Ronda vs. GSP (Or: What’s more important, being marketable or being exciting?)

Heard something Ronda said that I thought was worth discussing:

I understand where Ronda is coming from saying that fighters need to be exciting, and that being boring is bad for the sport. But GSP is a poor example to use and I’ll explain why in a minute.

First she should ask herself this: If GSP is a boring fighter (I’d mostly agree with this btw) and he doesn’t have much of a personality (I’d also agree with this), then why do people keep coming back to PAY for his fights? He’s the biggest draw the UFC has. His last 4 fights were all criticized for being boring, but they all drew 800,000+ buys. Whereas BJ vs. Nick Diaz (2 exciting fighters with entertaining personalities) drew 280,000 buys.

To say that GSP has done all he can in a positive way is silly. To think Nick Diaz as champion would be better for the sport is understandable, but also silly. To say GSP doesn’t have much of a personality is true, but it also doesn’t matter, and represents a lack of understanding about why people tune in and watch fighters and root for fighters.

Let’s break down the fighters in 4 ways:

1 – Fighters who are marketable and exciting.

These would be people like Gina Carano, JDS, Nick Diaz, Chael Sonnen, Jon Jones, Lesnar, and possibly Ronda Rousey in the future (and a host of other names). Fighters in this category have the potential to be stars. Nick Diaz and Ronda Rousey have a lot of potential in terms of marketability, they’re both interesting people and have plenty of qualities to get people emotionally invested in them. While they haven’t broke through just yet, they certainly have the potential to be stars. Once the Zuffa hype machine invests some primetimes/countdown shows about them, I’m certain they’ll be big, polarizing stars. For the female divisions to be big time, they need more females in this category. They need more stars.

2 – Fighters who are marketable but not exciting.

People like Miesha Tate and GSP in this category are fine. Miesha and GSP are likeable characters that people can become emotionally invested in. Because of this they can then be easily sold by the story and hype of the fight and work up excitement and anticipation for their next fight. The biggest problem with fighters in this category is that by the time the fight happens, fans are left disappointed because it didn’t live up to the hype and it wasn’t super exciting.

On the flip side, sometimes fans become so emotionally invested that a mere jab or takedown can have them cheering, and any small offense from their opponent will have the fan on the edge of their seat, shaking nervously. For me personally, I get nervous during every one of GSP’s fights. I’ll be shaking and cheering all the way through. If it’s a boring fight I’ll hardly notice or care because I’m just enjoying the roller coaster of emotions. It’s not until the next day when I re-watch the fight that I realize it was pretty boring and unwatchable. But in the moment watching live? I love it.

If you’re one of the people who’s not particularly invested in GSP, then it’s easy to form an opinion like Ronda’s and think someone like GSP is no longer good for the sport. But the fact remains, despite boring fights people are still willing to pay to see GSP fight again and again, because they’re so invested in him and thus easily excitable. Their emotional investment is a force multiplier for the excitement level of his fights.

On a side note, to elaborate on why GSP has no personality doesn’t matter is because that’s only one way that people can become emotionally invested in someone. It helps to think of fighters like characters in a movie. How do screenwriters make audiences care about characters? They use a variety of techniques (watch GSP’s primetime and countdown shows and see if you can spot them). Some examples would be undeserved misfortune (GSP being bullied, his families misfortunes leading into the Serra fight), moments of weakness/vulnerability (GSP’s very honest about his fears when fighting), making mistakes and regretting them (GSP/Serra 1) , having a dream or unfulfilled dream, suffering injury, helping others, etc etc. There’s a million things I could list, but my point to Ronda is that having a personality is great, but totally unnecessary in getting people to like him, care about him and then pay to see him fight (in spite of boring performances).

3 – Fighters who aren’t as marketable but still exciting.

Examples are Anderson Silva (kinda) and Cris Cyborg Santos. (By the way, when I say they aren’t marketable I actually just mean they haven’t been marketed properly yet. I believe everyone has a great story/endearing qualities that if told the right way could get them a lot of fans). Fighters in this category are at least respected.

People will watch their exciting beatdowns and go "Woah, he/she is a beast" but if they’re first time watchers they ultimately won’t stick around for more (or PAY to see more) because they never developed an emotional attachment to the fighter. Similar to the second category, they won’t gain or lose a significant amount of fans. They make great opponents to give fighters in the first 2 categories though.

4 – Fighters who aren’t marketable and are boring…

Examples are Jon Fitch and Sarah Kaufman. People like this… nobody really cares about. They’ll have a small hardcore fan base but will never be a big draw or star. They’re usually used as fodder and stepping stones, or are nightmare match-ups. If they solely comprised the women’s divisions, then women’s mma would stand no chance. Boring personalities putting on boring fights? Hmm.

That being said, I know a little about both Fitch and Kaufman and I think there’s a good story to be told there for both of them, if the media were willing to invest some time into telling it properly. Though you can’t blame them for not wanting to.


View original at my blog here.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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