The MMA World is Desperate for a Successor to Conor McGregor… Could One of These Fighters be Next in Line for Superstardom?

It’s fair to say that the UFC has only ever had two globally recognizable superstars. Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor transcended combat sports to achieve mainstream fame. McGregor in particular reached heights never before seen by an MMA fighter. You could ask your mother if she’s heard of him and she’ll very likely have heard the name but won’t know what a Jon Jones is.

The UFC has had a difficult time trying to strike the balance between promoting the brand and promoting their fighters. It’s a vicious cycle: overpromoting the brand makes the product bland. But promoting their fighters to excess can give them too much power.

However, they would definitely like to have another reliable face to be a recognizable star and drive up those pay-per-views in the ESPN era. Could one of these ten names below be the next big thing?

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Johnny Walker

Currently recovering from a dislocated shoulder after a celebration went wrong, Walker’s name is one of the catchiest on this list and it’s criminal that the whisky hasn’t done a deal with him yet.

He’s got phenomenal power and athleticism, resulting in quick KOs in his last couple of fights. Many are whispering that light-heavyweight might finally have a challenger to take on the invincible Jon Jones. Who knows?

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Maycee Barber

Nobody is more confident about her chances of championship success than the 20-year-old Colorado native. Already being positively compared to Ronda Rousey, ‘The Future’ could be what the UFC hoped they were getting when they signed Mackenzie Dern.

With a 7-0 unbeaten record as well as youth and good looks, she’s got the whole world at her feet.

Zabit Magomedsharipov

It’s bizarre that Zabit defeated one of the most dangerous fighters in the history of the featherweight division in Jeremy Stephens, yet people seem to have stopped talking about him. Hailing from Dagestan, the lanky Russian fighter has unbelievable technique. He combines slick, imaginative striking with his phenomenal sambo skills.

Many see him as the future of the featherweight division and believe he epitomizes the modern MMA fighter who is good at everything.

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Tatiana Suarez

She’s already been labelled as the ‘female Khabib.’ You’ve got to feel for Rose Namajunas in a stacked strawweight division. Suarez is massive for the division and arguably has the best top game in the women’s divisions.

Once she gets on top of you, it’s going to be a miserable and brutal night. She’s set to take on Nina Ansaroff in a title shot eliminator. Then the winner will take on Thug Rose or Jessica Andrade. Putting a bet on Suarez to be champion by the end of the year could be money well-spent

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Gregor Gillespie

It’s amazing how many people are sleeping on Gillespie. Another fight with a strong foundation in wrestling, he just physically dominates everybody he comes up against. Before you accuse him of just lying on people, he racked up a five-fight finishing streak.

Do not underestimate this guy. He might be 31, but The Gift is young in MMA years and could be a dark horse for title contention by the end of the year.

Sean O’Malley. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

Sean O’Malley

If he hadn’t failed a drug test, it’s reasonable to say that Suga Sean O’Malley could be in a very similar position to Israel Adesanya right now. One of the most exciting young fighters at bantamweight, he’s also one of the most distinctive with his eccentric look.

He missed out on a massive opportunity to blow up his fame when he was pulled from the main card of UFC 229 where Conor McGregor fought Khabib Nurmagamedov. However, if he can get back on track, the foundations are there for future superstardom.

Joanne Calderwood

She’s definitely not the youngest name on this list, but Jojo has star potential. Flyweight has a deficit of challenges and its possible that Valentina Shevchenko will go the rest of her career unbeaten.

But in a short line of legitimate challengers, the Scottish fighter with her wonderfully soft-spoken accent could be one of the few who can test her. Global superstardom might be a stretch, but the UFC would love another UK champion.

Israel Adesanya. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

Israel Adesanya

Probably the most obvious name on this list, ‘The Last Stylebender’ has the most immediate opportunity to become a global superstar. He shares a lot in common with Conor McGregor – a flashy striking style, a quirky accent, charisma and marketable looks.

If – and it’s a big if – he can get past the incredibly dangerous champion Robert Whittaker, then he’s going to be reaching massive new heights.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

Alexander Volkanovski

2018 was a great year for the former Rugby player. Now he’s got the chance of a lifetime to break out against featherweight legend Jose Aldo. If he beats the Brazilian, a shot at Max Holloway’s crown will be next.

Could Australian MMA get another champion? Time will tell.

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Khalil Rountree Jr.

One of the sport’s nice guys, Khalil is another at light-heavyweight who could break out and become a star. He’s had an up-and-down career, beating the mighty Gokhan Saki, losing brutally to Johnny Walker and then rebounding in style against Erik Andyrs.

His recent revival has come after a move to Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand. If he continues to progress at the rate he’s shown in the last few months he could have a big future. A recent appearance on Joe Rogan exposed him to a wider audience.

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