By Raphael Garcia
In the conversation surrounding the idea of stars in professional sports, it needs to be understood that business is often more important than victories. In the UFC that is even truer, as big stars such as Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey demand the attention of mainstream and hardcore fans alike, and becoming a champion isn’t a precursor to becoming a star. With Germaine de Randamie capturing the UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship at UFC 208, the organization is now facing a massive question: What to do with this champion, and her entire division?
This is a question isn’t new to the UFC. Demetrious Johnson is lording over the flyweight division and is widely considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. However, that has yet to translate into star power, as Johnson’s fights are relegated to either the co-main event on pay-per-view or headlining a free card on FS1. In Johnson’s four opportunities to main event a PPV, he has yet to crack the 200K PPV buy mark, a fact that’s far from acceptable for UFC business. While Johnson may be the best competitor in MMA today, he’s not a star in any sense of the word.
It’s clear that there were hopes that Cris Cyborg could have filled this spot. The news story of the UFC offering her title shots broke towards the end of 2016, but those talks fell apart. Coupled with her post-fight drug test failure, Cyborg will be out of the Octagon for an extended period of time. However, the organization cut to Cyborg multiple times during the show and immediately after de Randamie was presented with the title, signifying plans for the future.
Germaine de Randamie should be excited to have UFC gold around her waist; any fighter would. But the question is whether or not the decision makers within the UFC, know that they are now charged with the development of a barren division and a widely unknown star.