The UFC has a Star Power Problem

The UFC is about to put on UFC 211 and the feature Main Event will be the heavyweight championship match between the champ, Ohio’s own Stipe Miocic and Brazil’s Junior Dos Santos a former champion.  The old saying goes that styles make fights and these guys styles are tailor made for a slug fest.  They both like to throw hands. Dos Santos has KO power and Miocic is a fast economical striker who has a good amount of power in his own right.  The last time these two clashed it was a five round, bloody, slug fest with both guys landing significant strikes that would have put any normal person in a six month coma.  Dos Santos won the fight by decision and it was a literal miracle that it made it to the judges.  The first fight was a turning point in Miocic’s career. He came out of it a better fighter and started a trend upward, it’s big part of the reason why he’s the champ now. These two guys have history, they have the right styles, and are both world class fighters!  Yet despite all that when I asked my friends “hey, you guys wanna get together and watch UFC 211?” the overwhelming response was “eeh, I don’t really care if McGregor’s not fighting.”

This is a huge fucking problem for Dana White and company. Over the last three years Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor have opened up the UFC to a larger fan base.  Their fighting styles, their personalities, and most importantly their dominance over their competition made them bona fide celebrities outside the octagon.  McGregor’s big brash Irish trash talk and his confident fighting style that oozed an authentic swagger couldn’t help but draw people in.  Rousey pulled people in by fucking owning women’s fighting and having an amazing look.  She was beautiful but carried herself like a fucking bad ass making her this odd combination of intriguing and threatening.  The two of them were great for the sport but have become a burden to the brand in the absence.  Rousey took a beating from Holly Holmes and in part due to confidence and part due to poor coaching hasn’t been able to recover.  McGregor has now become such a star that he’s eclipsed the sport and put the UFC in a dangerous place as far as the future of paying stars and fighters.  McGregor wants a cut of the of the UFC and may now fight Floyd “illiterate douche” Mayweather.

With the two biggest stars in the UFC’s history likely to have already had their last fights it has created a vacuum at the top of the UFC main event scene.  The UFC’s solution to this problem seems to have been to fill it with names from the past, putting George St. Pierre in the middleweight title picture, however fan backlash and GSP’s insistence on the fight being in November instead of July like the UFC wanted has been negative to the appeal of the fight.  The upside to this is that Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero will now fight Michael Bisping for the Middleweight belt.  If you’re not familiar with Romero find his highlights online.  Romero is a World Champion and Olympic wrestler who looks like he was carved from stone. Now I only learned about Romero recently because of a clip from UFC Color Commentator Joe Rogan’s podcast.  Which is ridiculous!  if the UFC wants to keep the crowd that it’s past stars brought in Romero is just the type of guy they need to expose the two.  The guy was an Olympic silver medalist who defected from Cuba to Germany in ’07 at the age of 30, he fought his way around Easter Europe until he made it to Strikeforce MMA where he caught the UFC’s attention and has been undefeated in the UFC with a career fight record of 13-1.  The guy has an amazing story and yet the average sports fan doesn’t know who he is.

If the UFC wants to keep doing the business it’s done under the McGregor era they have to expose the public to their fighter.  After all these people are willingly walking into a cage with highly trained warriors.  That makes them inherently interesting people, so show us that. Make the public aware of these people’s stories and their training and sacrifices and people will buy into them like they did to Rousey.  Very few fighters have McGregor’s gift for shit talking but they all likely have something that is interesting and relatable that will make people want to see them fight.  If you expose who these people are both as fighters and as people through the press and social media so that the next time you have a fight of this caliber of Miocic vs Dos Santos I don’t have to convince my friends to buy in they’ll want to see and they’ll need to see.

Written By: Jason MacKinnon (@oohkillemjason)

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