UFC 250 took place this past weekend behind closed doors, but fanfare was at an all-time high. As one of the only live sports in action, UFC viewership is peaking but there are signs of cracks within the organization. Sports journalist and UFC insider, Ragavan Sreetharan has the details.
Conor McGregor is by far the biggest draw
While McGregor didn’t compete this past weekend, his tweet probably grabbed all the headlines.
Hey guys I’ve decided to retire from fighting.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) June 7, 2020
Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it’s been!
Here is a picture of myself and my mother in Las Vegas post one of my World title wins!
Pick the home of your dreams Mags I love you!
Whatever you desire it’s yours ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Dh4ijsZacZ
His 3rd retirement tweet (yes, he’s done this before!) was picked up by everyone from ESPN to CNN. Probably just another stunt to stay relevant and keep the eyes on him. But even the slightest chance of this news being true gets it the most attention. But the true headline isn’t that McGregor is retiring; it’s that McGregor has put the UFC on notice that he’s still the biggest draw…and it isn’t even close.
Amanda Nunes is the women’s GOAT and the women’s 145 lbs (featherweight) divisions is probably the weakest
Nunes did exactly what she needed to do and put in a clinic against Felicia Spencer. And while Nunes is clearly an extraordinarily talented mixed martial artist, it’s becoming apparent why Dana White was skeptical about adding a 145lbs women’s division to the UFC. There aren’t many talented athletes at the weight class. The technical skillset of the division is probably the weakest; the only one coming close would be the men’s heavyweight division. This is no fault of Nunes – but the division is thin and given Cris Cyborg’s (for whom this division was created) departure from the UFC, we should see the same with this division.
Salaries are going to be a growing pain for the UFC
Compensation was discussed more than any other topic this weekend. From Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones to BMF champion, Jorge Masvidal to rising star Sean O’Malley, it seems every UFC athlete is asking for higher compensation. Dissatisfaction with pay has been a constant since the early days of the UFC given the lack of awareness and therefore limited revenue generation of MMA.
But with the sale of UFC for $4BN to WME-IMG, fighters became aware of the clear discrepancy in returns between fighter and promoter. What fighters don’t talk about are the tens of failed promotion organizations and the heavy losses the UFC accumulated to help grow the sport.
Truthfully, compensation (particularly for the top UFC athletes) has skyrocketed with UFC fighter and former two-weight champion Daniel Cormier stating
“People want to not give Conor credit for it. But, if a guy made a million dollars back in the day? It was massive! Conor McGregor blew the roof off in terms of what MMA fighters could make.”
However, these are tough times for sports. The is no revenue from live gates. $0. And while athletes such as Jorge Masvidal mention the stock-market is at an all-time high, what he fails to understand is that UFC is better represented by events stocks such as Live Nation (NYSE: LYV) and Eventbrite (NYSE: EB) which are down 25% and 47% respectively.
Fighters put their lives on the line in this sport and deserve strong compensation but at this time, it’s hard to believe that the UFC is shortchanging them purely out of greed.
Cody Garbrandt is probably the best bantamweight if he stays disciplined in a fight
Former bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt returned to the octagon and was looking to get back to winning ways after a three-fight losing streak. Unlike his losing efforts, Garbrandt stayed disciplined and used his speed to pick apart perennial contender Rafael Assuncao before knocking him out with one-punch at 4:59 of the 2nd round. If Garbrandt can maintain such discipline and not get into brawls as he has in the past, he is very likely to reclaim his throne which is currently vacated.
‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley is the real deal
O’Malley is not only unorthodox and long for the weight-class but he has true power which was on display this weekend. A walk-off KO of former contender Eddie Wineland in what was a short one-sided affair. It’s time for him to fight a top 10 fighter and ideally a wrestler so that we can learn more about his ground game. Potential bouts with Rafael Assuncao or Cory Sandhagen would also make sense – while neither a strikers, both are ranked above O’Malley but are coming off loses this weekend. Sandhagen is a former kickboxing champion and a standup battle between him and O’Malley is a mouthwatering prospect.