Different fights require different tactics. An opponent who is weak at defending strikes will require a different approach to an opponent who struggles when the fight is taken to the ground. Some fights prove their worth the minute the two competitors enter the Octagon, while others provide value in the build-up, with the pre-fight press conference an opportunity for fighters to increase the buy-rate for their pay-per-view.
The dynamics of mixed martial arts have changed over the years and the battle is no longer purely fought in the Octagon. A top level fighter needs to have the physical prowess and a working knowledge of multiple disciplines, but now the build-up provides an opportunity for the brash talkers to gain a psychological advantage before a punch is even thrown. The best talkers know how to hype up their fight, draw in the crowd, and how to get inside their opponent’s head.
The king of trash talk, Conor McGregor perfectly epitomises the aforementioned characteristics that a fighter needs to possess. The Irishman loves to talk trash and it is one reason why he has become a favourite among UFC fans. However, he is not the favourite when it comes to the betting odds on Paddy Power for his fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov.
How brash talking influences the cards?
No matter how much fans respect the purist approach fighters bring to the Octagon, the brash talking is arguably a bigger stimulus on the money involved in the sport. Each event is an amalgamation of a back and forth exchange of verbal trash, a few barbed tweets, the give and take of heavy flack at the press conferences and of course, the final outcome beyond the psychological warfare, the actual fight.
Although the crux of the trash talk was to get inside your opponent’s head before the game and make them question their strategy, now it pivots around the business end of the sport — trash talking is an ostentatious way to grab the eyeballs regardless of people liking you or not, and more importantly, catching the attention of matchmakers to bring more cash into the bout and add more marketability to your image. Sometimes the spectacle often overhauls the actual fight and the fans pay more attention to how fighters belittle each other before the fights than who will win the fight.
The ‘Money Fight’ of 2017 is a good example to explain the scenario. The fight bought McGregor the golden ticket to catch the attention of millions of fans all across the globe — this wasn’t just about the fans of MMA now; the Irishman was about to become a global phenomenon after becoming a Beats by Dre athlete. He became a household name and casual sports fans knew who he was.
Most of the people knew what the result would be, yet the build-up was what fans looked to the most — two of the biggest names in the world of combat sports going into a war words. The most fascinating part about the fight was the fact that no fighter in the history had benefited from a win more than what McGregor did from a loss — that’s how your words can set the stage for you.
While we’re on the subject, let’s take a glance at the career of the trailblazer of the brash talk in the history of MMA — Chael Sonnen. The man whose zippy tongue whirled more swiftly than his arm — the witty man’s words produced more fireworks than his moves inside the Octagon as he brought the WWEesque approach of pre-fight talk and over the top personality antics into the sport. He always managed to clutch the attention of the fans because of his cocky attitude towards every opponent. He paid more attention to belittling his opponents than gaining an edge on the battleground and the spectators didn’t really have a problem with that.
The authorities reaped great benefits from his fights as the majority of the fans turned up to see the opponent beat the loudmouthed man for fun. Fans remember him for being involved in one of the most one-sided rivalries in the history of MMA with Anderson Silva — let’s revive our memories a little with this quote from Sonnen: “You tell Anderson Silva that I’m coming over and I’m kicking down his backdoor and patting his little lady on the ass and I’m telling her to make me a steak, medium-rare just how I like it.”
In a nutshell, the world of MMA isn’t constrained to technical skills and cutthroat rivalries, the war of words plays a big part in grabbing the attention of the matchmakers and in mushrooming the ticket prices to one’s fight. It is a proven formula for success from the time of WWE’s attitude-era and now McGregor and other contemporaries are keeping the culture ticking.