March 7, 2016

UFC 196: Highly Promoted Fighters Won't Go Away After Upset Losses

By Raphael Garcia

UFC 196 is over and done. It was an event that Conor McGregor and Holly Holm went into as huge favorites, but both walked out with defeats on their ledgers. Fans are excited, with both a new champion crowned in Miesha Tate and Nate Diaz shocking the world the way only a Diaz can. Now that the dust has settled, the mixed martial arts world must look to what’s on the horizon. One thing is clear though, Rome isn’t burning where the UFC is concerned.

A popular and pretty comical meme is circulating through social media, one that shows UFC President Dana White with caricatures of Ronda Rousey, Paige VanZant, Conor McGregor and Sage Northcutt all crossed out. This represents four important names that have recently been soundly defeated in recent months. Rousey fell to Holly Holm via brutal knockout at UFC 193, VanZant dropped a bout to Rose Namajunas at UFC Fight Night 80, Northcutt was defeated at UFC on Fox 18, and McGregor lost on Saturday night. Yes, these are big losses for an organization that continues to comb its roster for clear-cut stars, but it’s far from the end of the UFC’s promotion of these stars, whether fans want to see it or not.

One clear difference between mixed martial arts and boxing is that suffering a loss doesn’t crush an individual’s career. There are a number of examples throughout the sport. Kimbo Slice is nothing more than an attraction that any “real” MMA competitor would defeat. He’s lost twice in his career, but he recently headlined the biggest show in Bellator MMA history. Nick Diaz has a 26-9 record, hasn’t won a fight since 2011, but fans wait with bated breath for the Stockton bad boy to return to the cage.

Whether fans want to believe it or not, the “hype trains” behind any of these fighters are far from being over. Each one of these men and women can be built up in a way that allows them to regain attention and fanfare, as well as retool their skill sets to come back as improved fighters.

This is especially true for VanZant and Northcutt, who are young in their careers. Time away from the limelight is exactly what they need at this point in their development. When they come back, expect UFC matchmakers to put them on the slow and steady pace, while still promoting them at a level that will continue to upset some of their peers.

For Rousey and McGregor, however, the path is different. They are immensely huge names that began to transcend the sport itself. When they decide to return to competition, expect the UFC to throw all of the promotion’s marketing strength behind them. With the right matchups in place, these fighters have the opportunity to regain the momentum that was shattered when they were stopped in front of thousands in attendance and millions watching around the world. They are huge names that carry weight within this sport. One loss doesn’t immediately remove that strength from their names. 

Fans shouldn’t hope for these fighters to fade away from the sport. Fighters know that matches against these competitors bring opportunities the opportunity to increase their revenue, grab attention, and create more leverage within the UFC. Remember that White once said Nate Diaz doesn’t “move the needle” like his brother does. He won’t make the mistake of saying that again, as Diaz will have a lot of attention heading into his next bout, whatever that may be. 2016 is a year where many fighters are pushing for more control over their careers and value to promotions. Defeating established names such as these provide fighters with opportunities to wrest that kind of control from the UFC.

Upsets create crazy situations in mixed martial arts. When they happen, fans are ready to jump off one bandwagon to join another. UFC 196 was marked by two huge defeats that hampered the perception of star power on the roster. However, panic shouldn’t set in; there are a number of opportunities in front of the fighters that many fans wanted to see fall so badly.


UFC 196: McGregor vs. Diaz (formerly UFC 196: Dos Anjos vs. McGregor, UFC 197: Dos Anjos vs. McGregor) took place on March 5, 2016 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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