When Conor McGregor took the belt from Jose Aldo and called out RDA above him the game had changed. More fighters chased the money fights and fun match-ups. The Irishman is ground-breaking in the fact he managed to break the norms that had existed before him.
Champions were expected to fight the number one ranked guy or in the very least fight the highest ranked guy possible but since McGregor became champion at UFC 189, we have seen Dan Henderson receive a title shot against Michael Bisping and clamouring by Tyron Woodley for GSP or Nick Diaz. Albeit these fighters are different, it shows a shift in attitudes from a fairly broad spectrum, all of these guys are chasing fights rather than the UFC making the matches.
Obviously there is good and bad to do with money fights being prioritised and these are issues that will exist in the UFC for the next few years perhaps this may define the WME Era of the UFC. One good thing to come out fighters chasing fights is that the sport is kept fresh with fighters having different wars with people in a different divisions, something the UFC advised against in the past. This creates a buzz around the sport for the fans and from the financial perspective it is good for the company, UFC 202 was one of the highest grossing cards for the company. The art of trash-talking has also returned with fighters developing more of a personality and exciting fighting styles in order to chase that money. I know that some people feel that it takes away from the fight itself but a McGregor quip or a witty Bisping remark helps to build personal investment into a fight.
Another positive of the McGregor effect is that fighters seem to have gained more control over their matchups which I feel is welcome in a sport that is notoriously tough on fighters. With Conor proving that the UFC can be compromising and fair in its business, it creates confidence among the fighters to go out and create good fights for themselves. One good example of this is Mickey Gall, in the past a prospect would be expected to fight whoever the company put in front of him but Gall wasted no time in trying to raise his status within the company by calling out Sage Northcutt.
There are some downsides to money fights and the new attitudes that McGregor has brought to the sport and one of these is the fact fighters are left waiting for matchups. Jose Aldo and Khabib are just two of these people. These are fighters who have shed blood, sweat and tears to get where they are, the top of the pile. From a fighters' perspective, it must be disheartening to see that what you have worked for is given to someone else. But MMA is a sport of 'what have you done lately'. Aldo has beaten Frankie Edgar and fought very well but his constant media presence is not helping his cause as he is straining his relationship with the UFC rather than fixing it. Jose needs to get some positive press about his fights and what he has done short-term in order to get a title shot. Khabib I feel is in a slightly different, he is an absolute destroyer of rivals but he has done nothing lately. This may seem harsh on Darrell Horcher but he is not a scalp who will get you recognition and the title shot he desires. Personally I feel Khabib needs a big name fight to get him that attention he wants, a dominant victory over Michael Johnson should put him into the minds of Shelby and Maynard in a big way.
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