By: Dom Niranont
Featherweight Champion, Conor Mcgregor, once said, “I remove a head, I bring it backstage, I place it on Mr. [Lorenzo] Fertitta and Mr. [Dana] White’s desk: ‘Here you go, boss, another one done,’ and then we discuss big business.”
The art of showboating and trash talking is a fascinating aspect in sports, in particular MMA. This art can be viewed as “disrespectful” towards the opponent, however, in the sport of MMA there is power within this art which makes MMA more watchful. From Conor Mcgregor to the “Bad Guy” Chael Sonnen, fighters who possess this art somehow motivates viewers to watch their fights.
I will analyze MMA fighters who are known for their showboating and trash-talking antics, and how they were able to generate viewership for their fights, such as Conor Mcgregor, Chael Sonnen, and the Diaz Brothers.
At UFC 117, “The Bad Guy” was scheduled to fight with Anderson Silva. He was coming off of a three fight winning streak, with his last fight dominating one of the top middleweight contenders at the time Nate Marquardt. But going into this fight, Sonnen was a +325 underdog. This was going to be another easy fight for the champ, however, Sonnen’s trash talk made the fight very intriguing.
In the pre-fight press conference for UFC 117, Sonnen said “I don’t fully know what respect means. That sounds like something a kid says in the street after he is getting ready to take your coat and shoes….this is a fist fight to me.” During the UFC 117 Conference Call, Sonnen also said, “I can drag Anderson Silva out of a hotel and beat up him anytime I want. I’ve made a commitment to wait until August 7th and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure millions of people watch me do it.” Clearly, there is no love for the champ by Sonnen. He really wanted to pummel his way to become the new Middleweight Champion. But since he was the heavy underdog, it was believed Silva would make quick work of him. This was not the case.
Sonnen dominated Silva for majority of the fight. Unfortunately for Sonnen, Silva proved why he is the champ by submitting Sonnen with a Triangle Choke late in the fifth round. Although he lost, Sonnen was able to dominate Silva in a way that nobody else had at the time. After this remarkable fight, and Sonnen’s two fight winning streak after his lost to Silva, he was given a rematch for the title. This time, he ramped up his trash-talking skills, and more fans of MMA tuned in for this fight.
The rematch at UFC 148 had an estimated 19 million viewers in Brazil. The Brazilians were hungry to see if Silva was going to beat Sonnen, especially after Sonnen disrespected Silva’s wife. In an interview on “The MMA Show,” Sonnen said, “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 addition to this comment, he said at the UFC 148 pre-fight conference, “I called him out for six years, ‘He disrespected my family.’ Yes, I did and what did you do about it?”
Sonnen’s insults produced high numbers for this UFC event. He was also able to challenge for the Light Heavyweight title just from power of his words. When Jones’ original opponent was injured for the fight, Sonnen offered to take the fight on short notice. However, Jones declined the fight, which led to Sonnen using his trash talking expertise.
When asked about Jones’ refusal, he said, “I just don’t know why he won’t fight me next Saturday, I mean what else does he have to do? Is there like a wine tasting at the local racetrack or something I haven’t heard about? I don’t know what his deal is. Maybe Dana didn’t make it clear enough that he was willing to fly Jones out, maybe Jon thought he had to drive” while also making light of Jones’ DUI incident. Jones refusing to fight Sonnen gave way for “The Bad Guy” to talk his way into a championship fight.
Nick and Nate Diaz
The Diaz brothers are notorious in the MMA world with their showboating antics in the ring, as well as their bluntness in their interviews. In the eyes of the media, they are framed as villains of the sport, however, people who are close with them say otherwise. Glory Kickboxer Joe Schilling said, “Really, Nick and Nate are like the most genuine, honest people you’ll ever meet in your life.” Their teammate Yancy Medeiros said, “They don’t front. They have no filter. They’re going to tell you how it is.”
Based on what the people closest to the Diaz brothers said, they are just really honest towards others. With that being said, one can tell when they really dislike their opponents. Nick Diaz once said, “If you’re not on my team, then F*** YOU, cause if you’re not with us, then you’re against us.” They verbalize their dislike for their opponents, but their showboating in fights enhance the dislike even more.
The night before their fights at the weigh ins, they love to get in their opponent’s face which leads to the fighters needing to be separated from each other. The latest fiasco was at the weigh-ins for UFC 196. Conor Mcgregor and Nate Diaz were about to scrap on the weigh in stage if it weren’t for officials pulling them apart. They instead exchanged middle finger taunts at each other. Correspondingly, the Diaz brothers showboating humiliates their opponents. When Nate Diaz fought Michael Johnson, Nate pointed and laughed at Johnson after he was tagged with a nice punch and was visibly hurt. He would also open hand slap Johnson in the face to add more humiliation. When Nick Diaz fought Anderson Silva, Nick literally laid on the mat, provoking Silva to attack him.
According to former MMA fighter Kenny Florian, Conor Mcgregor “is the only guy in combat sports history, since Muhammad Ali, who can go out there and predict what he is going to do, and go out there and actually execute.”
In the past, Conor has said a lot of remarkable comments about his opponents. Before Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out of his fight with Conor, he said: “It’ll be another KO. I swear, I’d love to beat the ugly out of him and drag him out into the third round. But I feel like I will dust Rafael inside one minute. He’s a slower, sloppier version of Aldo. He’s like a bum version of Aldo.”
He took it a step further by saying: “I wanna send you back to our Brazilian media partners at Globo and have you answer to the Brazilian people why we have to book you a hotel in your own home country, why your kids names are Bob and Donald. Why are you raising American children? Why don’t you trust in your own people?” Not only did Conor call his opponent sloppy, but he also challenged the pride of his country. Mcgregor is definitely in his own category of trash-talk.
Not only is his trash-talk on another level, but his words have predictability power too. Leading up to his fight with Aldo, Conor predicted that he would finish Aldo in the first round. And behold, he knocked him out in 13 seconds of the first round. Granted his predictability power did not go so well in his last fight, but still, he KO’ed a fighter who pretty much cleaned out the entire division at 145 pounds in 13 seconds.
Another power his words have is the ability to generate viewership of his fights. With his last fight, there were 1.5 million PPV buys. All to watch Conor. He also is paid millions of dollars for fighting, mostly because he is able to generate viewership with his words. That’s an extraordinary power to have.
I truly believe trash talking is vital to the sport of MMA. For one reason, if a fighter practices the art of trash-talk, there will be more eyes on that particular fighter, which could possibly gain revenue for them. However, they have to win. One of the reasons why Conor is at the level he is at is because he declares what he is going to do, and executes what he says. He says he will win, and he does. It also helps that he is an exceptional trash talker which intrigues many people to see if he will back up his trash-talk or lose. The same goes for Chael in that his trash talking generates viewership. The fight becomes more exciting when fighters are jarring at each other.
The second reason is more money. With more viewers watching one’s fight, the more money one could possibly generate. And if a fighter is able to back up his trash talk, then that is more viewership, which leads to more money. A fighter can also have more power of receiving big fights, even if they do not necessarily deserve them. Chael was able to earn a fight for the championship, as well as Nick Diaz earning a title fight against George St. Pierre. When it comes to pulling in big fights, Conor Mcgregor said it best, “These custom-made suits aren’t cheap. This solid gold pocket watch, three people died making this watch. I need to put people away. I need those big fights. I’m going to end up in debt pretty fast.”
Advice for the upcoming fighters, develop that skill of trash talk, and one will have a great career. Just make sure to win, or one will be quickly forgotten and is viewed as a moron.