MCGREGOR’S SUCCESS IS GOOD FOR HIM, THE UFC, AND NOBODY ELSE
McGregor’s success I good for him, the UFC, and nobody else
After UFC 205, Conor McGregor is unquestionably the brightest star in the UFC galaxy. That star, however, only heats up the respective planets of the UFC and McGregor himself.
Despite the always rebellious tone of McGregor, he remains the model employee of the UFC. Sure, Dana White can publicly state that McGregor is “A little tough to work with, but he’s worth it.”
Truthfully, McGregor is more than “worth it”; the man takes fights on short notice, turns press conferences into viral videos, sets gate and pay-per-view records, and enormously raises the profile of any event he is a part of. McGregor is very good for the UFC, but does his rising tide lift all boats?
To be clear, McGregor does not have any obligation to any other fighters; he is part of no union or association that he is obliged to represent. It is undeniable, however, that aside from those who are on the undercards of McGregor fights, no other UFC fighters benefit from McGregor’s stardom.
After UFC 205 McGregor made it clear that he wants more; McGregor stated his desire to acquire an equity stake in the UFC. While it remains unclear if the UFC will cater to his demands; McGregor has earned unprecedented leverage. This leverage though is used against both the UFC and other fighters. It can be argued that the UFC has used the leverage of McGregor to manipulate the careers of Frankie Edgar, Jose Aldo, and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Part of the McGregor mystic is his ability to make other fighters appear as inferior businessmen who lack the acumen of McGregor both inside and outside of the Octagon. The truth is, McGregor is not wrong. No other fighter has ever been able to merge fighting ability with negotiating power in the manner that McGregor has.
Keeping other fighters at a financial disadvantage is vital to McGregor’s image. Campaigning on behalf of fighters on issues of drug testing, fighter pay, and the Reebok sponsorship is contradictory to McGregor’s aura. The UFC may not be pleased with the storm that McGregor has created, but it pales in compression to the hurricane that a united front of top level fighters like McGregor could potentially create. Instead of viewing McGregor as the thorn is the side of the UFC, he should be seen as an extension of their power.
Last month this column postulated who was really in control of the UFC, but the truth may be that the UFC and Conor McGregor are in actuality a coalition of mutually beneficial entities who make each other a lot of money, while all others get table scraps. The UFC now has their dream scenario in Conor McGregor he is a historically great fighter, who is an unprecedented draw, totally unfazed by a loss, unafraid to test his skill, and symbolically stands opposed to the demands of other fighters in the sport.
McGregor unquestionably deserves his perch atop the MMA world, but the question remains, what condition will the sport be in when his time is done?
CONTRAST OF MONDAY MORNING UFC COVERAGE
While UFC 205 was a critical and commercial success, the task of penetrating the mainstream sports conversation on the Monday after was a difficult one. The Sunday after UFC 205 featured one of the more dynamic NFL Sundays of the current uninspiring season.
From a television perspective, ESPN’s “First Take”, FS1’s “Undisputed” and “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” took time away from their wall-to-wall football coverage to talk some Conor McGregor.
During their brief coverage of UFC 205, a major distinction existed between the networks, the FS1 shows, made no mention of McGregor’s request for an equity stake in the UFC. “Undisputed” continued their unending quest to discuss McGregor’s viability in a boxing ring, while “The Herd” talked up their perceived superiority of The UFC over boxing and professional wrestling. On the other hand, “First Take” focused their UFC discussion on McGregor’s demand.
It may just be a coincidence, or it may be another illustration of the lack of independence that FS1 has regarding UFC coverage. UFC 205 understandably had a limited amount of mainstream sports real estate on the Monday after, but to avoid such a newsworthy aspect of the event in lieu of trivial discourse is curious.
Outside of the McGregor madness, the most newsworthy story of UFC 205 was the sudden retirement of former Women’s Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate. In the wake of Tate’s retirement a healthy amount of career obituaries have emerged from around the MMA media, but perhaps the most poignant one was penned by Ben Fowlkes of MMAJunkie.com.
Titled “With Miesha Tate’s retirement, women’s MMA loses a bridge between eras,” the piece does an excellent job of reminding the public of how important Tate was the inception of female entry into the UFC.
Tate’s place in history is unclear at the moment. Will she be a footnote in the Ronda Rousey story of MMA dominance, or will she be remembered, as Fowlkes describes, “her (Rousey’s) perfect foil for their breakthrough Strikeforce fight.” Only time will tell.
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