Forbes blasts UFC, ‘inexpensive’ TV rights, after Conor McGregor and Muhammad Ali comparisons

Prior to his bout against Dennis Siver this past weekend, the UFC has been pushing this "Irish Ali" comparison on Conor McGregor. Most fans…

By: Anton Tabuena | 8 years ago
Forbes blasts UFC, ‘inexpensive’ TV rights, after Conor McGregor and Muhammad Ali comparisons
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Prior to his bout against Dennis Siver this past weekend, the UFC has been pushing this “Irish Ali” comparison on Conor McGregor. Most fans have found the marketing push to be absurd, and even McGregor himself has gone on record to distance himself from the comparison.

“For me, Muhammad Ali is a special individual,” McGregor said. “He is out on his own, and I cannot lay claim to something like that. He changed the cultural landscape of the world. So, Muhammad Ali is a special human being. For people to say that, I am honored. But Ali is a special, special man. I am on my own journey and doing what I do best.”

But the ads rolled nonetheless, and the comparisons have continued up until the UFC broadcast. Mainstream outlets have taken notice, and Mark Heisler from Forbes has slammed the promotion in an article called ‘If You Wonder How Close UFC’s ‘Irish Ali’ Is To The Real One, Not Very‘.

Here’s an excerpt:

… That would be really popular. The actual Ali is arguably the biggest sports star ever despite being an African-American who flew in the face of approval rather than courting it when he refused induction into the Armed Services.

Well, it would make McGregor really popular if it was true.

Passionate as UFC fans are, they’re not numerous.  TV ratings have levelled at less than hoped-for levels in the third year of the Fox deal. Sunday’s card drew 13,828, the most of this season’s three UFC events in the TD Garden where the Celtics, the No. 12 team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, have averaged 17,436 for 22 home games.

There’s one reason that Fox now shamelessly hypes McGregor: As sports properties go, UFC is just about as inexpensive as it gets.

I’m not making judgements about mixed martial arts; on the UFC’s competiton (sic) or lack thereof with the other MMA league, WWE; or with boxing. Now that the networks are no longer freezing MMA out and UFC has a mainstream promoter boosting it during its NFL telecasts, I wondered where it fit in the grand scheme of things.

The Forbes article went on to rank the top 10 sports organizations in terms of annual rights fees for their TV broadcasts. He had NFL and NBA with the highest numbers at 5 and 2.9 billion dollars respectively, with others such as MLB, NASCAR, NCAA, PGA tour, NHL and college football all listed above the UFC.

The UFC is number 9 on Forbes’ list with $100 million, and only has the WNBA ranked below them.

It is interesting to note that the writer lumped a pro-wrestling organization with MMA, and didn’t really take into consideration the skewed ticket sales from the massive football game going in the same city at the time. That said, it’s really the UFC who put themselves as an easy target after those absurd comparisons.

Instead of raving about how McGregor had the charisma to go with his massive potential, people instead just scoffed at the idea he’s being put next to a champion and a cultural icon. McGregor is as talented as he is marketable, but going overboard with the comparisons not only opened them up to criticism, it actually distracted from the actual qualities their star possesses.

Here’s a video of UFC on Fox 14 headliner, Anthony Johnson, talking about drawing his own inspiration from Ali:

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About the author
Anton Tabuena
Anton Tabuena

Anton Tabuena is the Managing Editor for Bloody Elbow. He’s been covering MMA and combat sports since 2009, and has also fought in MMA, Muay Thai and kickboxing.

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