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With Conor McGregor as example, NSAC wants to suspend, fine fighters for pre-fight trash talk

The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Conor McGregor for his actions inside the cage at UFC 229. But down the road, the commission could go after his words.

“I think it’s something we should look to in the future, and I think we should rein it in,” NSAC Executive Director Bob Bennett said after the commission voted unanimously to give McGregor (21-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) a six-month suspension and $50,000 fine for his part in the infamous post-fight melee.

NSAC Chairman Anthony Marnell first raised the issue by asking whether the settlement covered McGregor’s words in the lead-up to his fight with champ Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0 MMA, 11-0 UFC), as well as a bus attack months prior in Brooklyn, N.Y., that served as the promotional backbone of the pay-per-view event.

The answer, of course, was no. Nevada’s attorney general office, which represents the commission in disciplinary matters against fighters, only took into account the 30 or 40 seconds when McGregor leapt onto the cage and mixed it up with Nurmagomedov’s cornermen. It definitely didn’t have any jurisdiction over the bus attack, which took place in New York.

But Marnell wondered aloud whether that couldn’t be changed down the road.

“I don’t agree with it, and I certainly don’t like it, the language that is used and is continuing to escalate year in and year out,” he said.

Bennett chimed in to agree.

“I think it’s gotten to the point with certain unarmed combatants to where it’s become totally unacceptable,” he said. “There’s not any other athletes, that I’m aware of, that have spoken in various press conferences the way Mr. McGregor has. I definitely think, unequivocally, that’s something we need to take a more active role in and take an active role in for their language.”

Marnell offered a potential warning or regulation change as a way to put fighters on notice that their pre-fight speech is no longer protected.

“(It) would break a lot of precedent and without notice that we’re going to start fining and/or suspending for what you say vs. what you do,” he said.

But McGregor’s attorney Mike Mersch politely hinted there’s plenty of precedent when it comes to the freedom of expression.

“I would applaud the commission’s caution with their exercising in not getting too far ahead into areas that have been adjudicated in the past,” he said.

McGregor will be eligible to return to the octagon in April. He will no doubt test the commission’s resolve to police speech.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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