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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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[Watch] First trailer for Conor McGregor: Notorious released

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Many have wondered when we would get to see Conor McGregor have his own documentary film in cinemas. After months of waiting and teasing at it through social media we finally have the initial trailer. The trailer shows some fantastic little clips from throughout his career. From a first glance this is without a doubt one to be looking forward to, enjoy. Conor McGregor: Notorious will hit theatres November.

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What must Conor McGregor do to be considered the undisputed G.O.A.T?

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In November 2016, Conor McGregor cemented his legacy as an all time great by becoming the first simultaneous two weight world champion holding both the Featherweight and Lightweight belts. In that year McGregor also won three fights at three different weight classes.

“The Notorious One” has the fourth highest win percentage in the UFC at 90%, and he owns the fastest finish in a UFC title fight. This may upset a few MMA purists as McGregor only has 10 UFC fights to his name, but he is certainly in the G.O.A.T discussion now more than ever after his recent bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

There are three possible ways to define the greatest of all time.

  1. Whether or not the individual is a pioneer of the sport and earns plaudits for their innovation and creativity, e.g. Royce Gracie is a perfect example.
  2. Whether the fighter has done a lot to help develop and grow the sport e.g. Chuck Liddell isn’t always top of everyone’s list but he’s always in the conversation due to the way he brought the UFC to mainstream audiences.
  3. Judging a fighter on their skill set and MMA record, e.g. Jon Jones who has a perfect MMA record with some high calibre opponents on his list of victims.

Conor McGregor fits in to each category on this list and deserves to be in the G.O.A.T discussion, but he’s not quite the undisputed number one just yet. Here are some of the things McGregor needs to do to become the undisputed greatest of all time.

Defend His Belt

Conor McGregor two belts

What do Demetrious Johnson, GSP, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones all have in common? They all have multiple title defences and they’re all in the G.O.A.T discussion because of it. Jon Jones has the least out of those named competitors with 8 consecutive title defences. Conor McGregor currently has 0 title defences despite being a UFC champion since December 2015.

In defence of McGregor every time it’s looked like he would be defending his belt a much bigger opportunity has arisen. When the time came to defend his Cage Warriors belts he was off to the UFC.

After winning his featherweight title at UFC 194, he was scheduled to make history by facing Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight belt at UFC 196, before facing Diaz. After losing on March 5th, McGregor then re-matched Diaz in the biggest fight in UFC history with the event playing host to the UFC buy rate record with roughly 1.6 million buys.

Then it was time to make history at UFC 205 where he became the first simultaneous two weight world champion. And when it finally looked like he would defend his belt he faced Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the biggest fight of all time for $100 million.

But now it’s finally time for McGregor to defend his belt. I’m not necessarily saying he has to match Jones’ 8 title defences, as I believe he will retire long before he even gets there. But maybe 3 or 4 title defences against competitors like Diaz, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will prove he is championship material, and has what it takes to keep hold of the belt in a shark tank division stacked filled with trained killers.

It would be a move to silence the haters and stake his claim as the best to ever do it.

Become the First Fighter to Beat Khabib Nurmagomedov

McGregor is no stranger to doing something no other man has ever done before. So it would be no surprise to see him be the first fighter to beat Nurmagomedov.

Say what you like about Khabib, whether you think he’s an elite fighter or just your average Joe with a padded record (he’s not), but there’s one thing you have to say about him, he’s undefeated.

Fans on Twitter are constantly claiming Khabib is the man to dethrone McGregor. If that’s the case, then it would be equally impressive to see McGregor defend his crown against Khabib and hand him his first loss, adding another historic moment to his storied career. It is a win that would truly legitimise his G.O.A.T status.

Win the Third Fight Against Nate Diaz

McEnroe had Borg. Brady had Peyton Manning. Messi has Ronaldo. And Conor McGregor has Nate Diaz. Every great needs a great rival to make them better. Just look at Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones for example, those two men pushed and motivated each other to be better for years.

The problem with these great rivalries is that they have to be won to secure your legacy, nobody remembers the loser. Winning the trilogy fight against Nate would make Conor the clear winner in this rivalry and answer all questions asked from his doubters, it would see him earn a huge amount of respect and would catapult him to a legendary status.

