Sonnen: McGregor biggest star in UFC, bigger draw than Rousey
There isn’t much of an argument these days that when it comes to star power in the UFC, it really is a two-person race with interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor neck and neck with former women’s champion Ronda Rousey.
Rousey’s mainstream celebrity has exploded during the past year with singers using her speeches at concerts and becoming one of the most talked about athletes on social media.
That being said, McGregor’s appeal beyond his outlandish interviews and headline-worthy quotes, he’s also become a massive draw at the box office between pay-per-view and attendance at the shows where he’s fighting.
Former UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen knows a few things about drawing big numbers for pay-per-view, and he says that when it comes to star power and draw in mixed martial arts right now, McGregor is ahead of all the competition, even Rousey.
"I don’t know what the thought process is at Zuffa. Conor’s the biggest pay-per-view draw in the sport," Sonnen told FOX Sports. "Regardless of what gets put out by anybody at any level, I can tell you as a guy that sees the numbers — Conor McGregor is the biggest star in the sport.
"I don’t know what the thought process is on saying otherwise. He is the biggest star and has been for a while."
During his own career, Sonnen was rated as one of the top five draws on all of pay-per-view so he’s no stranger to what it takes to pull in some of the biggest numbers in the UFC.
As much attention as Rousey receives outside the cage, Sonnen still sees McGregor as the largest draw when it comes to overall pay-per-view as well as the money earned by the audience attending his fights live.
There’s obviously no specific metric to rate the biggest star in the UFC, but Sonnen believes for him it’s the person drawing the most dollars and that conversation starts and stops with McGregor.
"In terms of a draw, as far as I’m concerned whoever draws the most money is the biggest star; I don’t see how there’s another conversation on that," Sonnen said. "When it comes to Ronda and that constant claim that she is the biggest star — she is the most likely to end up on the Jimmy Fallon couch tonight so in regard to who can get that mainstream attention, you can go ahead and make your case there.
"For me it’s whoever sells the most pay-per-views is the biggest star. Maybe I say that because I was there for a while so I’m trying to cling to that, I have no idea. For me, if you do the most pay-per-views and the biggest gate, you’re the biggest star and that is Conor."