Home MMA Raimondi’s Legitimate Questions: Can the UFC produce another megastar like Rousey or...

Raimondi’s Legitimate Questions: Can the UFC produce another megastar like Rousey or McGregor?


Kamaru Usman was winning all the way, moving towards a unanimous decision win, until Leon Edwards caught him with a head kick that knocked him unconscious on impact. A fifth-round knockout gave Edwards the UFC Welterweight Championship and ended Usman’s incredible 15-fight winning streak. The second longest such streak in promotion history.

Nine weeks later, Islam Makhachev tore through Charles Oliveira, winning by arm triangle choke submission in the first round to capture the UFC lightweight title. Oliveira has won 11 in a row. And just three weeks after that, Alex Pereira stopped Israel Adesanya with punches in the fifth round. Like Usman, Adesanya was on his way to winning the fight but lost by technical knockout. Pereira captured the UFC middleweight title, ending Adesanya’s 12-fight division winning streak.

Usman, Oliveira and Adesanya were among the top five fighters on the planet, regardless of the weight category. And within 12 weeks, everyone was finished off by rivals, and not one of them is now the holder of UFC titles.

All of which goes to show the obvious: MMA is a brutally complex sport. One where it’s hard to build any momentum and easily smash everything you’ve built in one fell swoop. Long winning streaks are almost impossible to put together and can be stopped by force. Consistency, which is easier to achieve in other sports endeavors, is almost a badge of honor here. It’s so hard to achieve.

Which brings us to the latest inbox “Legal Questions” and the most intriguing question of the week from longtime sports journalist Jonathan Snowden.

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The process of building stars is fascinating because there is no process at all. There is no such formula. Sometimes it can be completely organic, and sometimes athletes who seem to follow all the rules never communicate with the fans in this way.

One of the similarities between McGregor and Rousey was that the UFC immediately recognized what they had and promoted both of them incredibly heavily from the very beginning of their UFC appearances. McGregor’s second fight in the UFC took place in Boston, a city with a huge population of Irish Americans. His third fight in the UFC was headlined in his native Dublin.

In Rousey’s case, the UFC gave her the first ever women’s bantamweight title without ever winning it in a cage. She headlined her first UFC pay-per-view fight – and it was the first women’s fight in UFC history. As for Rosie, this will never happen again given the context.

That doesn’t mean McGregor’s path will be easier to replicate. Barely. He and Rousey understood that MMA was an entertainment medium, perhaps first and foremost, and everything else secondarily. It helped that both were professional wrestling fans growing up and had an innate idea of ​​how to turn themselves into what was essentially a character—their personalities grew to 11. They drew on the promotional aspect of MMA, from social media to engagement. in an absurd number of interviews. There were world media tours and gym workouts that the UFC usually didn’t do for other fighters.

But McGregor and Rousey also needed to keep winning fights. Other things will only get you part of the way. A win (and a spectacular win in many cases) turns someone who gets clicks on social media into a superstar. Both of them achieved victories and highlights in this aspect.

You could see the UFC went the same route with Sean O’Malley early on. But O’Malley’s early years in the UFC were filled with injuries and USADA headaches. He then lost to Marlon “Chito” Vera in 2020 due to a leg injury. At this point, his momentum stopped, although he partially regained it and is now the #1 contender for the bantamweight title.

In comparison, McGregor headlined UFC Fight Night in his third UFC fight and was in contention for the title in his sixth. O’Malley, who is very popular with Generation Z and is almost like the UFC version of Paul’s brother, has fought 10 fights in the UFC and never competed.

For a long time there was an opinion that the glory in MMA came at the beginning of your career; if it had not manifested itself earlier, it would never have happened. This is no longer the case. Both Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal transitioned (borrowing a popularity term from professional wrestling) late in their UFC careers, becoming cult figures due to their anti-establishment attitude and willingness to engage in bloody wars with opponents. For these two, winning fights wasn’t as important as the authentic characters they portrayed, although Masvidal’s knockouts of Darren Till and Ben Askren pushed him.

People were so connected to Masvidal and Diaz that the UFC created a mythical title for them, “The Baddest Mom”, which they will fight for in 2019 at Madison Square Garden. To add to the wrestling vibe, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was there to put the belt on the winner, which was Masvidal.

Diaz and Masvidal may not have achieved the box office and pay-per-view success of McGregor or Rousey, but they also didn’t have the full power of the UFC’s advertising machine to begin with. Fans just thought they were stars despite their records. It’s almost like WWE when the likes of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk put up with the fans despite WWE force-feeding John Cena and Roman Reigns to the masses.

I’m curious if there will be stars like McGregor and Rousey back in the UFC, but there will be fighters who will be around. No one on the UFC roster is an obvious successor, although Khamzat Chimaev and O’Malley stand a good chance of reaching a high level. Francis Ngannou has a chance to become someone special. He looks like someone from a Marvel movie, hits like a truck and holds up well. Adesanya and Usman are stars in the vein of Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, based on stable work over a long period and acting like top-level professionals. Brandon Moreno has some potential too.

Bo Nickal is a promising fighter who could soon become a big event too. And the aforementioned Vera has a chance to be the next Diaz or Masvidal, someone the UFC has never pushed out of the gate but has been accepted by the fans. You can see this connection between Vera and the fans growing in real time right now.

The creation of a star is a nebulous process, and there is no universal plan for it. For a long time, Demetrius Johnson was one of the best fighters in the world, regardless of weight class, but the fans left before his main fights. Then you have someone like Jake Paul who is a fringe prospect in boxing but is one of the most talked about (and highest paid) fighters in the sport thanks to his social media influencer background and his ability to promote.

None of this makes complete sense. But suppose there is a fighter with an over-caricature of personality who gets along with fans, who is willing to build his brand through multiple means, and who can brutally knock people out. In this case, the UFC can use its marketing machine for this athlete and potentially turn him into the promotion’s next megastar. Fighters like this don’t come around that often and you can’t order them every time to win like in WWE.

I can’t imagine it being noticeable otherwise. Especially at this point, the UFC is a well-oiled machine and White’s vision has been realized. If he were to leave the promotion, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon, things would be much the same, if not completely the same. White has all his people, and his right-hand man, Hunter Campbell, the commercial director of the UFC, is involved in most of the big deals and decisions.

It’s an interesting question considering what’s going on in the WWE right now. Vince McMahon retired, and his daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Paul “Triple H” Levesque, along with President Nick Khan, led the company. There have been quite a few subtle (and some not-so-subtle) changes at WWE over the last few months, especially in creative philosophy – the way certain wrestlers and titles are awarded or positioned, the openness to mentioning wrestlers’ stories in other promotions, etc.

If White were gone, similar changes could occur, but the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rings true here. The UFC is enjoying an incredible post-pandemic sales streak with 27 consecutive arena sellouts. The quality of the pay-per-view cards was high, as was the matchmaking system, which has recently created attractive opponents for long-time champions, to the point where said challenges bring those champions down.

Cross-promotion, increased pay for fighters, and a change in weight classes are things that may be of interest to a small part of the fans. But what practical use will these things bring to the UFC? The UFC doesn’t need to be cross promoted; this is already a promotion with a huge market share of the best fighters in the world. And as far as paying fighters, when has a corporation ever really unilaterally decided to pay its employees more money? This is not the case—these changes must be forced through collective bargaining, legislation, or both. These things…

Source: www.espn.com