On Saturday night Conor McGregor once again delivered a performance befitting his status as one of the hottest properties in mixed martial arts. Though he was in the cage for under two minutes, he took another big step forward to being one of the the top stars in our sport.
Conor McGregor DOES get special treatment – but is that a bad thing?
However, as usual, much of the conversation surrounding McGregor involved things other than his fighting ability. When McGregor revealed to the media that he would be at cage side in Brazil for the Aldo vs Pettis fight, UFC president Dana White was quick to assure the media that McGregor does not receive any “special treatment”. Obviously, we all know that isn’t true. What other 4-0 prospects are making 75/75k, having Countdown shows filmed for their Fight Pass cards and being flown to title fights in Brazil? But then again, we also know that Conor McGregor is not just any other 4-0 prospect.
From the moment Conor McGregor really exploded into life on the European MMA scene, it was clear he was something special. Whether it was ability to captivate a crowd on the microphone or his flamboyant fighting style and exciting finishes, it was nigh on impossible to ignore him. After capturing belts in two weight divisions simultaneously, no mean feat in an organisation so stacked with talent as Cage Warriors, many European fans smiled smugly to themselves when he was signed to the UFC in anticipation of what the world stage was letting itself in for. It took him just 1:07 to put away Marcus Brimage in his first fight in Sweden – a wise choice of location for the UFC, given that it meant Conor’s European fans could travel relatively easily. Those Irish fans followed him to Boston, watched him at home in Dublin and then rode the hype train all the way to Las Vegas for his fight last Saturday. For someone who has become such a big star his long time fans still feel he is their guy, and this ability to retain the fans from the European scene on the regional stage is something that cannot be underestimated.
That’s why it is a really smart move to fly Conor out to Brazil for the Aldo/Mendes 2 fight later this month. Just the prospect of McGregor cutting a promo or getting into the cage and squaring off with the winner for a hypothetical title fight that has barely been hinted at by the UFC brass will be enough to entice fans in Ireland and the UK to stay up late. Bear in mind that UFC events are on a premium sports channel rather than pay per view in these countries, so the threshold of interest is theoretically much lower in getting people to tune in – though the time difference is often the determining factor, meaning that some UFC PPV cards are outdrawn by their preliminary cards.
The calls for Conor McGregor to get a title fight from fans and the media are growing. Some are saying he is the biggest star in the history of the world, while some are simply saying that the UFC should strike while the iron is hot and not risk him losing – nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Conor McGregor is fast becoming one of the UFC’s greatest assets. Like Ronda Rousey in Macao, flying Conor to an international card is likely to generate significant extra interest in new and emerging markets.
Conor McGregor is a special talent and a special asset, and an asset like that deserves – even needs – special treatment. We cannot on one hand lambaste the UFC for failing to create new stars to headline pay per views, while on the other hand criticise the stars they do try to make as undeserving. In recent times, the UFC has created stars at an almost glacial pace, it is no surprise that Conor McGregor is being pushed to the moon.
The UFC has well and truly hitched its wagon to McGregor. Only time will tell how long and far the ride can go.