The UFC is in a bit of a strange place right now when it comes to developing new stars and presenting them for the world to see. It has been easy to argue that post Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture they really haven’t done much to create new stars. Sure, Georges St. Pierre and Brock Lesnar happened, but you could easily argue that the UFC did nothing to “create” a star in Brock Lesnar, they just found some crossover appeal with modern wrestling fans who hadn’t already switched over to the UFC, or had, but weren’t buying PPVs until then.
Last night at UFC 178 Conor McGregor made a big impact with his win over Dustin Poirier. Sure, there was some mild controversy over it, but nothing to really detract from the win for McGregor. In fact, Dana White is being as bold as to say that Conor McGregor is a bigger deal than Brock Lesnar or Georges St. Pierre. Yes, he absolutely said that. While I’m not really sure that I agree with his assessment of McGregor being bigger than those guys here in North America, I think that it’s fair to say that he’s a huge deal in Europe, especially in Ireland.
UFC is still a company that bases most of its business upon PPV sales, which you can still argue that GSP and Brock Lesnar were the kings of for the UFC. If the UFC ever decides to pivot away from reliance upon PPV, I think that having a guy that you can put on television and fill stadiums with is an important thing and that McGregor might some day be that guy for them. For now, though, it is unclear.
Part of that lack of clarity comes from the somewhat baffling decision to toss Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson into the main event at UFC 178 after the Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier fight fell through. It’s difficult to really pinpoint why, but fans are just not into Mighty Mouse, in fact, reports from inside of the arena last night were that the arena was emptying out before Might Mouse vs. Chris Cariaso. This wouldn’t be the first time that Mighty Mouse has seemingly turned fans away, nor will it probably be the last. I’m not sure that it is his fault, though.
Some will say that it’s the entire Flyweight division that nobody cares about, but I’d probably wager to say that it has a lot to do with UFC’s marketing. The fight that just about everyone wanted to see at UFC 178 was Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier, especially after Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier fell off of the card. That was the fight that fans cared about, so why not make it the centerpiece of the show? If anything, the decision to place Johnson vs. Cariaso as the main event over McGregor/Poirier soured more fans on the Flyweight Title fight than it did endear them to it.
The UFC’s marketing of this division has been placing it as an equal to other championships while fans have yet to really see the value in the championship thus far. In part it might be because of the perceived lack of depth in the division, the size difference or the lack of star power. But all of those things wadded up together while the division is being pushed as just as important as Jon Jones and the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship isn’t sitting well with fans.
If the UFC decided instead to make McGregor and Poirier the main focus of the event with Johnson vs. Cariaso as the co-main event there would be less pressure and less of a focus on the Flyweight division. Mighty Mouse put on a great show last night, but it fell upon deaf ears after the fans were still coming down from the McGregor win. In pro wrestling events they carefully place matches to where there is a “cooldown” before main events, especially if there was a very entertaining match that just happened. Otherwise the main event is brushed off and fans really don’t care.
The fans wanted to see Conor McGregor treated like a big deal so just do it already, give them what they want. Live up to this hype that the company even feels for him and treat him like the star of the show. It won’t sit well with everyone, sure, but it also won’t take the wind out of other fighters’ sails like it did last night at UFC 178.