The UFC is a sport that has seen a rise in its popularity over the last decade. One of the main catalysts behind its exponential growth is the marquee names that can sell out arenas. Luckily, the UFC has had plenty of these over the years.
When big names, like Conor McGregor, sell out arenas and big pay-per-view events, other markets are created, or current markets expand their profit margins. For example, combat sports have always been markets that have long been popular with gamblers⎯primarily sports such as boxing in years gone by. However, as the UFC has seen its popularity grow, so have the markets for people to place wagers. Sportsbook promos are not hard to find, and you can benefit from finding markets not only on UFC but on other sports, such as boxing, football, and basketball, to name a few.
Over the last decade, Conor McGregor has probably been the marquee name and the face of the UFC. His ability to divide audiences with his abrasive fight promotion techniques and explosive style made sure that people from all over the world tuned in to watch his fights.
This was reflected not only in his bouts with Khabib, but his crossover boxing exhibition against boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr. It became the second highest-grossing boxing match of all time⎯mainly down to McGregor’s sensational ability to sell a fight. Despite the fight taking place in 2017, McGregor’s stock declined due to issues in the public eye and a string of losses to the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier. However, there are still talks of a second fight taking place between the boxing legend and McGregor.
There’s no shame in losing to Khabib, though, as he was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world during his reign before his retirement.
However, there are now new faces on the block, one of which is terrifying unbeaten Russian Khamzat Chimaev. He is currently ranked in the top three at welterweight and has his eyes on a title shot. He has obliterated most opponents he has come across in the octagon and is considered one of the most feared fighters in any weight division.
Once he steps up in class, this will truly measure his ability to operate at the sport’s highest level. However, many analysts, fans, and fighters alike rate him extremely highly. Darren Till, his gym partner and middleweight contender, is highly optimistic that Chimaev can not only go on to become a champion but will become the new crossover star in the sport and the next face of the UFC.
The only issue for Chimaev at the minute seems to be issues with his weight. He missed weight for his last fight, which resulted in him fighting Kevin Holland, a last-minute replacement, at a catchweight. His destruction of Holland showed just how precociously gifted he is as a mixed martial artist but highlighted his issues with his weight.
In any event, if Chimaev moves up divisions, which is looking likely, he will be fierce competition for anyone who steps into the octagon with him. The Gilbert Burns fight is probably the strongest indicator that Chimaev has something special. It was by no means his best performance, but he battled hard through five rounds against an extremely determined challenger.
Not to mention that Burns isn’t a slouch, either. Chimaev adapted to his opponents’ style, aggression, and determination and won a convincing decision over five rounds. Many predict that Chimaev will operate loosely between welterweight and middleweight, looking for marquee names to challenge. However, his days at welterweight may be numbered due to his inability to make weight in his last outing.
There are other fighters with serious crossover appeal too. Paddy Pimblett is also known as Paddy the Baddy, and he is a British fighter with an exciting style and engaging personality. His popularity on social media is exploding, and he regularly engages with his fans.
However, he is in a stacked division and is not considered to have the same skillset as Khamzat. Whether he becomes the next face of the UFC is another question entirely. Other fighters have looked exciting coming through and then disappointed on the biggest stage when they have stepped up to face the best in their division.
You’d be a brave person to suggest that Khamzat can’t become a long-reigning champion. His wrestling skills are amongst some of the best at any weight class, and he looks like he has the right mentality to accompany his phenomenal ability.