“Che Mills is a KILLER!”
“Renan Barao is a MONSTER!”
“Ovince St. Preux is a DESTROYER!”
These are all real lines from the UFC commercials used to promote lesser-known challengers in relatively recent main and co-main events against their better-known opponents. The promotion’s modus operandi has traditionally been to sell the unknown fighter as a much bigger threat than they are believed to be so that the casual viewer will be more likely to perceive a match-up as competitive. However, for this Sunday’s Fight Night main event on Fox Sports 1 between rising star Conor McGregor and veteran Dennis Siver, the promotion appears to focusing heavily on the Irish up-and-comer while all but ignoring the German kickboxer.
UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta addressed this promotional strategy in an interview with MMA Junkie’s John Morgan, saying, “It was kind of just a taste, and also we just wanted to get you guys pissed off and riled up.” Judging from the MMA Twitter-and-blogosphere, that is exactly what has happened. The UFC has been grooming McGregor as its next big star ever since the company turned the lights off for his walkout despite his fight’s spot in the prelims in the UFC’s Fox Sports 1 debut show. To begin with, it was purely based on his charisma and drawing power from historically nationalistic Irish fans as well as American fans with Irish heritage.
Many other fans and critics of the sport have taken umbrage with the UFC’s seemingly preferential treatment of the Irishman due to the treatment being based on the aforementioned factors instead of his merits inside the Octagon. Accusations abound of the promotion protecting him by keeping him away from the wrestlers, such as former title contender Ricardo Lamas, in his 145-pound division. UFC President Dana White’s announcement of McGregor receiving a title shot against champ Jose Aldo upon victory in Boston has been met with some derision.
A substantial amount of McGregor’s critics were silenced after his (as-predicted) first-round dismantling of highly ranked Dustin Poirier at UFC 178. Poirier, of course, was seen as someone would present McGregor with great difficulty. McGregor infamously and frequently pointed out Poirier’s “basic” footwork and referred to the respected fighter as a “journeyman.”
It’s become something of a trend for the Irishman to belittle his opponents’ achievements in the lead-up to his fights, and the argument can be made that such behavior can decrease the meaning of a win over an opponent due to said adversary being devalued. It now appears that the UFC is following suit here by effectively promoting only one side of a fight, as evidenced by the disproportionate attention shown to the two men in the ad campaign. Siver only shows up in approximately two seconds of a 30-second advertisement, and the UFC produced a special focused squarely on McGregor leading up to this fight but did not produce a similar special for Siver. Then there’s the solo media tour that McGregor has been on to promote the event.
An argument could be made that the UFC should have done a whole lot more to sell Siver as a legitimate threat to McGregor’s 12-fight winning streak, four of which have taken place inside the UFC’s Octagon. However, the UFC is doing the right thing. The 36-year-old Siver has no upside whatsoever at this point. His chances of making it to title contention in the featherweight division are quite slim, if his performances at lightweight are any indication. The No. 10-ranked Siver is also ranked considerably lower than McGregor’s last opponent, No. 6-ranked Dustin Poirier, and that’s even after Poirier’s loss. Even when Dana White announced this match-up, it was generally seen as something of a “stay-busy” fight for McGregor.
If the flawed Siver, at this stage in his career, does manage to get a win over McGregor somehow — and do so in a way that cannot be considered some kind of fluke — it should spell the end of the Irishman’s title shot aspirations for quite some time to come. Career-wise, this fight with Siver can actually be a much more perilous position for McGregor to be in than if he was up against a higher-ranked contender such as Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar or the aforementioned Lamas. Yet, the focus rightfully belongs on McGregor and what he does or does not accomplish in this fight.
So, a round of applause is in order for the UFC. The company didn’t attempt to insult our intelligence for once. The promotion didn’t claim that Siver is a MONSTER, a KILLER or a DESTROYER. Any time spent promoting Siver as a legitimate threat to McGregor is wasted time at best. At worst, it’s disingenuous.