himself and thanked God in front of millions for his win. If he only held his belt high and then made prostration to God in front of all the racists that opposed him, he would have shown who truly had the upper hand in a classy and respectable way, to say the least. It would have gone down in history as one of the greatest moments for Muslim athletes in today’s day and age, second to only Muhammad Ali.

But at the same time, I despise how he was portrayed. I hate how commentator Michael Bisping called him and his guys thugs and criminals, which rings too many bells to Trump’s use of the same words to demeanize Mexicans. I hate how Khabib was prompted by bullying so much so that he blew up, then media claimed him as the aggressor and McGregor the victim. How can anyone forget that on April 5th,  McGregor was charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief in New York City after him and 10 other of his friends vandalized and attacked people in a bus, looking for Khabib. McGregor threw a hand truck at the bus and shattered a window, with parts of that broken glass injuring Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg which prevented them from fighting that Saturday. He was looking for Khabib after Khabib won an MMA fight against Iquinta.  I hate how McGregor practically forced alcohol in Khabib’s face in mockery of his religion and faith (as the consumption of alcohol is prohibited for health and moral issues) and no one bats an eye. And he had the audacity to tell him that he’s “mad backwards” after Khabib repeated rejected the advances, with much calmness and respect. It’s disgusting how he and his supporters talk trash about his family and his Muslim identity so much, by calling him a “Dagestani rat”, by calling his father a coward, and by calling his manager Ali Abdelaziz a “terrorist”, a “snitch”, and a “rat”. How could anyone possibly support such a man that would call a Muslim UFC manager a terrorist. It’s 2018, and that is blatant hate speech. It comes to me a surprise that Khabib actually held such composure during the duration of said months. But when he did finally crack, it wasn’t McGregor, but it was Khabib who was labelled the “thug”.

But yet again I’m not surprised. Colonizers have been doing this for time. Why is black crime so prominent? Because oppressors belittled them, denied them rights, enslaved them for centuries, denied them access to education, adequate shelter, among a long list of other things, and then have the audacity to call them criminals and thugs when it was they themselves who produced it.

How is it that America tore Iraq apart for its oil, raped the women, pitted groups against each other for their own gain, and armed them, yet look down upon “i-raq” for its turmoil. It becomes the classic case of oppressors blaming the victims for their troubles, and it has no place in the 21st century.

In relation to Khabib’s cousin that attacked McGregor when he was so-called recuperating from the fight, clear footage and evidence shows that McGregor attempted to jump out of the octagon after Khabib, but Khabib’s cousin tried to prevent him from doing so. In retaliation, McGregor was the one to throw the first punch at Khabib’s cousin, prompting defensive attack. What the media was so eager to portray was a one-sided attack against McGregor; an account that is absolutely false. It was another cherry on top to give media outlets the opportunity to label Muslims as violent monsters and the Irishmen as the innocent heroes.

Joe Ragan said himself, Khabib is a respectable man and his outburst was completely out of character. According to TMZ and other accounts, it was Dillon Danis calling Khabib a “f**king Muslim rat” from the stands that finally set him off. This man was about to put his championship down the drain, along with his visa, his reputation, and so much more, out of frustration for the immense racism and islamophobia he’s been getting. No person in their right mind would do something like that unless such bullying becomes so unbearable that he would put everything on line. He kept it in for so long and just exploded. He could have composed himself and hadn’t been physical. By physical, all Khabib did really was push Dillon Danis at most. But he wanted to make a point, and he did. I have nothing but utmost respect for the greatest UFC champion of our age, the greatest in the world, Khabib Nurmagomedov.