The recipe for UFC superstardom

Let’s face it: MMA is about fighting but at the end of the day,

it truly is about entertainment. You need fans to care about your

fights. A fighter needs a following to make it in this business.

The more fans you have, the more value you have as a fighter.

It doesn’t help a fighter much if they are a champion fans don’t

care about. You may be the #1 fighter in your weight class, but it

still comes down to numbers. How many fans can you get to purchase

tickets to your fight? How many fans will buy a PPV because

you’re on the card? Basically, how much interest can you

generate as a fighter in the UFC? Let’s discuss the ways a fighter

can best maximize interest when they fight.

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The No. 1 way a fighter can generate fans is through their

fighting style. If a fighter is exciting and dominant, people will

tune in to watch. I remember when Mike Tyson fought back in the

80’s and 90’s. The world seemed like it all came to a screeching

stop when he fought. Tyson’s fights were electric. He was an

intimidating and dominant force. Although his fights would many

times end in quick knockouts people would still tune in and pay big

bucks to watch him take out a guy in under a minute. Tyson

encompassed a style that was fan-friendly because of the speed,

skill and power he brought into the ring. He wasn’t only there to

win, he was there to destroy. Not only did he become the most

popular boxer in his day, he was revered as one of the most famous

athletes in the world. His peekaboo style of boxing combined

beautiful defense with devastating offense and people stood in awe

of how he was able to slip on the inside without taking much damage

and make good pros look like amateurs. For much of his career, he

proved to be head and shoulders above every one else in the

heavyweight division.

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Two UFC champions that have showed dominance and excitement in

their wins are Jon “Bones” Jones and newly minted lightweight champ

Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. Both men are fearless in their attempts

to try flashy techniques that get the oohs and ahhs from the fans.

These are the things get fans to tune in to see what kind of crazy

techniques they will use next. Nobody will forget the Pettis cage

kick anytime soon that he hit on Benson Henderson in the

Zuffa-owned WEC in the 5th round as he cinched the fight and the

title in the closing seconds. I believe both Jones and Pettis have

the potential to move from stars to superstars in the UFC because

their fighting styles truly deliver.

This brings me to my second point: what and

how you say things. I’m a big believer that the best

marketing for a fighter is an exciting fight style, but even better

is if you can combine that with a dynamic personality. Take current

UFC fighter and my buddy Chael Sonnen for example. He wasn’t always

a fast-talking and brash “American Gangster”. Chael figured out

that this is a business of entertainment. Through various pre- and

post-fight interviews, newspaper articles and other media, Chael

made it known that he is not here to make friends. In fact, Chael

has made many enemies throughout his career but more importantly,

he has made his fights matter. It is clear that Chael is

quick-witted and fearless with his words and he knows how to make

fights happen.

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There is a reason why fighting is more popular than patty cake.

There is excitement when two fighters have a beef. It automatically

means something. There is a score to be settled and interest is

then generated because of it. A fight is always more interesting

when two fighters clearly don’t like each other. People will then

speculate about what can and will happen. People start listening

and start choosing sides. Fans take to the Internet and writers

explain the drama behind the arguments and insults which just keeps

compounding the interest behind the fights. When you’re

involved in a war of words, you need to be ready for the criticism

and hate that may come along with this aggressive brand of

marketing.

You also have to be ready for the perceived pressures that come

along with having to back up what you say. If you say that

you’re ready to put on a butt-whipping then you better do

your best to deliver to the fans. The fans will only be fooled so

many times before they call your bluff and lose interest.

It’s also what makes calling a fighter out more interesting.

One of my pet peeves is when a fighter has an opportunity to say

who they want next during a postfight interview and they say,

“It’s up to the UFC”. We

know that, but who do

you want to fight next? Sure it is more risky to call a

fighter out or say directly that you want a shot at the title but

that just makes people want to see if you are indeed able to

accomplish your goals. It makes the fans want to follow that

fighter’s quest for whatever they set out to do.

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Winning is a big part of that aspect. It’d be pretty hard to get

a following if you were 0-38 in your career. You can be exciting

fighter and a good talker but people want winners. Undefeated

fighters will always generate interest, especially in the UFC where

undefeated fighters is a rarity these days. We will know that there

are so many ways to win and lose in this sport, be it a costly

mistake in the Octagon or a bad decision. A record composed of many

wins and few losses will always be more impressive than the

alternative. Each win is a way for fighters to gain interest and

attain more fans. It is also a great way of keeping you on the UFC

roster so that you can get more of a following with every

fight.

Consistency in the UFC can be a hard thing to do over a long

career, but a great example of keeping a stellar record is Georges

St-Pierre. Even with the one blemish on his record that he suffered

to Matt Serra, he was able to avenge that loss. The welterweight

they call GSP has done this in one of the most challenging weight

classes. It is no mistake that he has been a PPV-selling

juggernaut.

A quality coaching staff and a good business team is also

crucial to taking a a fighter up the path to success in the UFC.

The coaching staff is incredibly important in giving you the right

training methods and guidance in your approach to winning and your

management team gives you the right fights and marketing tools to

become a household name. It’s so important that a fighter

surround themselves with savvy and smart people who will protect

them and look out for their best interests, in and out of the

Octagon.

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The longer you fight in the UFC, the more you can build your fan

base. It is important for a fighter to not get caught up in the

same patterns over and over again even if it has given you success

in the past. A constant evolution in your MMA game will give you

new and exciting techniques to learn and will keep your opponents

and rival coaches guessing when strategizing against you. This also

means a larger arsenal of techniques from which you can work

from.

Say what you will of Vitor Belfort, but he is a great example of

someone who has been around a long time, has a huge international

fan base and has consistently improved and evolved throughout his

career. Fighters always feared Belfort’s fast hands and explosive

starts. Now Belfort is showing a dynamic kicking game that has

taken out stellar competition at 185lbs and 205lbs.

There you have it fans and fighters, the recipe for superstardom

in the UFC. You know what ingredients you need but it takes a great

team, a lot of hard work, intelligence and mental fortitude to

attain.