Opinion: Will Conor McGregor become the next UFC president?

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By: Lewis McKeever | 7 years ago
Opinion: Will Conor McGregor become the next UFC president?
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Conor McGregor is a once in a lifetime athlete and public figure. In just three years, ‘The Notorious’ has captivated a global audience with his mixed martial arts skills, slick tongue and cheeky Irish charm.

Prior to his UFC debut in 2013, the charismatic Irishman was actually lining up to collect welfare in his hometown of Crumlin, Dublin. His three-year ascension to superstardom is unparalleled, and the featherweight champion continues to manifest the seemingly impossible.

After rattling off six straight wins, McGregor shocked sports fans around the world with his thirteen-second knockout of the iconic Jose Aldo at UFC 194. It was a win that propelled McGregor into the mainstream, and the 28-year-old has been a repeat guest on A-list tv shows such as Conan ever since.

His brand continues to grow astronomically, and the SBG Ireland fighter almost seems destined for greater things than MMA. Even when McGregor lost to the scrappy Nate Diaz at UFC 196, his reputation remained intact. Mystic hints at retirement and a dramatic feud with the UFC brass turned out to be a stroke of marketing genius.

McGregor’s removal from UFC 200 only seemed to increase the hype for his rematch with Diaz. That rematch at UFC 202 is estimated to have smashed pay-per-view records and secured around 1.65 million buys.

McGregor seems to have mastered the art of spontaneity with sound, smart business practice. For a ‘cage fighter’ lacking in academia, McGregor sure knows how to build a brand and promote himself at the highest levels. In just a few months, his website The Mac Life has garnered a respectable global following and its YouTube channel has over 185,000 subscribers.

It’s this kind of entrepreneurial flair, I believe, that will lead McGregor to become the UFC’s next lead promoter.

“One of the biggest surprises to me was how intelligent he is,” UFC fighter turned commentator Brian Stann said of McGregor, per Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Snowden. “This kid has done some legitimate research into the most financially successful combat sports athletes of all time.”

McGregor has hinted at setting up his own promotion, McGregor Promotions, in the past, but Yahoo’s Kevin Iole explained why that wouldn’t necessarily be the best business move for the Irishman.

“No other MMA promoter has succeeded on a large scale in doing pay-per-view during the Zuffa era of UFC ownership, and there is a reason for that,” Iole writes. “The UFC is essentially a closed-door league, with hundreds of fighters under contract. The number fluctuates, but the current figure is around 550 fighters.”

“It would be a tremendously gutsy and courageous move were McGregor to opt to go out and promote his own shows. It wouldn’t necessarily be the smartest move, though. And if we’ve learned anything in the three-plus years McGregor has been in the public spotlight, it’s that he is an extremely intelligent man.”

Earlier in June, it was announced that the UFC had been sold to American talent agency, WME-IMG, for an unprecedented $4 billion, and the company has already made some major changes. Several high-profile celebrities, such as Ben Affleck, Conan O’Brien and Mark Wahlberg, are now part-owners of the UFC and it’s clear there is going to be a serious push for mainstream exposure. An estimated 60-80 UFC employees are also being laid off as WME-IMG restructures the organization.

Dana White will be continuing on — for now — as UFC president, but I believe his days are numbered. The longtime fight promoter has been the face of the UFC for 15 years but, given the recent multi-billion dollar sale and his power struggle with McGregor, his UFC tenure could soon be over.

“We’re not here to take part; we’re here to take over.” – Conor McGregor.

McGregor’s goal, from the start, has been to make ‘truck loads of cash’ and to get out of the prize-fighting business as soon as possible. But what about the promotional business?

His upcoming superfight against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, where he will look to achieve MMA immortality by becoming the promotion’s first simultaneous two-division champ, could spell the soon-to-be end of his career.

“Prize fighting is short. Get in, get rich, get out. But martial arts is a way of life.”

With McGregor’s smart business sense and lofty long-term ambitions, the ex-working class plumber has, no doubt, considered the possibility of becoming the new face of the UFC. In fact, he’s probably already sketched out the plan in his mind.

In 2015, prior to his fight with Dennis Siver at UFC Boston, ‘Mystic Mac’ looked into his crystal ball and predicted vice presidency in the future: “I believe I am shaping up to become vice president of the UFC pretty soon. So I will be making cuts myself.”

McGregor has also made it perfectly clear that he feels he is responsible for the UFC’s mega sale to WME-IMG.

“I feel like the reason there’s a $4.2 billion price tag on the company is because of me.”

“I remember when I first started here, it was a two-billion dollar franchise. I remember hearing that much. And now, since I came on, it’s four billion.”

While McGregor does have a “PhD in unarmed hand-to-hand combat” and possesses some of the finest skills in the game, the Irishman’s promotional and business acumen could far surpass his fighting ability.

I predict McGregor will become UFC president within the next 3-5 years and solidify MMA as a household name alongside some of the world’s most popular sports. Or the entire thing could be a complete disaster.

I predict these things.

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Lewis McKeever
Lewis McKeever

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