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The Art of “Fight Talk” – How it Affects the UFC

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Talk is cheap. At least, that is the common phrase. Where UFC fighters are concerned, talk can equal money.

Lately, the number of fighters promoting themselves with their words as much as their actions has risen. The growing of the sport and the birth of social media have gone hand in hand. The popularity of your favourite fighter might depend on how they act outside of the cage, as much as it does how they fight inside it.

But when did title shots begin getting awarded based on who talks more? When did a fight need to be a drama show to see increased pay-per-view buys? Trash talking and loud self-promotion are not new concepts, but they are more prevalent than ever. Looking back on the sport itself it is difficult to decide whether this talk has helped or hurt the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

 

Talk the Talk

The UFC — by far the biggest organisation in MMA — has a job to do. They are a business looking to succeed and turn significant profits.

Compared to the NFL and MLB, the UFC has shown the greatest growth in such a short amount of time since its birth. There are no playoffs in MMA. It does not automatically mean the #1 guy or girl will fight the #2. This allows them to promote fights that they want, how they want.

There are other factors that are taken into consideration, injuries, schedules, and so forth. However, when a fighter who is ranked tenth or eighth can talk their way into a title fight, there are questions that should be asked.

When Middleweight champion Michael Bisping began to campaign for a fight with Dan Henderson, Henderson was not even close to the top five in the division. There are people who think that Bisping was looking for a fight that would allow him to make money without fear of losing the belt.

Becoming a champion in the UFC is the golden ticket. Fighters work their whole lives to obtain that strap and when they get it, they know their time is limited.

Having the belt can lead to sponsorships, commercial deals, and fame. There is no doubt that anyone with half a brain would like to hang on to that as long as possible. That is typically when you start to see the talk begin.

Should a champion fight the most deserving fighter or the most appealing fighter to the fans that are paying the money to see the fight? Is it suitable for a champion to pick his or her opponents?

A smart champion will stir up excitement with a fighter they think is beatable. Start a Twitter war, insult their teammates, anything to get the fans interested.

The best “talker” in the UFC is the biggest star on the roster, Conor McGregor. McGregor has perfected the art of “fight talk”. He can raise the level of interest in any situation with the persona that he has created.

McGregor also has the ability to back up his mouth with his fighting skills. He was recently given the chance to fight for the UFC lightweight title while still holding the 145 pound belt, an opportunity that was no doubt allowed to take place due to his wild popularity.

McGregor brings more money than any fighter in UFC history. He is the fight that all fighters want to face, from any division. From bantamweight to welterweight and beyond. Even former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has entertained the idea of a bout with McGregor.

A fight with McGregor means money and fame. Even athletes from other sports have shown an interest in fighting him, most notably boxing great Floyd Mayweather.

Mayweather is a great self-promoter himself. The five-division world champion knows when to talk, and has backed it up with his performances. Although there is no solid evidence that these two champions will ever fight one another, it would be the biggest fight in history.

Showmanship Throughout History

Some of the biggest athletes in history are known just as well, if not more for their antics off the field than they are on the field. Take a look at Terrell Owens or Dennis Rodman.

These men had put themselves in the spotlight outside of their respective sports. Although not always for positive reasons, they were able to promote themselves and in turn grow their personal brands. As the old saying goes “There is no such thing as bad press”, and this is especially true for the fighting sports.

Most fighters only fight a few times a year, and if you do not find a way to stay relevant, you can easily be overlooked. One of the best talkers in sports history is Muhammad Ali. Ali would self-promote his fights through trash talking, and catch the eye of the fans. Love him or hate him, you were interested. The same holds true with Floyd Mayweather. He knows how to get attention and keep it.

 

Changing Times

Where will all of this talking lead to? In terms of the UFC, we have seen a change begin to happen already with the increased appearance of Interim belts.

When a fighter becomes the champion they want the reign to last as long as possible. As mentioned before, they may call out lesser ranked opponents, but also they may seek extended time off. There are legitimate reasons for fighters to take time off, injuries, family needs, and more.

It is more likely for these absences to occur when the belt has been won than when striving for the championship. This is human nature. However, the UFC is a continuing business, who is now running more events than ever before. The need for interesting fights is at an all time high.

If there are no champions available for an event, they are now creating new belts to hand out. The idea of an Interim champion is basically a “placeholder”.  That Interim champ will undoubtedly get the next chance at the champion, or if for some reason the champion should be dethroned, the Interim champ will become the champion.

This is the exact example that recently happened in the UFC featherweight division. Champion Conor McGregor chose to move up and fight at Lightweight. This opened a spot for an Interim title that Jose Aldo won at UFC 200 when he defeated Frankie Edgar. When the UFC needed a title fight for UFC 206, they removed McGregor’s title and handed it to Aldo to make room for yet another Interim title which was won by Max Holloway.

