Artem Lobov is set for the biggest fight of his UFC career against Michael Johnson this weekend at UFC Moncton, but invariably Ariel Helwani's recent interview with the Russian leaned towards Lobov's friend and SBG team mate Conor McGregor, and his ongoing feud with Khabib Nurmagomedov.
There is no love lost between the two fighters, especially following the ugly scenes that marred the end of Khabib's win over the Dubliner at UFC 229, when the Dagestani jumped out of the octagon attacked a member of McGregor's team causing a melee which saw members of Khabib's corner rush the cage and hit an unsuspecting McGregor.
Of course McGregor is not an innocent party in this case, with his dolly throwing incident back in April stoking the fires of the rivalry, which was a response to Nurmagomedov confronting Lobov in the lead up to UFC 223.
Lobov explained to Helwani that his the use of the word 'chicken' in reference to McGregor was the nucleus of the spat between the two Russians, which in turn led to McGregor's dolly throwing incident:
It might not sound very serious to you guys, but just so you know, ‘chicken’ is one of the biggest insults you can give a man in Russia.
In fact, if you call someone a chicken in Russia, that is a person that gets raped in prison – in male prison. That’s what a chicken is in Russia. And Khabib knows that, and everybody knows that. It is a very, very, severe insult.
The featherweight fighter, who has been with McGregor throughout his meteoric rise, reasoned to Helwani that he had to defend his friend, and argued that he spoke facts when trash talking his fellow Russian:
Of course, me knowing the severity of this insult, I had to respond in a hard way. And I think anybody would’ve done the same. If I didn’t do that, then what kind of friend am I? You know what I mean? Of course, my response was pretty harsh, but I spoke facts. I talked about Khabib himself pulling out of fights all the time and the fact that Conor has never pulled out. And I said how could he call him a chicken when he’s the one pulling out all the time but Conor has never pulled out?
Look, it was a harsh response, but given the situation, I thought it was an appropriate response. And I didn’t see how I could not respond that way. And to be honest, if I was asked 100 times in the same interview the same question, my response would’ve been the same, even knowing what has happened since then.
Lobov stated that Khabib continued to confront him asking him 'Why did you say that?', to which Lobov asserted that if someone had called one of Khabib's team a chicken he would have responded in the same way:
And he just kept saying, ‘None of your business. Why did you call me that?’ Over and over again. And I explained to him, ‘Look, I didn’t say that to you directly. I said that in response to you calling him a chicken.’ And that was it. That’s how that all happened.