Since the conclusion of UFC 208 I think we can all agree that the promotion has gotten off to a rocky start in 2017. After UFC 208 wrapped, UFC President Dana White was clearly disgusted with how the card unfolded stating “It wasn’t one of our better events.” With UFC superstar and lightweight champion Conor McGregor currently out of the picture pursuing a super fight with Floyd Mayweather it is obvious that the promotion is in desperate need of star power. Here I will discuss why the UFC will struggle to sell fights and remain relevant in McGregor’s absence.
Lack of Self Promotion
Over the past few years the UFC has drawn ire from fans and fighters for “creating” Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor using over the top promotion. While I agree with this assessment in the case of Rousey I do not believe McGregor is a so-called product of the UFC. McGregor goes out of his way to promote himself with his over the top press conferences and unique style. He even started his own media channel TheMacLife which covers the UFC and offers fans an exclusive look inside his life. The fact of the matter is that no fighter works as hard to promote his or herself more than McGregor. McGregor creates his own hype and his opponents crumble under it when they are in the octagon with him. The UFC is going to needs its fighters to give more sound bites to the media and to do more to generate hype. It’s hard for the UFC to promote a fight when the casual fan has no idea who the fighters are.
Unpredictable and Disgruntled Stars
The UFC would be able to make due in 2017 if Dana White had better relationships with its stars outside of McGregor. Some names that come to mind are Georges St. Pierre and the Diaz brothers. MMA fans as well as myself were crushed to hear that neither Nick or Nate Diaz would be appearing on UFC 209. With the brothers being synonymous with the 209 area code of Stockton, California it seemed like a no brainer for at least one of them to be on the card. However, Dana White recently revealed that Nick Diaz was offered a title shot against welterweight champion Tyron Woodley but the two were unable to agree on terms. The same can be said for St. Pierre with regards to UFC 206 which took place in his hometown of Toronto, Canada. The last few stars remaining would be Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey, and Jon Jones. Lesnar and Jones are both under suspension for testing positive for estrogen blockers and are up for reinstatement in July. Even after Jones is reinstated he can hardly be trusted to stay out of trouble with his shady track record. Rousey of course is coming off of her brutal loss to Amanda Nunes and may never be the same ever again. White needs to find a way to get the biggest names in the sport inside the octagon.
With McGregor out of the picture the UFC will have to see who emerges from the rubble as the next star in the promotion. In my opinion the most logical option would have to be the number one lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov is slated to fight Tony Ferguson in the co-main event at UFC 209 and the winner will most likely get the next crack at McGregor. Another potential star is current bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt who has an exciting style of fighting as well as a passionate fan base. Outside of these two the rest of the UFC is in disarray and will struggle to move the needle on the pay-per view circuit. With McGregor out of the UFC for a full year we will be able to see exactly how much the UFC is worth without him.