After an incredible event at Madison Square Garden (MSG), UFC 205 delivered on its promise to be one of the most entertaining and highly anticipated cards the promotion has ever hosted. Every fight delivered: from the unexpected results to shocking announcements, the event lived up to the expectations and gave fans wanting more. How do you follow on from such an electrifying night? Well you give the people an encore.
Enter UFC 207, but more on that later.
The Special One
The ‘Notorious’ Conor McGregor has been a revelation for the UFC, taking them to unbelievable heights that neither Dana White nor the new owners could have dream of in such a short span of time. After a historic win at UFC 205 where he beat Eddie Alvarez for the Lightweight championship, Conor McGregor is now the only athlete to hold two different belts from two different divisions. With him on the roster the promotion can guarantee massive turnouts and entrance fees but the question remains: Has Conor McGregor become bigger than the company? I’d say the answer is both yes and no. Let’s look at the facts; McGregor has faced every challenge thrown at him without a complaint. He hasn’t shied away from any of the opponents he’s fought which includes an impressive list of fighters: Jose Aldo, Nate Diaz, Chad Mendes and most recently Eddie Alvarez. Each opponent was beaten at different weight divisions (145lb, 155lbs and 175lbs).
Saying this, holding two belts would create a choke hold over the two divisions. With the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson and Jose Aldo all waiting for a shot at the Featherweight and Lightweight belt, this creates a long list of fighters and become disastrous for the UFC. Losing out on fans and fighters alike will result in less interest and in time lower revenue. We’ve already seen Jose Aldo threaten to leave the UFC because he didn’t get his title fight with Conor McGregor and seeing as he is one of the most revered fighters of the UFC makes a telling statement.
The Colossal Queen Returns
Former women’s Bantamweight champion – Ronda Rousey is finally making her comeback on 30th December 2016 to fight for the Women’s Bantamweight championship a year after losing to Holly Holm. Rousey’s fame has not only caught attention of the far ends of the UFC but has brought in many more ‘arm chair’ fans due to her commitments in Hollywood. Several roles and cameos in films such as Furious 7 have propelled her to stardom. I would argue the romance and appeal that Hollywood brings can be quite the temptation but that seems to have come with a fair amount of distractions affecting her preparations and commitments to the UFC, making her the Michael Jordan of her sport. Certainly on paper, Ronda Rousey is the linchpin of the promotion and will be a lot better off with her on the roster even with her year long absence.
Although, with everything said and done, Ronda Rousey is still the UFC’s biggest star and pull for pay-per-views and replacing her becomes a monumental task for the promotion. Despite, Conor McGregor’s recent rise, ‘Notorious’ still plays second fiddle to the queen and behemoth Rousey.
UFC President Dana White told Hot 97 in New York (via Seven Sport):
“By far. Not even close. By far the biggest star. Ronda Rousey is such a big star. When you go down to Brazil, they don’t care who you are. They want the Brazilian to whup your ass. When Ronda went down there, they cheered for Ronda over the Brazilian. Never seen that before in my life, and will probably never see it again. That’s how big Ronda Rousey is.”
The UFC is well aware that Rousey’s inevitable retirement will need to be filled. The missing element in her illustrious career is a super fight with Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos. ‘Cyborg’ claims Rousey has been running away from this fight for years and I’d have to say, making this fight happen should be on the UFC’s priority list. Not only would this cap off her career but provide the UFC with even more leverage and reputation to conjure the most entertaining fights on the planet. Even though, McGregor is currently holding the fort in Ronda’s absence, her inevitable return has lingered with every passing event.
It’s easy to see why the UFC are laughing their way to the bank after UFC 205. With record viewership and higher revenue numbers, the promotion will be leaving MSG on a high but will they be able to sustain the kind of momentum and attraction they currently possess? A heavy reliance on their two star athletes is not a long term strategy. Conor McGregor is 28, in his prime and has an abundance of time to develop into a legendary fighter. Ronda Rousey seems to be fantasized about her famed stardom in Hollywood and Jon Jones, the former face of the Light heavyweight division is facing a year long suspension seemingly surrendering himself into oblivion leaving the UFC short on megastars. McGregor’s season finale was one to behold, creating history. His inevitable renewal will come at some point next year, leaving us with a fitting swansong to end an incredible 2016. Attention has already turned to UFC 207 where Ronda Rousey will make her long awaited return to the octagon against current Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. It will be interesting to see how ‘Rowdy’ makes her comeback after her year long hiatus to recover from her physical and mental wounds inflicted by Holly Holm. It seems like we’re talking about Rousey and McGregor every other week now. It’s time for the UFC to find their new Michael Jordan and LeBron James to begin the new era.