By Zach Arnold | March 31, 2016
An interim belt at 145. Not because of injury. Because the 145 champ is too busy fighting at 170 in a nonsensical rematch.
— FrontRowBrian (@FrontRowBrian) March 31, 2016
Let’s consider the last four months, shall we?
- After knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, tension filled the air at the post-fight presser between UFC and McGregor’s camp.
- If you believe various media reports, Conor felt he had enough leverage to start asking for co-promotional business deals to promote future events with the UFC.
- UFC supposedly (and predictably) scoffed at the notion that they would ever do any boxing-style business deal with one of their aces.
- In a passive/aggressive manner, UFC booked McGregor against the least-marketed champion ever in Rafael dos Anjos.
- RDA got injured and had to cancel his fight with McGregor.
- On short-notice, UFC booked Nate Diaz as a last-minute replacement. Hey, he’s a 3-to-1 underdog. He’s a Diaz brother. People confuse the two. He’ll attract eyeballs. Easy win. Win-win!
- The fight between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor ends up getting booked at 170 pounds.
- McGregor was simply not the same fighter at 170 pounds and didn’t bring any of the advantages to the table that he did at 145 pounds.
- Nate Diaz, as a Diaz brother is hard-coded to do, destroyed the best-laid plans and won the fight.
- The fight blows away all expectation for PPV buys, with an estimated 7-figure PPV buy rate.
Given all of this, it was an absolute no-brainer that UFC would book Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor for UFC 200. I think it’s hilarious that the Diaz brothers are once again creating chaos in modern day MMA. Everyone will profit off of this carnival. It may not be Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir and 1.7 million PPV buys, but nothing ever will reach that zenith again for UFC. Diaz vs. McGregor is cotton candy for the masses.
It’s also a no-lose situation for UFC.
You have to consider the Conor McGregor situation from their point-of-view. They built this guy up. They spent three years marketing him and building him up. He’s their creation. He (allegedly) got out of line and challenged the way they do business even while they gave him lots of rope. Remember his mansion stay? He got too big for his britches. They booked him against a 170 pounder and he lost. He lost some bark to his business bite. Zuffa made a ton of cash on PPV. Now they’ll do it again.
If McGregor wins, onto new opponents — perhaps the winner of Aldo/Edgar even if 145 pounds sounds hard for Conor to get back to.
If McGregor loses, he has no more business leverage and he’s disposable. UFC thinks they made him and they’ll simply make another superstar to replace him. And if he draws another 7-figure PPV buy rate on the way out, then they squeezed the orange and got two glasses of juice.
UFC views labor wars as their existential threat. Anti-trust lawsuits. Independent contractor status. The Reebok sponsorship deal. No matter how Pyrrhic the victories, Zuffa sees victory as victory. UFC has lobbyists ensuring that their Octagon girls aren’t classified as employees in the state of California. Any perceived slight to their business model is grounds for demotion or termination.
Regardless of what happens to Conor McGregor, UFC management is going to throw a party at UFC 200.
UFC 200 artwork via Dana White's Instagram pic.twitter.com/Ho2mg0KdlW
— Jason Floyd (@Jason_Floyd) March 30, 2016
Colorful and crude marketing campaigns work in combat sports. You still remember them, even if you hated them at the time. Remember the Mike Goldberg exploding head video ad to hype the Jon Jones vs. Alex Gustafsson fight in Toronto? You mocked it at the time for being high-school, cable-access level production editing but you remembered it and the fight it promoted. Same deal with the upcoming marketing campaign for Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor II. The dumbest, racist, most vulgar quips are coming your way over the next three months and UFC knows that media lap dogs like Dan LeBatard will cover every single moment of it.
- 170 pounds: Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor
- Featherweight interim title match: Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar
- Heavyweights: Cain Velasquez vs. Travis Browne
- Gegard Mousasi vs. Derek Brunson
- Johny Hendricks vs. Kelvin Gastelum
- Joe Lauzon vs. Diego Sanchez
- Takanori Gomi vs. Jim Miller