Conor is a character. Some fighters actually say he’s a very nice guy behind the curtain. It’s all part of the strategy, making sure people talk about him. This has helped him promoting his fights and changing his career from a struggling upcoming fighter to a multimillion businessman.
Within two years of signing with UFC, Conor got a shot at the interim title belt while the champion Aldo was out. He then predicted how he would beat Aldo for his comeback. McGregor is one of the best trash-talkers you’ll ever see, and he uses that to his advantage to get into his opponents’ head and hype the fights! This is one of the reasons his personal brand helped him become a well-paid fighter. His tailored suits, his accent, his big chest tattoo, all that makes McGregor unique and recognizable. All this helped him stand out in a championship that had 500+ fighters in 2015.
I can make you rich. I’ll change your bum life. When you sign to fight me, it’s a celebration. You ring back home, you ring your wife – baby, we’ve done it. We’re rich, baby. Conor McGregor made us rich. Break out the red panties.
-Conor McGregor to Rafael Dos Anjos
Building a strong personal brand also allowed the Irish fighter to diversify his revenue:
His recent feud with the UFC itself has created more good than harm. With one tweet, McGregor generated more publicity than by attending the PR tour he was required to do in NYC.
McGregor always pushes for more. In his search for records and money, he even went outside his weight class to fight Nate Diaz, the biggest fight ever financially.
His loss against Diaz tells us one thing: being confident is good, but being prepared is better. Don’t take any opponent lightly, and capitalize on your strengths.
I know Conor will get back to basics and train hard. He has always backed up his trash talk with what matters the most: winning in the octagon. I hope his loss against Nate Diaz won’t hurt him too much, and that he won’t become the new Ronda Rousey, lost in media obligations and forgetting what got him there in the first place, fighting.
Carlos Condit is an impressive fighter (30 wins and 9 losses), but he’s never been more than the best #2.
After losing two title bouts and suffering a torn ACL and meniscus, it was time for Condit to step away from the cage and think: What could I do differently? What is one thing that other fighters are not working on? What’s my competitive advantage?
This is when he met Erwan Le Corre, the founder of a physical education system and lifestyle known as MovNat, which derives from the French words “mouvement naturel”. Picking up this different type of training, Carlos was able to work on balance and movement rather than power.
This “outside of the box” training led him to a strong win against Thiago Alves, and gave him its third title shot against Robbie Lawler. He eventually lost again by split decision, but this fight has been considered one of the best of all time.
Due to some issues with pay-per-view, Dana White lost millions before turning the UFC around.
Social media played a big part in the success of the sport, but he would have never worked without a great content marketing strategy.
It all started when Dana White launched the first season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2005. The reality TV show features professional MMA fighters living together in Las Vegas, training and competing against each other for a million-dollar contract with the UFC.
The historic Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight drew millions of viewers to the show, playing a big role in the survival and expansion of the UFC into the mainstream. Following upcoming fighters is great for the UFC. It creates “personal” connections between its fans and athletes.
With the new Fox deal, the show eventually moved from Spike to Fox Sports 1.
Over the years, White has capitalized on his previous successes to flood the internet with more content.
Here are some initiatives the UFC uses to promote their sport while expanding their empire:
UFC fight pass: A subscription-based digital network launched in 2013 for $9.99 aimed at die-hard fans. Subscribers have access to pay-per-view prelims, as well as the fight libraries of numerous other MMA leagues, but the main selling point was the promise of a minimum of 10 exclusive live events per year. The WWE has since copied the model with the difference that PPV is included.
YouTube: The content created by the UFC on their YouTube is massive! From its vlogs series to free fights and previews, a lifetime wouldn’t be enough to go through all of it. They also launched a new show in 2016 called Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight, in which White travels with his friends Matt Serra and Nick “The Tooth” Gullo throughout the U.S. to look for upcoming fighters while exploring the country à la Anthony Bourdain.
Social media live broadcasts: Before Fight Pass, the UFC used to have their free prelims on Facebook, years before Facebook introduces Live video broadcast to the rest of us. Since then, they’ve moved through multiple platforms for more behind the scenes, including Meerkat, and now Periscope.
Unfortunately, creating more content comes at a price: quality. A lot of fans, including me, have been disappointed by the Fox deal, which besides generating more money and great exposure, has created cards filled of boring fights with no interests.
Dana White did a great job building momentum using social media and content marketing. But when you’re that big, how do keep that momentum going? How do you keep on growing exponentially?
Ultimately, White had to pair his online marketing strategy with making deals with mainstream media and companies to do so.
Those deals didn’t please everyone and received a lot of backlash from some fans and fighters.
Reebok: In December 2014, the UFC announced a six-year, $70 million uniform deal with sports apparel company Reebok. For Reebok, social media exposure UFC fighters bring is worth millions.
The deal requires fighters to wear Reebok gear in competition, and be paid based upon either experience or status. UFC champions ($40,000) and title challengers ($30,000) receive the most per fight, while UFC newcomers with 1-5 fights receive the least ($2,500).
Despite a seemingly positive image rebranding for the sport, the deal is not a popular one among the majority of fighters, as almost all were earning more through pre-existing sponsors. On top of that, Reebok’s UFC products have also proven to have serious quality control issues.
Fox: In 2011, the UFC signed a seven-year broadcast rights deal with Fox Sports. Even Fox is happy with the deal, and the UFC is content with the exposure it’s gaining, ratings have been lower than expected. With 13 PPVs, 22 UFC Fight Night cards (Fox Sports 1/Fight Pass), four UFC on Fox cards, and two The Ultimate Fighter Finale cards (Fox Sports 1/Fight Pass) all in 2014, the UFC has the capacity to deliver enough content for all of their media channels.
However, fans have been complaining about the quality of the events, criticizing them for watering down a lot of its cards. The UFC has dialed back its total events since then (41 in 2015, down from 46 in 2014).
When the UFC didn’t have access to traditional media, they turn to social media and content marketing to breakthrough. With a little training, the CEO even turned his employees into advocates.
Unfortunately, White had to recently tone that down on Twitter and other media. Signing big contracts with Fox and Reebok comes with the Politically Correct culture of mainstream media and corporations.
Is the UFC losing its authenticity?