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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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Conor McGregor

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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Will Conor McGregor ever fight again?

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The future of the UFC’s biggest ever star is in doubt. But it was also never a secret. “The Notorious” Conor McGregor always made his intentions clear, “Get in. Get rich. Get out”. And now he’s rich, very rich.

In 2008 at the age of 20 a baby-faced, clean-shaven McGregor stated his ambitions for his MMA career after just 5 professional fights. He said “My dream is to be world champion in the UFC, have more money than I know what to do with, and have a great life for my kids, my grandkids, everyone in my family, everyone that’s come up with me. That’s my dream”.

Along his journey, McGregor has never kept his intentions to himself. At first, it was to get into the UFC. Then it was the featherweight belt. Then it was to replicate what he had done in his previous promotion, to become the UFC’s first simultaneous two-weight world champion.

The issue now is that McGregor has achieved everything he has set out to do. From world titles to being a multi-millionaire, he’s done it all. And now there is no statement of intent. No dream to chase.

Since he’s achieved everything he said he ever wanted, where does the hunger for more come from? Currently, it doesn’t appear to be there.

Since the last time we saw McGregor with gloves on, the charismatic Irishman has seemingly gone off the rails. There was the Bellator 187 incident in Dublin, where McGregor stormed the cage and pushed veteran referee Marc Goddard and slapped an official. But more recently the Irish Daily Mail has reported that McGregor was involved in a bar fight in his native Crumlin, where he is believed to have punched an associate of a major crime gang in Dublin. Whether this is true or not, it is still something a UFC champion and role model shouldn’t be associated with.

From the outside, McGregor’s life is more about hours spent at the club rather than the gym.

But who can blame the man for enjoying the fruits of his labor? He is acting how most 29-year-old men would if they had just received $100 million.

This is his life’s work paying off.

After McGregor’s loss at UFC 196, he wanted an immediate rematch against Nate Diaz at the same weight. It showed us he’s a true martial artist with the heart of a lion. It showed his desperation to get that win back and prove he is the better competitor. And when he won, he proved all his doubters wrong as he walked on crutches through the corridor of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas screaming “doubt me now”.

But after his loss to Mayweather Jr., there has seemingly been no desire to arrange a fight to get back in the win column.

It’s easy to forget during this period of inactivity that McGregor is one of the most active guys in MMA. From UFC 194 to UFC 205, McGregor competed in 4 fights at 3 different weight classes against high caliber opponents inside the space of 11 months. The truth is he deserves a well-earned rest.

 

Conor McGregor UFC 205

However, in a recent media scrum, Dana White confirmed that Conor was looking to fight before the end of the year but had been pulled from UFC 219 as punishment for the incident at Bellator 187.

Dana also told the reporters in the room “Conor might never fight again. The guys got $100 million. I’ve got guys that made less than that and were lawyers and went to school their whole life and quit working”.

White also said, “Try and get up and get punched in the face every day when you’ve got $100 million in the bank”.

The two statements from Dana are very contradicting as he isn’t sure McGregor will ever fight again, but at the same time he wanted to fight on December 30th. Maybe Dana is struggling to pick apart the mind of Conor McGregor as much as we are.

There are plenty of reasons why Conor should never come back.

Not only is he set for life but he’s also healthy. McGregor is extremely conscious about his health and has mentioned several times throughout his career about the importance of keeping your brain healthy.

But there are plenty of reasons why he should he come back.

He loves to fight and he loves making money. He needs to capitalize on that whilst he can.

McGregor doesn’t have to settle for one big payday, he has matchups waiting for him such as Ferguson, Diaz, and GSP. There is always the welterweight belt and his Croke Park dream. And the door is open for a return to boxing, especially with fighters like De La Hoya, Pacquiao, and Malignaggi calling him out.

He’s also at the peak in terms of age and physique and in terms of power. Where he has the whole MMA world on strings with every small move he makes.

There is no knowing if McGregor will ever fight again. If McGregor returns to his usual self, he will likely be back in the first quarter of 2018, where he will fight frequently. But as time ticks on and there is no fight announcement McGregor may be stripped of his belt never to be seen again.

He got in. He got rich. Is he out? Let us know.

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Manny Pacquiao Hints at Possible 2018 Fight with Conor McGregor

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Here we go again. Just when we thought Conor McGregor was set on a return to the octagon, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao has seemingly called out the charismatic Irishman with his latest Instagram post.

It appears the current senator of the Philippines also wants a trip on the money train that is Conor McGregor, as he sent out this cryptic message on his Instagram.

Happy Thanksgiving! Stay fit my friend. #realboxingmatch #2018 @thenotoriousmma

A post shared by Manny Pacquiao (@mannypacquiao) on

The caption reads “Happy thanksgiving! Stay fit my friend. #realboxingmatch #2018 @thenotoriousmma”.

This comes a week after retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya claimed he has been secretly training for a bout with “The Notorious One.” Speaking on ‘Golden Boy Radio with Tattoo and the Crew’, De La Hoya claimed “I’m faster than ever and stronger than ever. I know I can take out Conor McGregor out in two rounds”.

After his most recent loss to Australian boxer Jeff Horn, retirement looked imminent for ‘Pac-Man’. But a shot at McGregor and the pay day his name brings, appears to be far too tempting.

McGregor loves to test himself and he loves money. So he will be licking his lips just thinking about the opportunity to get back in the ring against a high calibre opponent like Pacquiao. Not just to make money, but to prove his doubters wrong after his boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

McGregor’s immediate future looks set to be a fight with Tony Ferguson in 2018. But after that who knows what the future holds for the UFC lightweight champion.

If McGregor’s next fight is a boxing match with Pacquiao, then it could spell the end of his title reign. As Ferguson likes to say it’s ‘defend or vacate’ time.

 

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