From insane pay-per-view numbers to opinion-splitting charisma and the skills to back it up, Conor McGregor’s impact on MMA is comparable to the greats of any sport across the globe. The proud Irishman is up there with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in soccer, comparable to Michael Jordan and Lebron James on the court and on par with Tiger Woods in golfing terms. He is a megastar and we take a look at how McGregor has revolutionized the world of MMA both in and out of the octagon;
Remember The Name
The UFC was certainly on the rise before McGregor arrived but there’s little chance your mother could name any fighters. Conor McGregor has become inextricably linked with the organization, which has exploded in popularity and made record profits. The UFC made an estimated £252m increase in revenue between 2016 and 2020 having only made incremental gains before that, even suffering a dip between 2014-15 with a drop of £52m.
McGregor fought three times in 2016, his two high-profile grudge matches against Nate Diaz and then the lightweight title victory over Eddie Alvarez. It was a massive year for both the Irishman and UFC, with revenues continuing to soar ever since, reaching an estimated £848m last year.
When you look at the pay-per-view records, the lure of McGregor is even more apparent. Five of the top six pay-per-view events in UFC history had McGregor as the headline act. His showdown with Russian nemesis Khabib Nurmagomedov hauled in 2.4m buys in the United States alone, setting a record for the promotion.
The much-lauded ‘Money Fight’, which saw Connor boxing against Floyd Mayweather, was accompanied by a stadium tour for publicity. It proved to be an even greater success, bringing in 4.3m buys. Although it was a boxing match, McGregor’s charisma attracted even more eyes to MMA, many for the first time.
He has 36.6m Instagram followers and 8.1m on Twitter. And other fighters soon became aware that performing on the same card as McGregor was massively beneficial for growing their profile. Only 24 hours after UFC 229 and McGregor’s defeat by Khabib, the Russian had gained a staggering 3.1m new followers. Tony Ferguson jumped by 100,000 and Derrick Lewis 507,000. In total, the other competitors that night saw their fan base increase by 5.1 million in total.
Not only did McGregor fulfill that prophecy as an athlete but also as a marketing dream for the UFC. He has always been incredibly active on social media, even building his profile by employing a fly-on-the-wall documentary team to follow him around and post the content online in the run-up to big fights.
Pushing Limits and Rising Numbers
His movie ‘Notorious’ streams on Netflix and his persona chimes perfectly with the demographic interested in MMA. According to IMG ARENA, 88 percent of the sport’s fans are aged between 18 and 44, with 75 percent of them male.
The UFC Instagram page has more followers than the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL and is an advertiser’s dream with their young and engaged fanbase. UFC fans are 129 percent more likely to regularly bet while watching any live sport in comparison to an average spectator. Fanduel’s MMA odds receive record numbers of hits and interactions during a Mcgregor fight no matter who the opponent is.
There are evidently a number of significant factors in the UFC’s continued rampant growth, not just the impact McGregor, superstar or not. The record-breaking television deal with ESPN was a huge milestone and the company has continued to make great strides even when McGregor is inactive.
That being said, many of his peers have been accepting that they’ve been the beneficiaries of McGregor’s rise. If McGregor has truly retired, he can do so in the knowledge that no fighter has had a greater impact on MMA in the history of the sport.
The man himself has also been fully aware of his importance, previously demanding a stake in the company and even having them advertise his own McGregor Sports and Entertainment business along with Proper 12 whiskey. Connor McGregor has truly revolutionized the world of MMA.
Once in a generation, a special character can drag a sport forwards and McGregor’s crafted brand of showmanship combined with skill was a perfect marriage for the UFC. His latest retirement has provoked a deeper appreciation for the enormous impact he’s had as the first international crossover superstar in cage fighting, taking the sport mainstream.