Thursday night’s official press conference for UFC 244’s main-event pairing of Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz gave us an interesting insight into a potential change in the UFC’s attitude towards fight-promotion.
Let’s be real, the presser was a bit of mess.
Sound issues that were no doubt exacerbated by the choice of setting were joined by some excruciatingly bad questions from some of those in attendance – leaving us all feeling slightly underwhelmed by what we had just witnessed.
But execution aside, the moves made by the UFC to deliver that ‘big-fight feel’ were ones that should be applauded, ones that in all honesty fill me with hope for the future.
The line that exists between blatant cash-grabs and maintaining the sport’s integrity is one that Dana White and co. have been struggling to toe in the WME-IMG era of the company to an even greater extent than before.
With the introduction of the groundbreaking ESPN deal, mixed martial arts as a whole is truly being primed for an assault on the mainstream’s collective consciousness.
A fight like Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz, through the actions of the UFC, will be used as a true litmus test of where exactly things stand, at present.
Everything from the creation of a one-off BMF championship belt to the beautiful choice of location for last night’s presser tells me that the UFC are experimenting with this one.
Having the Brooklyn Bridge as the backdrop for an outdoor media event was a move that made this outing feel like something more akin to the blockbuster boxing showdown than anything we have seen before – even in the most prestigious of MMA bouts.
No doubt aware of this fight’s potential to be their biggest of the year, grabbing the attention of people casually flicking over to the ESPN network or those tuning into SportsCenter is a must.
You’ve gotta fake it until you make it, right?
Not that Masvidal and Diaz aren’t the absolute perfect duo to carry this show.
But in a time where your biggest superstar has all-but-transcended the sport, using that extra attention correctly is paramount if you want to successfully build the brands of your other assets.
Each of these men have done their part in boosting their status – both through their actions inside the octagon and beyond – and giving them this platform could well prove to be a masterstroke from the UFC brass.
This clash is a helluva lot of fun from a stylistic standpoint, of course, but with its setting in the iconic Madison Square Garden, the unprecedented decision to specifically create a novelty belt, and the somewhat experimental approach to their first press conference, I’m getting the feeling that the UFC could well be taking the first steps in what will stand as an evolution of their promotional game.
Both Jorge and Nate are as popular as anyone within the sport right now and both have managed to crack into the mainstream in recent times with a far greater level of success that perhaps anyone could have imagined five years ago.
Just as they brought in Sinéad O’Connor and Aaron Lewis to sing Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes to the octagon at the now-legendary UFC 189, hitting the fans with a left-hook from time-to-time can be the ideal way to force that ‘big-fight feel’ where necessary.
MMA’s standing within the eyes of the mainstream has come along in leaps and bounds in the last five years and while it’s safe to say that the vast majority of that was down to one individual’s magnetism (because let’s be real, it was), the time has come to take the lessons learned in that time and move forward.
Again, the press conference was far from fantastic in its execution, and this article is not one that’s commending the UFC for putting on the greatest or most ground-breaking media-event that they’ve ever done.
But they do appear to be going all-in on this one – despite it having no official championship titles attached to it – and given the popularity and overall likeability of the two men involved, I couldn’t be happier to see the promotion give them this push.
That BMF title is indeed pointless in the grand scheme of things right now. But once November 2 hits, and that MSG crowd roar these two warriors to the cage, trust me, there won’t be a more meaningful prize in the game.