It has been said that to succeed in MMA you have to earn it with countless hours in the gym and the cage, honing your craft to amass a win streak that puts you head and shoulders above all other competitors in your division. However, this ideal world of ‘you get out what you put in’ just isn’t reality and we are seeing it more and more often in the world of MMA.
As the UFC has grown from a thuggish subculture to a household sporting league, so have the fighters evolved to become less like the tribal tattooed bar brawlers of old to their own athletic brand, selling not only their in ring skills, but their personality and likeness to the highest bidder.
Whether you believe MMA should be solely about combat, or you feel the sport is naturally progressing as all do in this capitalist world, it’s impossible to deny the impact of out of cage influences on the sport of mixed martial arts.
Just mere days ago, Alexander Gustafsson was announced as the first challenger to Daniel Cormier’s newly acquired light heavyweight title to the disdain of some fans. Despite there being other worthy challengers to the title, most notably Ryan Bader and his four fight winning streak, Gustafsson superseded all of them and was handed the title shot, despite coming off a first round KO loss. This decision by the UFC brass is just another in a long line showing that becoming a success in the UFC is no longer merely about win-loss records, but your appeal and marketability to the audience. Despite Bader being a tenacious competitor and truly one of the best in his weight class, the cold hard facts are that Gustafsson is just a much more marketable challenger.
Having given Jones the hardest test in his career, in what was one of the best fights of all time, if Gustafsson is able to claim the title belt while Jones is out of action, this sets up one of the greatest rematches in UFC history, while on the other hand, Bader was dominated and dismantled by Jones in their 2011 affair. Despite having a much more impressive win streak than Gustafsson, Bader is simply not as big a draw as the Swede in the fight against Cormier, or a future unification bout with Jones. Bader did his best by generating some buzz with his confrontation with Cormier at the UFC 187 post-fight press conference (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OKuNWymjWI) the mixture between Bader’s arguably dull wrestling style and his future marketability as a champion have put him behind Gustafsson on the list of challengers.
This Bader-Gustafsson situation is not the first of its kind, with many other UFC title challengers getting their shot at gold despite their shortcomings inside the cage. Nick Diaz received his long-awaited shot at GSP despite coming off a pretty clear cut loss to Carlos Condit and over a yearlong layoff. The mixture of Diaz’s villainous personality against the good guy GSP, his beef with St. Pierre and him threatening retirement, the UFC was forced to make this fight happen, generating one of the most hyped welterweight title fights in history. This formula of playing the black hat was the same way Chael Sonnen was able to swindle a light heavyweight title shot against Jon Jones despite not fighting at 205lbs in eight years. Sonnen’s outspoken personality outside the cage and his criticism of Jones made him a headline grabber on all MMA news websites, and an instant fan favourite, again forcing the UFC to make the fight with the dollar signs planted firmly in their eyes.
This use of marketability does not only further fighter’s careers inside the octagon, but the unique mixture of media presence, gaze-drawing personality and in-ring talent can lead to fighters making their fortune and fame through sponsorships and appearances. Paige VanZant may only be 21-years-old and have a 2-0 record in the UFC, but she is a marketing dream being a young, beautiful and talented fighter who perfectly mixes the opposite worlds of blonde bombshell looks and badass fighting skills. This has not only made VanZant one of the most recognisable women in the UFC, but landed her a deal with Reebok, meaning she will presumably get her own branded fight wear and the money that goes with it, not so bad for someone who has only been fighting for three years.
Marrying marketability and in ring skills is the epitome of fight selling potential for all competitors in the UFC, but despite only a few being able to do it well, when it is done correctly, it can produce some MMA superstars. Ronda Rousey is arguably the most famous fighter the UFC has ever had on its roster, and despite being a sensational fighter, it wasn’t her skills alone that brought her to where she is today. The magic behind Rousey is her likeability, you either love her brass, care-free and completely honest personality because its 100% real, or you think she is arrogant and want to see her get beat up. Either way, you want to see her compete and not only does she know this, but so do the UFC and all of her sponsors. Combine this personality with a completely dominant skill set and you have a PPV star that could headline and sell out any stadium on the planet.
Despite marketability becoming an essential part of any UFC champion’s arsenal, it is not without its flaws, something former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones knows too well. Being the youngest champion in UFC history, the best pound for pound fighter on the planet and arguably one of the greatest of all time at just 27, Jon Jones is one of the most marketable fighters the UFC has ever known. His in-ring accomplishments and his provoking personality makes him a fighter no serious MMA fan would ever miss out on watching, but with all this fame in both MMA and the mainstream world, comes the fact that when you are at this level of sporting fame, you are always being watched.
Jon Jones recent out of cage actions from testing positive for cocaine, committing a hit and run on a pregnant woman and his worldwide fame meaning everyone knows about it has drastically affected his marketability as a competitor and poster boy. This was shown when Reebok immediately terminated their sponsorship with him after his most recent car crash, along with the UFC suspending him and stripping him of his title. This will not only affect Jones’ wallet, but also his future career and his legacy. Jones’ career has been constantly marred with out of fighting issues, with his press conference brawl with Cormier leading to him losing his Nike sponsorship as well. Yes, Jon Jones is a fighter and should be judged on his participation inside the cage, but these out of competition failures cannot be overlooked. Being a marketable fighter encompasses a fighters entire life from how he conducts himself with fans and the media to how he performs on fight night.
