In a Twitter rant in May 2020, the UFC champ Conor McGregor labeled his rival Khabib Nurmagomedov a “bottle fighter.” The two have a history that spans a few years, with Khabib defeating Conor twice in the ring. And while McGregor is known for being flamboyant and insulting his opponents, what did he mean by the term “bottle fighter”?

The term bottle fighter in terms of MMA fighting skills refers to someone who prefers grappling and takedowns, closing in on an opponent rather than striking maneuvers. Conor McGregor used this term to insult Khabib, claiming that his opponent chooses submission tactics rather than a classic brawl.

The rest of this article will explore what the term bottle fighter implies in an MMA context, and we’ll also look at an alternate definition of the term.

Why Conor Calls Khabib a Bottle Fighter

In Conor’s tweet, he states that his rival is a “bottle fighter” and says that Khabib is a “man that loves to hug legs.” From this statement, we can infer that a bottle fighter in an MMA context is someone who prefers takedowns, or fighting in extremely close quarters, rather than relying on strikes.

Conor implies that Khabib is scared to strike him with his hands, legs, elbows, and knees and prefers what he believes to be underhanded tactics.

Here, the term bottle is used to reference how a fighter closes the distance between himself and the opponent, keeping the fight “bottled” in a tight space.

Therefore, a bottle fighter refers to someone who relies heavily on takedowns and grapples, which, according to Conor, isn’t a real way to fight. However, the term bottle fighter can mean something entirely different in a sports context.

An Alternative Definition of Bottle Fighter

In football and most other competitive sports, “bottle” can be referred to as the mental aptitude to handle the intense pressure of a game and emerge victorious. The term is also used to describe someone who carries out the right actions with conviction and courage, even in the face of intense opposition.

In this sense, perhaps Conor unknowingly described Khabib Nurmagomedov’s actual mental state while fighting.

If you’re a fan of MMA and the UFC, you’re probably aware of Khabib’s unbroken streak of wins (currently at twenty-nine wins and zero losses). And winning every fight when the world is watching and millions of dollars are on the line requires a mental aptitude that few fighters can hope to match.

As such, it would be more accurate to use the term “bottle fighter” in this context. In this sense, the term implies someone who can bottle or stifle fears, doubts, and other negative emotions during competition and focus on getting the job done. This way of being requires incredible mental aptitude and takes practice to cultivate.

an alternative definition of bottle fighter

Luckily, there are other MMA fighters besides Khabib from whom you can learn this calm, collected demeanor. Here are a few.

Kamaru Usman

Popularly known as the Nigerian Nightmare, Kamaru Usman is a fighter who seems to get better as the pressure increases. He was criticized for playing it safe during many of his early bouts. But as the competition level increased, Usman rose to the challenge and got better with every fight.

Khamzat Chimaev

While he’s not as famous as most other fighters mentioned in the article, Chimaev is known for quickly adjusting to the pressure in the ring. In fact, he picked up his first two wins within ten days of getting in the octagon.

He may not have as much experience as most of the other fighters he faces, but when it comes to keeping his cool, Chimaev is up there with the greats.

He has even managed to fight and defeat ranked opponents without appearing to be fazed during his bouts.

Israel Adesanya

Israel Adesanya is a fighter that fans have repeatedly criticized for a safety-first, unorthodox fighting style. And his refusal to change his approach despite criticism shows how well he can adapt to the pressure that comes with big fights.

Israel is known for bouncing around his opponents and giving them openings before knocking them out. Any fighter who sticks to their approach in the face of criticism can handle the pressure.

Final Thoughts

While Conor has used the term bottle fighter to insult his rival Khabib, the term is better suited as a compliment to describe those with nerves of steel, capable of going all guns blazing even under intense pressure.