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Europe1 asks: Sage leaving the UFC got me thinking. Is it easier to build hype for a fighter Outside the UFC than it is Inside the UFC?
Thanks, Europe1, for another very good question. Building hype for a fighter is an uphill battle no matter what promotion is home. Look at all of the factors that go into making a star. The first component is usually winning. Next, a fighter needs something special about their personality that stands out. Whether it be the relentless bravado of a Conor McGregor, the self-deprecating humor of Forrest Griffin or the over-the-top pro wrestling persona of a Quinton Jackson, there has be something separating him or her from the pack.
Next, timing is very important. A fighter like Ronda Rousey arrived at a crucial moment. Strikeforce was the home of major women’s MMA and had just been purchased by Zuffa. Rousey made a strong enough impression to persuade Dana White and company to reverse position on their refusal to promote female fighters. While her skill set ultimately proved to be limited, she smashed through most of the available competition while becoming a household name and almost singlehandedly securing the future of women’s MMA in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. A year earlier or later and either the logistics would not have worked or her liabilities as a striker would have manifested before the general public had the chance to view her as an indestructible wrecking machine.
Of course, a fan-friendly style never hurts. Jeremy Stephens’ willingness to stand in the pocket and trade tends to generate more interest than a prime Jon Fitch outwrestling top contenders. Sometimes this will even be more important than winning is. And let’s not get into all the exceptions for the above rules. Chael Sonnen has defied logic by losing big fights and not having an action style while maintaining fame and relevance. Fedor Emelianenko and Mark Hunt are men of few words, with mixed in-cage results in recent years, but always generate a huge amount of interest.
Confused yet? The point is there is no sure formula. Sometimes people simply like you for whatever reason and could just as easily not like you for similarly undefined rationales. It’s not an exact science and there’s no clear manual for creating a star. A lot has to fall in place. Being in the UFC isn’t necessarily the path to building hype. There are plenty of fighters on the roster who have the personality, the fighting style and the win record but don’t have the eyeballs of the mainstream public. Within the promotion, the criteria seems to be whether or not they decide you’re the one they want to elevate. Marketing resources and card placement seem to be done on a subjective basis. If the UFC decides to push you, they will -- come hell or high water. If they don’t, then good luck.
Any fighter outside of the UFC has just as much potential to build hype as any given fighter inside the UFC. The only thing that matters is whether or not they have access to a major platform. With that being said, Sage Northcutt should have no problems building his brand outside of the UFC umbrella with the backing of One Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong and the influx of millions of venture capital dollars.
315 MMA Fighter asks:Who takes it, The Spider or The Style Bender? Do you feel the age gap is gonna have an impact on this fight? If not what do you believe will be the deciding factor in this fight?
I believe Israel Adesanya will have his hand raised at UFC 234 against Anderson Silva. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I am not a fan of this matchup. While prime “Spider” and “Stylebender” will be frequently meeting each other on my PlayStation, the real-life pairing just doesn’t do it for me. Prime Silva is a memory at this point and his recent record is proof of that. With only one victory in the past five years -- two if you include the PED-related no contest against Nick Diaz -- it’s hard to justify this beyond the traditional “old being eaten by the young” mentality of star-building matchmaking.
The name value of Silva is still strong among casuals, but from a competitive standpoint, No. 6-ranked Adesanya (No. 8 on Sherdog’s official rankings) deserves better than an opponent that is firmly out of the top 15.
From a stylistic point of view it seems very problematic as well. Silva is without a doubt one of the historically great strikers… in MMA. However with a style reliant on quick reflexes, age has shown itself in recent years. Adesanya is freshly beginning his prime years and shows the frightening near telepathic abilities of his role model at the height of his historic middleweight reign. Additionally, Adesanya was a standout in kickboxing. In other words, he is simply a great striker in or outside of MMA. There are levels to this.
Look no further than the puzzled and dismissive reactions in the Taekwondo community when Silva publicly flirted with the idea of competing on Brazil’s TKD national team. While Silva’s 5th degree black belt in the Korean-born art is impressive and has served him well in his MMA career, the general consensus is that he wasn’t on the level of an Olympic athlete in that discipline.
Silva has also never been much of an offensive wrestler, opting to either fight upright, in the clinch, or from his back. If Adesanya’s takedown defense holds up like it did against a three-time Div. II All-American wrestler in Derek Brunson, Silva will be forced into a kickboxing match with an elite kickboxer. I reiterate, there are levels to this.
Maybe I’m still mourning the Iceman’s brutal melting at Golden Boy MMA, but I find it unnecessary to lead a legend to slaughter as the only way to build a future champion. If Silva weren’t so far removed from the title picture -- beyond what seems like an empty promise from White -- this wouldn’t raise my eyebrows nearly as much.
Babycart asks: How does aikido work in MMA? How about Tai Chi?
It doesn’t. There is a reason why a lot of the more exotic styles of martial arts did not make it past the early days of the UFC. A lot of them simply don’t work in live situations. Boxing, muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling are disciplines that have live sparring and resisting opponents as part of the everyday training routines. Their methods of fighting are beyond theory; they are put into practice on a regular basis.
Interestingly, the MMA community once discredited karate and taekwondo as ineffective. While many McDojos have created students with an unrealistic view of their fighting prowess, it took just a few individuals to resurrect the reputation of their styles with practical displays in the cage. A few spin kicks later, we consider those to be useful skills for mixed martial artists.
Perhaps there will be a fighter who emerges that is able to blend the footwork patterns and joint manipulation of Aikido with the hard hitting rhythm of a real fight. Maybe a future champion will channel his chi en route to a stunning knockout victory. Until then, Steven Seagal’s only contribution to the sport will be those silly glasses and “teaching” the day-one white belt front kick to accomplished fighters.