One man who takes marketability in MMA to heights never before seen is Connor McGregor. Despite only having 5 UFC fights, McGregor is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars in the UFC, rivalling the likes of Jones and Rousey as a media darling and stadium filler. The Irishman’s charm is not only in his fighting skills, but in his approach to the media obligations that come with being a UFC fighter. Conor never misses an opportunity to hype his next fight and ply reporters with quotes for their websites front page. McGregor is arguably the most complete fighter we have in the UFC in terms of encompassing all aspects of being a professional athlete. He is not only dominant in the sport itself, but he knows how to sell himself to the audience and sponsors and market his fights and the UFC as a whole to the world, making him an invaluable member of the UFC’s roster.
Marketing is a part of the UFC and this will only become more apparent as MMA grows. Whether you believe it tampers with the pureness of fighting, or the money it generates will continue to help the sport, being a mixed martial artist in today’s economy has an aspect of selling yourself to the world. Marketing brings pre-fight hype and money in ticket sales and sponsorships to the fighters and promotions, so being an enigmatic and engaging, but still professional competitor should be something all fighters strive for.
While it does have its downsides, ultimately, the best self-promoters out there, the likes of Rousey, Jones and McGregor, make their money before they even step foot in the cage.
Tom Gallicchio on UFC Release “It’s Been a Dream of Mine to Fight in KSW”
MMA Latest spoke to TUF 22 and 25 season competitor Tom Gallicchio about being cut from the UFC, and potential promotions that he could sign for in the future.
Gallicchio (19-10) signed for the UFC after reaching the semi-finals of The Ultimate Fighter: Season 25. Losing to James Krause in his debut, “Da Tank” was informed earlier this month that the UFC had parted ways with him.
Q: Before we jump into the whole free agency stuff, talk me through how the UFC broke the news that they were going to release you?
I thought I was going to have another fight, this time at lightweight. I got a letter dated July 7th, saying they were going to keep me, I received it in September. I was getting emails to update my USADA, I never got a cut letter and I got tested by USADA on October 24th. I was hoping to fight sometime in January or February, then they broke the news to me that they need to make a room for new talent.
Q: You made your UFC debut against James Krause in July, then 4 months down the line, they cut you. How surprised were you at this somewhat out of the blue decision?
I’m thankful for my opportunity in the UFC and the fact that they gave me another shot, but it was definitely surprising how it happened. They released a newsletter in September welcoming Jesse (Taylor) Dhiego (Lima) and myself into the UFC, all signs pointed towards another fight. Hearing that I was cut was just heartbreaking.
Q: Have any talks started with a new promotion. I saw you name a few on Twitter, the likes of Bellator, BAMMA, KSW and ACB. Who do you see yourself signing for?
I would love to compete in any of those! A couple of them hit me up, one of which I am very happy to talk with. Since they came out, It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW. They’re taking care of their fighters, I would love to fight for them. I want to travel, I want to see the world, I want to fight. I’ve got a lot of fans overseas and I want to give them a show.
It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW.
— Tom Gallicchio (@TomGallicchio) November 15, 2017
Q: Your long time friend Jesse Taylor was victorious in the TUF 25 Finale, but he has since accepted a 1-year ban for failing a USADA test. What is your take on this given how close you two are?
I know Jesse is not a juicer, I’ve known him ever since I came down to (Team) Quest. It’s probably come from some supplement that he’s taking, it sucks for him. I think he went into a little bit of panic mode, he could have done a better job of handling it.
— Tom Gallicchio (@TomGallicchio) November 16, 2017
I don’t take supplements, if there was a way, I’d still keep myself in the USADA pool just because I believe in a clean sport. I think it’s important we keep the sport clean and if we’re cleaning up the supplement companies then good, because no one else is.
Where would you look to see Tom fight next? Let us know below!
2017 IMMAF World Championships: Finals fixtures
After 4 days of non stop action from Monday to Thursday we have our final 14 bouts to determine the 2017 IMMAF World Champions. Most of these fighters have fought four times for their slot in the final and tomorrow will be their chance to finish off what has been a fantastic week of fights.
Kicking off the action tomorrow will be Michele Oliveira vs. Danni Neilan. Both women have looked extremely impressive in their bouts so far, Oliveira has spent less time in the cage than her opponent after finishing two of her fights. Neilan is the Irish teams last chance of a gold in this competition and comes into this after a war of a last fight. She is constantly pressuring and has solid striking with incredible ground and pound from any position on top.
Joel Aronlainen came down to featherweight after testing the water at lightweight in the European Championships. His lanky build and impressive overall skill set has seen him pick up 3 finishes in the competition so far. His opponent Delyan Georgiev is undefeated and will be a tough challenge for him. Georgiev has dominated the featherweight division at amateur, his gold medal at the European Championships could now lead to him becoming a world champion if he continues to perform like we’re used to seeing him do.
