There is no denying that Conor McGregor is the biggest name in MMA. He may be the biggest star ever in the UFC. His two fights against Nate Diaz at UFC 196 and 202 are the highest selling PPVs in UFC history. He was the first, and up until now the only fighter in UFC history to hold championships in two weight divisions simultanously, and depending on who you ask or what poll you look at he’s considered to be one of the top 2 pound for pound fighters in the world. He recently had a PPV Q&A that was attended by over 5,000 people that went up head to head against the UFC event on FOX. I’ll get more into that later. He’s a one in a billion fighter with charisma and bravado, but my question remains, Is he good for MMA?
The Upside To McGregor
I mentioned all of his acolades in the intro, and his drawing power and “character” has brought more mainstream attention to MMA. A McGregor fight means that “stars” from sports, movies and tv are going to be clamboring to get tickets and be seen at the event. They’re going to tweet about it, they’re going to post pics on Instagram. All of this is great for the UFC and MMA in general. It is very similar to the hysteria around Mike Tyson fights back in the 90’s. MMA is still a young sport and having a “star” or “stars” for the general public to look at or for the promotion, whatever it might be UFC, Bellator or ACB, to put out in the world as their “posterboy” or girl is great. McGregor does a great job at this. He’s never failed a drug test, he’s never missed weight for a fight and he goes out and puts on a show every time he steps into the octagon.
Another point that I want to hit on with McGregor is his versitility. If you look at his career, his biggest fights have been in 3 different weight divisions. He beat Jose Aldo for the Featherweight Championship, both of his fights with Nate Diaz were at Welterweight, and he beat Eddie Alvarez for the Lightweight Championship back at UFC 205. The UFC has a very deep roster for every weight class, but they don’t always have the “big names” that sell a PPV. McGregor’s name recognition value alone is going to sell out an arena no matter what fights are on the undercard. This gives the UFC the ability to add lesser known fighters to McGregor cards, try to get them some extra attention, and hope that they have a “break-out” performance that can elevate them as well.
The Downside to McGregor
Let me start this section off by saying that what I consider to be the downside of Conor McGregor has nothing to do with his fighting ability or anything he does once he steps into the octagon. Where I see McGregor hurting the UFC and MMA in general is in nearly every aspect of what he does outside of the cage. Let’s start with the PPV that he did last weekend as it’s the freshest thing in my mind.
I have no problem whatsoever with Conor doing a PPV. Why not make some extra money when you’re not fighting. My problem comes from him saying F**K the UFC. I realize that Conor likes to talk smack, and man is he good at it. But as the old saying goes, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I think he has every right to criticize the UFC for stripping him of his featherweight title. He can run down every potential opponent the UFC can come up with for him, he should it makes them much more interesting. However, you can’t or at least really shouldn’t do that to the company that gave you the opportunity to make your millions. Not while you’re still under contract with them, and definitely not when they just said they’d give you and your opponent both $25 million to fight in a boxing match.
That brings me to my next point. The “dream” match with Floyd Mayweather. I hate everything about this, and in my opinion the UFC, McGregor and MMA in general would all be worse off if it happens. (Side note: apparently Dana White has now pretty much said this will not happen) Here’s why I think it hurts the UFC and McGregor. Firstly, if the UFC really gave Conor and Floyd $25 million each I think it would be the last time we ever saw McGregor in a UFC ring. Why should he fight for $500,000 or whatever he gets per fight in the UFC when he can get 10-50 times that to fight in a boxing ring. Let’s be realistic here as well, Floyd Mayweather is the best defensive fighter ever. He’s not going to lose to Conor in a boxing match. An MMA fight is a completely different story, but in boxing not gonna happen. So you have the UFC’s biggest draw losing to a boxer. Conor’s career takes a hit and so does the UFC. The other thing I don’t like about this is what it does to MMA in general. I have no problem with MMA fighters saying they want to get a boxing license and start at the bottom and work their way up, just because they love boxing. My problem is that you have people like Conor or Nate Diaz essentially saying screw MMA, I’m gonna go to boxing for a quick payday. This completely devalues MMA as a sport in my opinion.
I’ve talked before about my feelings on multi-division fighters. Generally, I’m all for it. But I do have a big problem with people jumping the line for title shots or not defending one of their titles. I mentioned that the UFC has a deep roster at every weight class and I think McGregor not defending his featherweight championship for over a year held that division hostage and ultimately hurt the UFC and MMA. If what McGregor says about his willingness to defend that title, but the UFC just stripping him without offering him a fight is true, then fair enough. But now he’s once again put a division in limbo with the whole Mayweather thing. I think if you have a title you need to defend it at least twice a year, unless you are injured. This goes for everyone, not just Conor. If Conor really wants to fight Mayweather and he’s going to take a break for the birth of his son then the UFC needs to crown a interim-lightweight champion and that needs to be McGregor’s first fight when he comes back. Any other fight no matter how big a draw it might be is bad for MMA and bad for the UFC.
That’s my case. Ultimately you’ve got to make your own decision.
I think I was fair right? Am I out of line? Anything you don’t agree with? Let me know in the comments.
Image from www.ufc.com