In a dizzying few days of statements and posturing, has the UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor demonstrated that he is in fact bigger than the organisation, with which his name is intrinsically tied?
What McGregor has achieved in the UFC since his debut in 2013, has possibly laid the foundation for the most remarkable rags to riches story in recent history. McGregor famously joked about being on the social welfare in the post fight press conference after his first fight for the promotion. Since then, he has earned himself and the UFC huge money.
UFC 189 was the first time McGregor headlined a PPV event and it was clear that McGregor was a superstar in and outside the cage as the Embedded YouTube videos broke previous records, the UFC held the biggest weigh-ins in their history and the event itself was one of the greatest spectacles in recent MMA memory.
His super stardom only grew in the following months in the lead up to UFC 194, which broke the gate record for an MMA event in Las Vegas, the home of the UFC. While exact numbers were not released, the event was believed to have broken the million PPV buy mark also, a feat only achieved a handful of times in the company’s history.
McGregor knocked out long time Featherweight Champion in just 13 seconds at UFC 194 and as a result had his face put on the new EA Sports UFC game. McGregor’s fame was growing all the time but it was unclear until recent events just how far his stardom could reach.
In his recent retirement tweet, the ‘Notorious’ garnered an astounding 165 thousand plus retweets, something no UFC fighter has ever achieved.
I have decided to retire young.
Thanks for the cheese.
Catch ya's later.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 19, 2016
This level of a following is usually reserved for boybands and movie stars, who have millions of fans around the world. The UFC still has a relatively niche following, which makes this achievement that much more poignant. Clearly McGregor has a following that outweighs that of the UFC.
After his admission since then that the tweet was merely a stunt to show the UFC the power of his marketability, McGregor has gone into territory never before seen by the UFC, where a fighter is putting the pressure on them to make the next move. Criticized in recent times for their treatment of fighters, the UFC now has to make a potentially costly decision based on the intelligent strategy of one fighter.
McGregor’s powerplay has not sat well with the company’s brass and perhaps his posturing has cost him a place at one of the biggest events in the UFC’s history. If his axing from UFC 200 is not overturned, only time will tell who’s pocket will be hurt more but the latest controversy has surely put the UFC on notice that McGregor is able to generate more traction with one tweet than a 10 million dollar marketing campaign by the promotion.
Even more support has come for the ‘Notorious’ from his fellow fighters, with Jon Jones publicly supporting the brash Dublin native and other UFC fighters tweeting about the events.
— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) April 21, 2016
Dear, Conor, I am willing to put on my best Irish accent and do all your press obligations so you can train. Your pal, Elias. #UFC200
— The Spartan (@EliasTheodorou) April 21, 2016
We eagerly await a conclusion to the drama, all the while wondering Is Conor McGregor bigger than the UFC?
You can view Pundit Arena’s exclusive interview with Conor McGregor here.