Is Conor McGregor Already The UFC’s Biggest Star After Three Wins Over Unranked Opponents?

By now it’s safe to safe that Irish featherweight sensation Conor McGregor has taken the mixed martial arts (MMA) world by storm following his first round TKO win over Diego Brandao in the main event of UFC Fight Night 46 yesterday (Sat., July 19, 2014) from the O2 Arena in Dublin, Ireland.

After the insane card was hardly finished, talk of course shifted to just whom McGregor would fight next. No. 6-ranked Dustin Poirier was quick to hop on Twitter and volunteer his services at UFC 178, and McGregor himself propositioned UFC Co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta for a big name bout in an Irish soccer stadium.

That would suggest he is looking for an opponent considerably higher up the totem pole than Poirier. However, that could be a tough sell. While his 3-0 run in the Octagon is impressive, he’s yet to defeat a fighter even ranked inside the Top 15. He’ll no doubt receive a huge step up in competition his next time out, and his detractors would tell you that’s when we’re really going to find out what “Notorious” is made of.

Maybe they’re right. If he can’t get by Poirier, something that No. 3-ranked Cub Swanson and No. 5-ranked Chan Sung Jung have both managed to do in the past two years, then will he really be able to contend with the elite contenders he’s been calling out for so many months?

It’s hard to say, but that’s not what this piece is about.

What it is about is McGregor’s intense gravitational pull that has arguably made him the biggest star the UFC has to offer before defeating anyone close to a legitimate title contender. In an era of injured champions and fading legends, the promotion is beyond starved for top-level draws.

You could argue that Ronda Rousey is the UFC’s biggest star; she very well may be. But similar to McGregor, she has yet to be met with much competition in the Octagon. Her last two wins lasted a total of 82 seconds, not exactly giving pay-per-view (PPV) buyers their money’s worth.

“Rowdy” does not, on the other hand, bring the weight of the entire Irish Nation and their well-documented love for the fight game. That’s always going to be McGregor’s trump card.

Another thing that differentiates McGregor from Rousey is that his lack of true top competition is about to change. He’ll face off with nothing but the elite of the stacked UFC featherweight division from here on out.

With Rousey rumored to be returning in December to face Gina Carano, an actress who’s been out of the cage for over five years, the same thing cannot be said about the dominant women’s bantamweight champion.

You could move on and argue that UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is the promotion’s biggest star, and after all that he’s accomplished in the cage, indeed he should be. But fans just haven’t taken to “Bones” as a suitable replacement for beloved and absent (at least for now) longtime champions Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva.

Let’s look at it this way: if McGregor were to string together an unbelievable win streak that includes several finishes over former champions like Jones’ current one, most would be talking about “Notorious” not only being the biggest star in the UFC, but the best fighter to ever step foot in the Octagon. It’s that simple.

They’d certainly be saying it a lot more and quicker than they are about Jones right now.

“Bones” polarizing and sometimes thought to be arrogant attitude and persona just isn’t allowing him to rise to his full star potential. McGregor has already far outshined him in the public relations department. Lately the 205-pound champ has been doing well by switching it up and playing the full heel, and in truth, that may be the best strategy for him.

As far is McGregor is concerned, he’s always going to be a massive babyface despite his endless trash talk and callouts.

So has McGregor done the unthinkable and surpassed Rousey and Jones as the UFC’s brightest performer? Well, he obviously did this weekend. But in a time where drawing power is apparently more and more important than actual skill and ranking, McGregor beat everybody in the department that matters most, and he beat them badly.

It may be right, it may be wrong, but two things are certain: McGregor’s hype has shot out of a cannon like few fighters’ ever have, and he’s competing in the perfect time to rise up without any truly big wins.

Would a pay-per-view headlined by a Jose Aldo vs. McGregor featherweight title fight outsell a Jones or Rousey-led card? It’s probably not going to outsell UFC 178, which features arguably the biggest rematch in the history of the sport in Jones vs. Gustafsson II, but it might come close.

We’ll have to see if fans grow weary of seeing Rousey destroy overmatched “contenders” for much longer without fighting “Cyborg.”

That all could disappear with one bad outing against a top-ranked featherweight, but finding out is going to be a fun ride. Let me know what you think about McGregor’s growing fame in the comments section below.

Photo: Winslow Townson for USA TODAY Sports


26 Comments

  1. Profile photo of watermelon fresh

    watermelon fresh

    July 20, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Ummm hell no! It's just a cult like following on boards like sherdog, with a bunch of losers starting threads about him even calling him goat etc…. There's not much going on in mma right now and few bright spots so when someone with a controversial attitude crops up and wins it generate interest. Hell things are so bad Dana is looking to bring back a female retired fighter that has not competed in 5 years to challenge for title immediately. If things were so great why bring back retired fighters?

