As mixed martial arts continues to evolve it is becoming increasingly apparent that fighters are rewarded for making their voices heard. More than ever before athletes are making a conscious effort to use ‘trash talking’ as a tool to further their career.
There is one man in the MMA today who exemplifies the mindset that so many are trying to replicate: Conor McGregor. Whilst the Irishman is undeniably an elite fighter with immense skill there is no way he would have ascended the featherweight division in such a short period of time without that blarney-stone tongue of his.
In just two and a half years with the UFC and after defeating only a handful of opponents, what McGregor has achieved is staggering. He has become one of the company’s very top earners: at UFC 189 he pocketed $500,000 - considerably more than welterweight champion and UFC veteran: Robbie Lawler.
That event pushed 1,000,000 pay-per-view buys even though the main event fell through. This is a testament to the pulling power of McGregor and proves that the fans are paying to see him, and only him.
MMA has never seen a rise to the top like it before. From telling Chad Mendes ‘I could rest my balls on your forehead’ to jumping out of the cage and confronting the champion, Jose Aldo, McGregor has made every right move, in and out of the cage, to get to the top.
Many fighters still haven’t accepted the reality that self-promotion is a huge part of being a fighter. Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is one of them. Out of the cage DJ is mild mannered and low-key. While these are admirable character traits, they don’t get you to the top of the fight game. Despite being perhaps the most technically sound fighter in MMA, he fails to pull big PPV numbers and doesn't draw as much attention as any other champion.
If DJ were to begin calling opponents out and staking his claim as the best pound for pound fighter in the world, which could be argued, then his employers would surely reward him for doing so. Whilst the UFC can’t encourage controversial behaviour they can certainly profit from it.
With that being said, it is clear that some fighters are not cut out for the melodrama that goes in to selling a fight - not many people possess the same skill that McGregor does, and that is okay.
But what these less media savvy fighters must understand is that if they’re not getting the attention they think they deserve then it’s probably because they're not making enough noise.