Putting too Much Stock into the MMA Hype Train – by Jeremy Stevens
Georges St. Pierre (25-2) is the biggest draw the UFC has ever known. At one time, Brock Lesnar (5-3) was a huge ppv draw for the UFC. Georges hasn’t fought in the Octagon since his controversial win over Johny Hendricks (17-4) and Brock hasn’t fought since his TKO loss to Allistair Overeem (40-14) in 2013. But the sky hasn’t fallen, and the UFC just had an incredible 2015, with 2016 is shaping up to be another huge year. With both of these draws gone, the UFC has compensated in the same way they have always compensated, by generating new stars.
Looking around the MMA forums and Twitter on a Sunday morning after a big fight card where a popular fighter loses, one might walk away with the feeling that the promotion is going to crumble. “Oh, [insert fighter] lost, I bet Dana White is on suicide watch.” This mentality shows a lack of historical perspective, and a lack of understanding of the sport of MMA in general.
A great metaphor I heard once helps to illustrate the most successful MMA promotion in history and it’s relationship with the fighters. It is one that I learned from a successful Nashville songwriter and musician, Steve Bogard. Speaking about something completely unrelated to to Mixed Martial Arts, Steve told me that “songs are like popcorn. If someone steals your song, go make another one.” This is something that is bound to be offensive to hardcore fans (not to mention fighters) who listen to all of the MMA podcasts and who want to think their favorite fighter is a special or unique snowflake. But, fighters are in fact, like popcorn. And the promotion is like the microwave.
This is the part where the hardcore fans will snicker and say that the backup popcorn has already been burned with recent prospect losses. But, this is why the UFC must be a fluid organization with a solid contingency plan. As I write this, there isn’t a clear PPV number floating around for UFC 196 yet. But it’s going to be really big. Let’s say that just over a million people (legally) purchased UFC 196 to see Nate Diaz (19-10) Stockton slap Conor McGregor back down to 145 pounds. Most of those are casual fans, and most of them probably were only vaguely aware of Nate Diaz before the fight, if they had ever heard of him at all. And now over a million people saw him, soaked in blood, choking out Conor McGregor. This fight was everything Mixed Martial Arts is supposed to be, and now are we expected to think that those million people won’t be interested to see Nate fight again? And again after that? I’ve watched him fight since his stint on TUF in 2007, and I’m still a fan today. I have to think that new fans will have a similar reaction. So by virtue of one hype train derailing (or at least slowing down), another starts rolling.
So frankly, even if Conor McGregor never wins again, or if Ronda Rousey (12-1) never fights again, or both, the UFC will keep on making popcorn. They just have to keep putting out a superior product and giving the best fighters in the world a platform to showcase their skills. And of course, they have to be willing to be fluid when unexpected things happen. Regardless, the sport and the organization will be ok.