    McGregor is interesting, fills a void for the Chael fans I guess. Biggest star? No…. Not even close.

    • Profile photo of enjoylife321

      enjoylife321

      July 20, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      @watermelon…UFC put on some great meaningful fights, but there are alot of questionable matchups in the name of profits….I want to see carano back but she is not ready for rhonda period…

      The only reason connor is on the radar is because the UFC have lost so many stars…Connor was just lucky to arrive at the right time when gsp and anderson were exiting the building along with so many others like diaz…..Remember the media stories five years ago, connors name would have struggled to get a mention had he been competing in the ufc with guys like brock coming on the scene…

      Connors had 3 fights in the ufc….The guys at the top of the division are the ones we should be celebrating…If anyone was to compare connors career with BJ peen they would laugh …People need to write history in ten years from now when its all over before they start pretending he is a mythical irish legend….

      • Profile photo of SpaceJam

        SpaceJam

        July 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm

        You both are way of on this one. Conor is easily one of the biggest stars in the UFC, not the biggest, but, ONE of the biggest. It isn't just because of his trash talking or the fact he is from Ireland, its his skill in the cage. He is a ferocious finisher, he has some excellent boxing, footwork and head movement. He has some nasty karate style kicks, He is explosive with knockout power, very fast, very tall for 155 and 145 and he has a great ground game.

        Conor is nothing like Chael in the Cage, outside the cage, yes they both talk a lot of shit and get the casual fans involved, but Conor is a fantastic young fighter and backs up his trash talking, Chael is a good wrestler and thats it, he had no other outstanding qualities everything else was PED fueled.

        Conor had a ton of hype before the Brimage fight and look how impressively he finished him. Marcus is a good young prospect, he just had a great fight against Russell Doane. Max Hollaway is a great young fighter, If Conor didn't tear his ACL mid way through the second round he could of finished Max on the feet. Brandao has nasty KO power, Dustin struggled and got dropped by an overweight Diego, Conor fought a in shape fired up Diego.

        Poirer got beaten by Swanson then beat Eric Koch, Diego Brandao then Akira Corassani…….He is ranked #6……..

        Conor is still a long way of being considered one of the greatest P4P fighters in the UFC, he still needs wins over top 10 contenders. If Conor can impressively KO Dustin, then maybe Frankie, Lamas or KZ he will vault up the Rankings and the P4P rankings. The hype with Conor stared because of his skills in the cage, his trash talking came second.

    • Profile photo of whitemare

      whitemare

      July 21, 2014 at 3:39 am

      Yeah guy is way over hyped sure hes a very talented fighter but doesn't mean he can jump up the rankings just cause hes got a mouth on him.

      I don't get why the UFC brought in the ranking system when they don't go by it and never have

  2. Profile photo of TheXperience

    TheXperience

    July 20, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    No… not even Top 5. Biggest star from Europe? maybe… but then there's Gus, whom i think is still a bigger draw at this point (depending on whom he's fighting).

  3. Profile photo of HATEOCRACY

    HATEOCRACY

    July 20, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    If it wasn't for LowKick I wouldn't know Who the f**k McGregor is. I still never seen him fight & unless he beats a somewhat top contender I probably won't care.
    But to be fair to Mac, I'm more of a LowKick/Bones/Hendrix/Silva fan than a UFC/MMA fan.

    • Profile photo of SpaceJam

      SpaceJam

      July 20, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      You should watch his highlight reel…..

      • Profile photo of TheXperience

        TheXperience

        July 20, 2014 at 11:48 pm

        How many people would even know to check for that reel? That's the whole thing… Brandao is the first one that will be on that list that has minor significance. Like Hate says… until he beats a top contender, most won't know or won't care about Conor and that's why he's not one of UFC's biggest stars yet. When the casual fan knows about him and start looking for his next fights, we're getting somewhere. Last nights fight does help, cause he was headlining. So a lot more will at least know who he is now but a "star"… he's not there yet!

        • Profile photo of SpaceJam

          SpaceJam

          July 21, 2014 at 2:29 am

          Dude he was just the main event in one of the biggest and most successful cards of the year, after 2 fights in the UFC, he is a super star. When was the last time that happened? The fastest selling UFC event ever, the Irish fans would of gone if Conor was not on the card but he is a major reason why it was incredible successful. All you have to do is Type on Youtube "Conor McGregor Highlight reel" When there is a young new prospect making their debut in the UFC, with a lot of hype, the first thing I do is go check their previous fights. Its not rocker science, If you judge him based on the skills he has shown, its easy to tell he has a lot of potential.