However, the flip side to that is that if Nate won the third fight then Conor has even more questions asked of him, he may lose some of his star power and could also drop out of the G.O.A.T discussion.

Win the Welterweight Title

McGregor has already won the featherweight and lightweight belts, but he has claimed he’s coming for “all the belts” and I believe him.

If McGregor was the first man to become a three weight World Champion it would be hard to argue he is not the greatest mixed martial artist ever. Especially if he was to beat a top level fighter like Tyron Woodley, GSP or Robbie Lawler to become the welterweight champion. It is another impressive feat that would put him above the rest. It’s a big ask but that’s why it would make him the G.O.A.T.

Stay Clean and Know When it’s the Right Time to Retire

It sounds simple but one of the things that has hurt some of MMA’s biggest stars be considered the greatest has been their inability to stay clean and leaving the game before their inevitable decline.

Some notable stars like Chuck Liddell and B.J Penn’s cases of being the G.O.A.T have been damaged by the later stages of their careers, where they could not perform like they were capable of in their prime, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many fans who may only remember the last few fights they had.

If McGregor quits whilst he’s ahead he won’t be fighting unnecessarily and tarnishing his legacy by competing when his chin has gone, and his athleticism has declined.

If McGregor can stay clean, which I have no doubt he will as he has always been an honest fighter, then he already has one up on those that have been caught taking steroids. Fighters like Jones and Silva’s legacies have not been ruined by testing positives but people will always view them differently because of it.

Conor has always made his intentions clear, “Get in. Get rich. Get Out” and a retirement in his early 30’s is more than likely, especially with a smart coaching team around him who want to see him happy and healthy. We will look back on his career fondly rather than thinking what could have been.

Let us know what you think Conor McGregor must do to be considered the G.O.A.T.

 

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Seriously, How is Joanna Jedrzejczyk Not in the Top 5 P4P Rankings?!

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Honest to God question here, how is Joanna Jedrzejczyk not in the top 5 of the UFC’s Pound for Pound rankings?

Jedrzejczyk is arguably the greatest female fighter of all time, yet she’s stuck behind three fighters who don’t even have a title defense on their record. Yes, these fighter rankings don’t hold much weight but put some respect on her name. Ranking Joanna at number seven is absolute blasphemy.

Official Pound for Pound rankings as of September 28, 2017. Source: UFC.com

The amount of disrespect the UFC shows to their fighters is at an all-time high so we shouldn’t really be surprised here. It’s understandable that Joanna is behind the likes of Conor McGregor and Demetrious Johnson in the rankings — but after that, it can be argued that she deserves that number three spot on the list.

Let’s take a look at just a few of Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s accomplishments:

  • Five successful title defenses (second most in UFC women’s division history)
  • A perfect 14-0 record, 8-0 in the UFC
  • Most leg kicks in a fight in UFC history
  • Highest significant strikes thrown in a UFC championship bout
  • Highest significant strikes differential in a UFC championship bout

Joanna has more title defenses than Conor McGregor, Stipe Miocic, Max Holloway, Daniel Cormier, and Cody Garbrandt — COMBINED. That alone should at least warrant her a top five spot on the list, yet all five of those fighters aforementioned are ranked ahead of her.

The common argument against Joanna is the “lack of competition” that she has faced, and while that is partially true, let’s not forget about the “competition” Demetrious Johnson has been up against — and he’s sitting comfortably at number one on the list. Also, we just saw how vicious both Jessica Andrade and Claudia Gadelha are at UFC Japan, and Joanna dominated both women and virtually neutralized their attacks. So that flawed “lack of competition” argument is irrelevant.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk has looked nothing short of spectacular in her time as UFC strawweight champion. Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

It’s about time that Joanna Jedrzejczyk starts getting the respect she deserves as a UFC champion. She is undoubtedly the best striker in the women’s division and may be the best striker overall on the UFC roster. Joanna has the second most title defenses currently of a UFC champion and if that doesn’t earn her a top three spot on the list I don’t know what will.

If top three is a little too rich for your blood, that’s understandable. But there is no way she should be outside of the top five and there is no arguing that. As Khabib would say, “This is number one bullsh*t!”

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