 

Does this practice of Interim belts take away from the achievement of the actual title? Is it a good thing because it makes sure that the champion will have to fight the best man or woman next? I believe that time will tell whether this new format can have staying power or will it be ever changing with the growth of the sport.

One way to keep the integrity of the sport alive, and prevent a WWE style of matchmaking from happening, would be to improve the ranking system and formulate a system of matchmaking that reflects the rankings.

For now, the ways in which fights get made and champions get crowned is unstable at best. The fighters who run their mouths the most often get the most opportunities to get punched in it.

 

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Dana White gives an update on the lightweight title picture

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When it comes to the lightweight division there is always a lot of talk with very little clarification. But now it seems Dana White has had enough of waiting for champion Conor McGregor and plans to move on in his absence.

“The Notorious” Conor McGregor won the UFC lightweight title back in November 2016 at UFC 205 where he became the first fighter to hold two belts simultaneously, however, he has not competed in MMA since.

Speaking on Sunday night’s after UFC Fight Night St. Louis UFC President Dana White said “Conor has said he is thinking about coming back in September if he comes back in September that’s almost two years, that can’t happen. It’s not fair to everybody else. Love Conor, respect Conor, love everything he’s done for this company, everybody knows that I say it all the time. The belt would have to move on.”

White also spoke about the two men that would fight for the lightweight belt saying “You do Khabib versus Tony, we’re working on that fight now and if and when Conor comes back he would get the first crack at the title.”

Then when presenter Karyn Bryant pushed for clarification and asked: “So you’re saying that Conor could possibly be stripped of his title?” Dana responded without hesitation “absolutely”.

The news will excite UFC fans across the globe who have been clamoring for the Ferguson vs Khabib matchup which they have been denied on three separate occasions. No date was confirmed for the potential matchup but rumors have been circulating that the UFC is targeting UFC 223 in April.

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Conor McGregor reacts to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s win at UFC 219

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On Saturday night the world watched as Khabib Nurmagomedov dismantled the striking expert Edson Barboza at UFC 219. The reactions were filled with praise for the undefeated Russian fighter. Media members and fans alike were calling Nurmagomedov one of the best lightweights in the world, but there is one man the world was waiting to hear from, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. McGregor was silent following the fight between Nurmagomedov and Barboza, that is until Monday morning when he took to Twitter to state his opinion about the Number one contender.

“Truly truly truly get on your fucking knees and beg me,” McGregor wrote on Twitter.  “Otherwise, I don’t give a bollox.  My whiskey is out this year and that’s Diddy bread.” The whiskey that McGregor is referring to is his very own grand that he announced would be coming out following his loss to Floyd Mayweather this past August.

Rumors about McGregor’s return have ranged from him retiring from fighting to live a life of wealth with his family, to expect his return to the UFC this summer. No one really knows if McGregor will ever defend his UFC lightweight belt, but if he is to do so UFC President Dana White has said that it will be against interim champion Tony Ferguson.

Ferguson was also seeking a fight with Nurmagomedov prior to winning the interim belt against Kevin Lee. It is entirely possible that we will see these two battle for the interim title in the octagon before we see the return of Conor McGregor. Of course, these days there are no guarantees in regards to title contention, McGregor and his camp have publically stated that they would like to face Nurmagomedov in his home country of Russia. 

 

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Conor McGregor has ‘Every intention of fighting in 2018’

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Despite being inactive since his historic boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August, Conor McGregor is never far from the headlines. Recently his out of cage antics have got people questioning if he’ll ever be back.

Thankfully the UFC lightweight champion appears to have cleared up any rumors about his fighting career.

Speaking to his sponsor Betsafe, the “Notorious” Conor McGregor said “My focus is getting back into the right ring or octagon. 2017 was historic. I have transcended both the sport of MMA and boxing. At this stage of my career, as it has been for the majority of my UFC career, potential opponents must lobby for fights with me. We could see Conor McGregor anywhere. I run the fight game, the fashion game, the whiskey game or whatever the next business endeavor might be”.

McGregor added, “I have every intention of fighting in 2018 if my compensation and business development endeavors accurately reflect my influence on combat sports.”

This comes just two weeks after UFC President Dana White told reporters “Conor might never fight again. The guy’s got $100 (expletive) million. I’ve got guys that made less than that and were lawyers and went to school their whole life and quit working.”

White went on to say “Try to get up and get punched in the face every day when you’ve got $100 million in the bank. Money changes everything with a lot of people.”

White also told reporters that the “Notorious one”, “can’t be paid enough money” and that he is “worth every penny and more.” McGregor’s recent statement suggests he knows that and won’t be back till his demands are met.

The UFC lightweight division has been stalled in the absence of the champion McGregor and now the interim champion Tony Ferguson has undergone surgery. The UFC has been known the remove belts from fighters who have been delayed for extended amounts of time, this would be highly unlikely with the popularity of McGregor.

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