According to a Sept. 28 report from MMA Junkie, UFC President Dana White said on FOX Sports 1’s post-UFC 178 show that he has never seen anything quite like fast-rising Irish superstar, Conor McGregor, in terms of star power. White thinks McGregor is a bigger force than former UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar, and a bigger star than former UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre.
Is White just blowing smoke? Yes and no. The key here is that McGregor is just 26 years old, with just four UFC fights under his belt. He has the potential to be a bigger star than Lesnar and St-Pierre, but he isn’t there just yet. McGregor hasn’t yet headlined a UFC pay-per-view, so it would be impossible to dub him as the top star the UFC has ever seen. Of course, McGregor has proven to be a big draw in his homeland of Ireland.
McGregor is also a success at the box office. He puts butts in the seats, but he hasn’t yet proven to be a million-seller on pay-per-view. The numbers aren’t in yet for UFC 178, so it’s tough to see what kind of impact he has on pay-per-view sales. Lesnar and St-Pierre have combined to sell millions of pay-per-views for the UFC. Lesnar made UFC 100 one of the biggest events the promotion has ever put on, with a headlining scrap against Frank Mir. Lesnar also helped make UFC 116 and UFC 121 huge successes at the box office.
As for St-Pierre, his headlining fights were always must-see events. St-Pierre helped UFC 167 sell over 600,000 pay-per-views. UFC 158 also had a buyrate of over 900,000, thanks to St-Pierre’s title fight with Nick Diaz. For White to say McGregor is already a bigger superstar than the aforementioned athletes, is absolutely ridiculous.
White is a promoter who does everything in his power to hype the current athletes on his roster, so he can’t be faulted for hyping McGregor to the fullest. It’s a classic case of “what have you done for me lately?” White and the UFC are focused on the present and future, not the past. Lesnar and St-Pierre may very well return to the UFC fold someday, but right now they aren’t making the UFC any money.
Of the three, McGregor is the only active fighter on the UFC roster. That said, White is smart to be riding the McGregor hype train. McGregor certainly elevated his status with an exciting victory at UFC 178, and the sky is the limit for him. With his win over Dustin Poirier at UFC 178, McGregor became a household name. He’s going to need more than a victory at UFC 178 to became a bigger star than Lesnar and St-Pierre though. McGregor will need to follow up on his UFC 178 win with a victory over a top contender such as Chad Mendes or Jose Aldo.