MMA Fighters Who Got Over
Mixed Martial Arts is a sport in its pre-teens. The business model, however, has been around for nearly as long as man itself. Fighting skill is a very small part of what allows a fighter to cash in.
Any hobo with a reason can sling punches at another man, something much different is required to win the hearts and minds of a crowd.
Professional wrestling is the perfect example of how it is done. Employing the persona of a baby face or a heel, the wrestler’s job is to convince the crowd of his larger than life character. The wrestler has failed when the crowd takes little interest in his exploits. He is successful when he convinces the crowd either to love him, or to hate him. This is often judged by the “pop” the superstar receives when entering the arena.
This parallels the life of an MMA fighter. Who can forget Ben Askren? The supremely talented Olympic wrestler who went undefeated without getting the call up to the big show. It wasn’t his fighting ability that kept him out, or even his mic skills. He couldn’t get along with the owner. Much like Vince McMahon, you can’t fuck with Dana White.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has a ranking system, which is used to determine non-title matchups. In order to secure the big one, you have to get over first. That is how Chael Sonnen, Urijah Faber, Nick Diaz, and Brock Lesnar secured title shots despite lacking number one contender status. The point of ascending the ladder is to secure a fan base that will buy your PPV fights.
The problem with most fighters is their shtick. Paint drying is not a character the people will buy. Polite and humble can be found at any grocery store, the people want insane trash talkers with patented finishing moves and sweet t-shirts! A clever closing line would go a long way for most martial artists.
Here is a list of MMA fighters who understand the business side of the hurt game. The superstars who got over.
Conor McGregor – Conor has quickly cemented himself as the number one draw in the world of fighting. This student of the promo game was obviously influenced by Muhammad Ali and Vince McMahon(The walk). Conor used his tough talking Irish bravado to win the crowd, and to get inside the head of his opponents. Youtube compilation videos of Conor McGregor talking down to his foes don’t lie, and results speak for themselves.
Is Conor an incredible fighter? Yes. Are there other fighters in his own weight class who pulled off similar win streaks at the same time? Ask Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. McGregor is living proof how full commitment to the PR side of combat sports is Solomon’s key.
Chael Sonnen – Perhaps the first man who realized that he could scale the ladder without having to fight a bunch of Brazilian savages oozing steroids from their ears. Chael had been around forever, kicking ass and taking names long before the American Gangster emerged.
Another student of Ali, there isn’t a better man on the mic than Chael P. Sonnen.
The Diaz Brothers – The former heels worked the scene for years before making the turn to baby face. Their stick is unique, tried and true. Stoner fight brothers who run triathlons and shouldn’t be engaged while holding nunchucks.
They also use the group concept, bringing regular side characters who are important to their overall story. Jake Shields, Gilbert Melendez, and Cesar Gracie. Fighters know that this is not a crew to be messed with.
“I’m not surprised mother fuckers!” Nate dropped one of the greatest one liners in the history of the sport after defeating Conor McGregor on short notice. Unlike some of the others on the list, the Diaz brothers aren’t sitting at home and coming up with material, but there is no denying that both fighters have won the crowd.
Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett – What he lacks in conditioning, he makes up for in showmanship. From staring into the camera during pre fight stare downs while making faces like a homeless schizophrenic, to climbing up onto the cage for no apparent reason in the midst of a fight, Krazy Horse is all action from bell to bell. In terms of MMA fighters who got over, his losing record after more than 60 professional bouts proves that it’s about a whole lot more than the “W”.
Bob Sapp – Bob Sapp is a former professional football player, and a full scale replica of Godzilla in human form. The Japanese loved him, and he had no problem cashing in on it. Wins and losses were less important than the fact that Bob Sapp was there. Perhaps the largest man to ever sport a non airbrushed six pack. Commercials, pro wrestling, and out of his league fights littered the career of this scary face/happy face/just got kicked in the liver by Cro Cop overachiever.
Tito Ortiz – The Huntington Beach Bad Boy is a true MMA original. It’s who he really was, and between his brash bravado and signature fire shorts, Tito brought the show with him wherever he went.
Serious romantic relationships with pornstars are a fantastic predictor for the personality type required to get over with most crowds, as is taking the time to come up with a brandable post fight victory celebration like the grave digger routine. Tito Ortiz, a superstar who really got it.
Kimbo Slice – Rest in peace big man. Started off whooping ass in the backyard, and was still getting paid. At the time, the top heavyweights in the sport were less known than this legendary street brawler.
The big beard and big muscles. Kimbo looked like a top level street fighter, and had a refined boxing style by unsanctioned fighting standards. When he decided to go legit, he trained hard and did it right. It wasn’t always pretty, but the man could simply fight. He got the job done in a lot of fights against legitimate guys, and outperformed all expectations in terms of his pro career.
After MMA he transitioned into boxing, where he finished undefeated at heavyweight. Kimbo’s look and backstory kept him in the spotlight, and the compelling nature of his fights gave him staying power.
Chuck Liddell – The Stone Cold Steve Austin of mixed martial arts. The Iceman was never much for the mic, but the consequences of the overhand right were too much to ignore. With signature blue shorts, mohawk, and a fu manchu mustache, he lead MMA’s surge to mainstream success.
The Chuck Liddell/Randy Couture trilogy was unlike anything North American MMA had seen at the time, as was the popularity of Chuck’s dominant reign.
Brock Lesnar – Brock Lesnar has the look, ability, and work ethic. After excelling at football and collegiate wrestling, he made the jump to professional wrestling and took off like a shooting star. His pure physical prowess made him a sight to behold, and a top level WWE superstar.
The transition into MMA was easy for Brock. He knew how to win a crowd, brought a massive fan base, and could scrap with the best of them. Within no time at all he was headlining PPVs and winning championships, further proof the marketing skills acquired by those in the squared circle transfer well to the sell or die fight promotion model.
There it is folks, the list of MMA fighters who got over.