Love him or hate him, Conor McGregor’s impact on UFC is out of this world

Conor is back! The sensation that is Conor McGregor burst back into the headlines eight days ago with a 40-second demolition of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in Las Vegas in his first UFC fight in 15 months.

A huge worldwide audience, including myself, watched to see what sort of shape Conor would be in for his return; and it was massively impressive. And, in true Conor circus style, as soon as the fight was over, there were as many headlines about who he would fight next.

Love him or hate him, when you ask Alexa what ‘Box Office’ is, she should just reply with ‘Conor McGregor’. The impact that McGregor has had on UFC is out of this world.

He has transformed the sport from a niche attraction loved by a certain set of fans into a mainstream proposition that now more than rivals boxing.

He often reminds everyone that he has ‘made the sport’ and the truth is no other UFC fighter has come within the same stratosphere as the impact McGregor has had.

And UFC have been smart about this. Dana White recognised the potential star McGregor was becoming and has rode that wave. In fact, his organisation drove it along significantly with their own PR machine hyping up McGregor.

They didn’t worry about him becoming bigger than the sport, they always knew he could ‘make’ the sport.

With the Tokyo Olympics on their way this summer, many of the sporting governing bodies would do well to take note of what UFC did with McGregor.

So often I have seen Olympic sports’ governing bodies be overtly precious about making sure they are bigger than the stars themselves.

The ‘no star is bigger than the sport’ mentality is exactly what holds back many Olympic disciplines from breaking into the mainstream audience.

Fans identify with and support the stars, not the governing body.

The stars are what bring new fans to the sport. McGregor did it to me with UFC.

I had never watched UFC and always considered it to be boxing’s poor relation. But then I saw something McGregor did on social media and I thought he sounded so interesting that I needed to check him out. That was it, I was in.

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