Sunday 25 September 2016

Fergus Ryan: Like it or not, the UFC are very much in the Conor McGregor business

Published 18/12/2015 | 16:44

UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor during a post-fight press conference after defeating Jose Aldo
UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor during a post-fight press conference after defeating Jose Aldo

Those who beat the night and persevered until the wee hours of last Sunday morning to watch UFC 194 witnessed the closest thing to sporting perfection.

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In beating Jose Aldo in 13 seconds Conor McGregor provided Irish sports fans with the icing on one of the biggest sporting cakes ever baked.

The spectacular knock out is made even more spectacular when you consider who Conor starched. Aldo is a phenomenal fighter and will go down as one of the greatest ever.

Naturally, in addition to the tidal wave of praise there have been other observations ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Top of the pile seems to be the myth that the UFC don’t like the fact that Conor beat Jose. This piece of fiction is based on an out of focus video footage of UFC owner, Frank Fertitta appearing to slam the UFC featherweight belt around 14 seconds into the first round.

Blurry video footage aside; for anyone to think the UFC is displeased in any way, shape or form with ‘The Notorious’ is ludicrous. He is exactly the type of fighter they have been looking for.

What was equally impressive to the knockout was the manner in which McGregor conducted his business before and after the fight. He represents the complete package as a fighter and an asset to the UFC.

Conor brings more to the octagon than an elite level of fighting

Media & Marketing - Since January nobody has worked harder than ‘The Notorious’ to promote his fight with Aldo. Even though the original date in July had to be rescheduled to December, none of the promotional effort was lost. He represents the promotional sweet spot – most people buy the Pay Per View (PPV) to see him win but there are a healthy number who paid last weekend hoping Aldo whooped McGregor’s a$$.

If you run you finger down the list of UFC champions there is no-one jumping off the page as a PPV draw. Aldo has never been a draw. Why would Frank Fertitta or Dana White be annoyed that their cash cow was victorious?

In a roster of nearly 600 fighters only Ronda Rousey is comparable in ability to push product for the UFC. After Ronda’s loss, Conor is the only real PPV draw holding a championship belt. If Conor McGregor is going to generate close to 1,000,000 pay per view buys every time he fights the UFC stand to make a lot of money.

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Eloquence – The way he both described how he thought he was going to win and then the articulate description of how he actually won show that Conor is as much a cerebral powerhouse as he is a physical specimen.

In the build-up he told us that “winners focus on winning and losers focus on winners”. Sounds simple enough but when you drill into the psychological collapse of Jose since the World Press Tour in March, now its starts to sound like something we’ll see painted on the walls of gyms all over the world.

“Precision over power… timing over speed” again, its sounds simple enough but in six words Conor succinctly explains how strategy and opportunity can trump brute force and aggression.

He is a champion and an ambassador for the sport. The UFC knows they have a safe pair or hands to represent their company and the sport of MMA.

Professionalism – Firstly, it speaks volumes that the UFC saw fit to let Conor conduct his own separate press conference. In the build up to UFC 194 he told us he felt more like a business associate of the UFC than a hired fighter. It may have sounded like a pipe dream but now it appears closer to the truth.

During his press conference McGregor was both magnanimous and humble in victory. He pointed out his commercial highlights in addition to his fighting highlights. He described how he felt for Jose and acknowledged his greatness as a fighter while laying out his plans to move up and assault the lightweight.

He gets it all. He gets fighting, the fight game, the fight business; he is the complete package.

UFC 194 was a prelude to big things in 2016

While we don’t know the official PPV buy rate as of yet, all the other numbers associated with UFC 194 appear to suggest it will be over 1,000,000, for only the ninth time in 190 odd UFC PPV events. At the post-fight press conference, Public Relations Director, Dave Sholler reported UFC 194 was trending above all other 2015 PPV events including UFC 193 where Holly Holm beat Ronda Rousey, which topped 1 million buys.

The attendance gate was a Las Vegas record at $10.1 million, the Fox Sports 1 Prelims were the most watched prelims before a pay-per-view averaging 1,931,000 viewers and peaking at 2,380,000 for Urijah Faber taking a close decision over Frankie Saenz and the weigh-ins were the most watched in history.

All the above records are not solely down to Conor McGregor alone but he is definitely the thickest end of the wedge.

Will The Notorious look for more money next time out? You betcha.

Will the UFC pay? You betcha!

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