          • Profile photo of darejz00

            darejz00

            July 21, 2014 at 6:18 am

            The UFC hype is working its magic, they make it seem like he's the biggest star and fans buy into it (and PPVs at the same time).
            Thing is though, let's say I'm out having sushi, I know for a fact that I could beat up 99% of these sushi eating clowns. The obnoxious on-lookers watching me elbow some guy to oblivion would think "Oh my what a beast, he must be the toughest guy in town". The truth is, put me against a legit professional fighter and 99% of them would take my head home (1% if I run faster than them).
            Random story but hopefully you get my point Space, Conor hasn't fought anybody yet. He looks unstoppable fighting lower caliber fighters but he has yet to prove himself against a ranked guy, simple as that.

          • Profile photo of SpaceJam

            SpaceJam

            July 21, 2014 at 6:24 am

            I didn't really get your point but all the top ranked fighters like Jones, Velasquez, Gus, Pettis, Cerrone, Weidman, Rousey all started in the same position as Conor, smashing their early competition then continuing to smash the top ranked as well. Personally I don't have to see Conor against a Elite top Contender to know he is a great fighter, from years of experience I can say with certainty he is a top contender.

          • Profile photo of darejz00

            darejz00

            July 21, 2014 at 7:12 am

            That's all true, don't get me wrong I've said it before I'm also a big big Mcgregor fan, I think he's an awesome fighter and I don't see why he wouldn't become something big.
            I personally just don't want to fall for the hype.. I mean look at Alistair Overeem, wasn't he supposed to become the new HW king?

          • Profile photo of movescamp

            movescamp

            July 21, 2014 at 12:22 pm

            Cerrone? He has and prob never will beat top 5 guys. Connor is the real deal but his skills may look different facing top level guys (like cerrone who has great skill but not enough fight IQ to face top level guys). Matt Brown too. The guy beats a number 13 fighter (almost getting KO'd with a body shot) and next faces the number 1 contender? Matts about to be KO'd because he got way out ranked. Connor actually has good skill in what we saw (vs brown who is just a tough brawler) but, even you have to admit those skills can look very different facing a high level(top 5) guy.

          • Profile photo of falcon4917

            falcon4917

            July 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm

            I agree with that. As far as star power though this kid is rising faster than anyone before him including Ronda and Jones.

          • Profile photo of falcon4917

            falcon4917

            July 21, 2014 at 9:05 am

            The fighters fights don't always make him a star sometimes it's the place he comes from and the sounds he makes. But he has done well and excitingly well. He is a big star already and the crowds prove that. Even in Boston they cheared like GSP was in Montreal.

          • Profile photo of TheXperience

            TheXperience

            July 21, 2014 at 7:20 am

            He was the main event in Ireland cause he's the most popular fighter out of Ireland. His star power however is limited to Ireland (right now). The Irish just happen to be a major support. That does not make him the biggest UFC star. His Star power is mainly local. That card wouldn't have sold out that fast in any other Country. The UFC does a great job with marketing him and of course his self promotion doesn't suck. Yet, he's not one of UFC's biggest stars yet. Don't be fooled by the hype.

          • Profile photo of falcon4917

            falcon4917

            July 21, 2014 at 9:07 am

            You need to remember Boston which was only his second fight. It was as if GSP was fighting for the title in Montreal the way the fans were reacting. He has been all over media and MMA sites, he is the fastest growing star ever in MMA right now.

          • Profile photo of TheXperience

            TheXperience

            July 21, 2014 at 4:27 pm

            @Falcon yeah half of Ireland flew out for that fight!

        • Profile photo of falcon4917

          falcon4917

          July 21, 2014 at 9:02 am

          You don't have to even be good to be a star. Look at his fight in Boston. It was his second fight in the UFC and the crowd made more noise than most championship fights ever. He is a star already for sure and one of the biggest stars, although he needs certain wins to get a high rank.

  4. Profile photo of HATEOCRACY

    HATEOCRACY

    July 21, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Don't get it twisted Jams. If that same exact card would of been anywhere else but Ireland that shit would of sold about 600 tickets. They put dude in his backyard against a scrub that got tko'd in the first round in his last fight WOW

    Let's not all go get McGregor The McGreat tatts just yet, let's see what he looks like in his next 3 fight.

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