At 155lbs, Vitali Andruhovich will take on top American prospect Quintin Thomas for the gold. Andruhovich has been on the right side of two very close split decisions in this tournament so far. His controversial win over Irishman Ciaran Clarke had many people scratching their heads at the decision. He now has the chance to prove himself with a win against Quintin Thomas. Thomas is the UMMAF National Champion and a very experienced amateur fighter. Racking up 13 wins he has been a dominant fighter in most of his fights, his sole losses coming from sustaining an injury and a split decision loss.
For the Middleweight medal we have a battle of the Nordic fighters. Iceland’s Bjorn Lukas Haraldsson has looked phenomenal in his fights so far, finishing each and everyone inside a round. The Mjolnir fighter has been to many the highlight of the tournament, but has a tough task a head of him in Laallam who’s had half the number of fights in this tournament and looked impressive in both.
Bahrain’s last hope for a medal lies in the hand of Light Heavyweight finisher Murtaza Talha Ali. Ali has finished all four of his bouts so far, 3 via TKO/KO and his last being by way of submission. Standing in his way of gold will be Pavel Pahomenko from Belarus who’s proven to be lethal with submissions once an opportunity arises scoring two submission wins inside the first round.
Here is the full fixture list for the finals tomorrow:
- Michele Oliveira vs. Danni Neilan 125 lbs
- Anna Astvik vs. Hannah Dawson 115 lbs
- Chamia Chabbi vs. Manon Fiorot 135 lbs
- C. McCrudden vs. Fabiana Giampà 145 lbs
- Gase Sanita vs. Kaycee Blake 155 lbs
- Yernaz Mussabek vs. Serdar Atlas 125 lbs
- Gamzat Magomedov vs. O. Moldagaliyev 135 lbs
- Joel Arolainen vs. Delyan Georgiev 145 lbs
- V. Andruhovich vs. Quitin Thomas 155 lbs
- Sola Axel vs. Benjamin Bennett 170 lbs
- B. Haraldsson vs. Khaled Laallam 185 lbs
- Pavel Pahomenko vs. Murtaza Talha Ali 205 lbs
- Irman Smajic vs. Lev Vins 265 lbs
- Atanas Krastanov vs. Marcin Kalata 300 lbs
Why It’s Time to Cherish Michael Bisping and Stop the Hate
Ever since the Ultimate Fighter 3, Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping has been one of the most hated fighters on the UFC roster. Since he was painted as the big bad Brit against the American hero Dan Henderson, Bisping has been the villain. He has played up to the reputation of being one of the biggest heels in the UFC, with his arrogance, trash talk and often disrespectful attitude.
But nothing has summed up Michael Bisping more than the events of this past week. After losing his Middleweight Championship to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 217, no one would blame Bisping for wanting a few months on the couch whilst sinking a few beers before retiring at UFC London in March.
After hearing that Anderson Silva had tested positive for a banned substance, it was announced that Bisping would fill in for Silva to face Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC Shanghai. A fight that nobody else would have wanted. A fight that he has less than three weeks to prepare for.
The fight does nothing for Bisping. Gastelum is a rising, rejuvenated contender and Bisping knows he can not take him lightly. But he’s also seven places below him in the rankings. Although, this doesn’t matter anymore as Bisping has announced this will be his second to last fight ever before hanging up his gloves.
Nothing sums Bisping up better than his comment on Gastelum’s Instagram post “See you in China. Loser buys the beers”.
He sounds relaxed. Perhaps he’s enjoying his last two fights and is at peace with his impending retirement.
In an era all about money, fighters like Bisping are rare and hard to come by. Fighters that only care about one thing, fighting.
Sure, his title reign wasn’t the best. But the UFC offered him the Henderson fight, to bring back some feeling of nostalgia that has been missing in the modern times of the UFC. And who in their right mind wouldn’t want to face one of the greatest ever in GSP.
It’s easy to forget amongst all the trash talk that Bisping has always played by the rules, and been anti PEDs during a time when a majority of the roster was using some form of performance enhancers. Fighting PED users has given Bisping most of his losses and has even led to him losing sight in one of his eyes.
Most of Bisping’s outrageous acts, have been him using a ‘pro wrestling’ act in order to hype up his fights and put bums in seats. That isn’t an excuse for some of his obnoxious behaviour. But when he’s not in the zone, it’s clear to see what a respectful and humble man he is. Like his moment after UFC 217, where he approached Cody Garbrandt to tell him how proud he was of him, or his post fight respect for Anderson Silva, where they both bowed on their knees to one another.
The truth is, Bisping is an incredible ambassador of the sport and one of the pioneers across the pond.
Bisping should be remembered and appreciated as the workhorse warrior who brought absolutely everything he had to the cage every time he fought. He always comes to fight, whether it’s three weeks notice or more. He’s simply tough as hell.
Believe you me Michael Bisping is a true old school legend of this sport and should be cherished whilst we still have him, cause we will miss him when he’s gone.
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