Tito Ortiz. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Chael Sonnen. What comes to mind when you hear those names? For many, they represent members of the trash-talking Hall of Fame.
Two of these three men could sell a fight without the hype. Sonnen, however, really did need his charismatic personality to push him onto the favorites list of many MMA fans.
Ortiz was perhaps one of the most successful fighters who ran his mouth heading into his 40s as much as he did in his mid-20s. He had an excuse for every loss, ranging from a broken back to a cracked skull, and fans looked forward to seeing what shirt he’d be wearing post-fight until that act eventually grew tired.
Nobody could quite talk the game like Sonnen did, however. Whenever he spoke, fans were left wondering if this guy was completely delusional or if, on the contrary, he was a genius. As it turns out, he is a little bit of both. As his success plateaued and his star started to dim, Sonnen’s words didn’t carry as much weight. Eventually the outlandish things he would say would not garner much attention. If a fighter doesn’t maintain their success in competition, their words become nothing more than, well, words. There’s no “buy-in” to a fighter who talks all the smack in the world, but who can’t seem to win a fight.
Currently, Conor McGregor is the trash-talking king of fighting, and the race is not even close. I will not go so far as to compare McGregor to the late, great Muhammad Ali, but one has to wonder (for those not around during the Ali years) if this is what it was like to read the headlines of some of Ali’s quotes. If you’re not familiar with some of the things that McGregor has said, just close your eyes and picture the most asinine things any athlete could say about his peers and you’re probably pretty close to what he’s said.
We are used to McGregor saying he’s the best and that others are riding his coattails. We’re used to a fighter who carries himself like he’s bigger than the organization itself. Fans respond to McGregor’s act in much the same way as they responded to Sonnen. They think he’s a good fighter — well, some in Ireland already have him listed as the greatest of all time — and they know deep down that he portrays himself this way to obtain as much money as possible.
McGregor wasn’t always like this. The proof is in the post-fight presser for his UFC debut. Sure, the Irishman made cracks at his opponent, Marcus Brimage, for wearing a mask, but he does say that all the talk surrounding a fight is just an act. It’s also somewhat refreshing to see McGregor talk about not having any money prior to that fight and how he was on social welfare making 180 euros. In essence, he started out as the fighter we’d all want to pull for.
Oh, how much things can change in three years.
Not only is McGregor the biggest cash cow for the UFC (save for, perhaps, Ronda Rousey), but he also throws it in the face of others as frequently as he can. He may have overstepped his boundaries just a bit when he launched a verbal attack on seemingly the entire WWE roster. More specifically, his comments on John Cena — McGregor called the WWE superstar “a big, fat, 40-year-old failed Mr. Olympia [expletive]” during a media appearance last week — are sure to ignite a whole new level of hate directed at him from people who may not have cared otherwise.
The face of the UFC attacking the face of the WWE doesn’t make much sense. They serve two completely different audiences that share one common ideal: the desire to be entertained. The WWE goes about it by developing a storyline and performing some pretty insane acrobatics inside the ring. The UFC was, at one time, just two guys beating the crap out of each other, but it has evolved. Now, the organization aims to have heroes and villains. The UFC, despite the lack of a script to map out any desired outcomes, develops storylines and plots of its own. If there was a way, there is no doubt they’d do it.
McGregor is still a hot commodity, even coming off a loss to Nate Diaz. Should he lose to Diaz again, he’ll still be a rising star. However, there’s no doubt his trash-talk would have to be reeled in a bit because he will lose merit with each loss. Ortiz eventually toned it down, as did Rampage, and the same goes for Sonnen.
McGregor appears to be off the rails with his attack on the WWE, but then again don’t we all have a little suspicion that perhaps he’s just positioning himself for another money grab and an appearance in the WWE in the not-too-distant future?