The Many Different Marketing Faces of UFC Super Star Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor is a beast, in and out of the octagon. He is electric when fighting, giving the crowd exactly what they paid to see, and he is a marketing genius that understands what buttons to push and how to conduct himself, making him one of the most popular UFC fighters in the history of the organization.
If you read my blog on a regular basis you know that I’m a huge McGregor fan. I previously wrote an article about specific marketing tips that everyone could learn from McGregor and it went viral, I still meet random strangers that have read that article. He has a huge worldwide fan base and it’s no wonder UFC 202 broke the pay-per-view record.
On August 20, 2016, McGregor squared up against Nate Diaz and won by decision, and in the process crushed every non-boxing pay-per-view event in history. It is estimated that there were 1.65 million buys on pay-per-view, which beat the previous record holder.
That previous record holder was the first McGregor vs. Diaz fight, which happened at UFC 196. McGregor is an equally smart businessman as he is professional fighter. He knows that his time to capitalize financially is a very small window. Let’s be honest for a minute: UFC fighters have a very short career when compared to traditional career paths. Injuries take their toll on the body and there is only so many shots to the head you can take before you risk permanent damage.
So, McGregor is trying to generate as much wealth as possible in a short amount of time. He is the most popular UFC fighter currently and is drawing buzz and attention from outside the core UFC fan base, something that not many fighters have been able to do in the past. McGregor is a superstar, and for that reason he is highly compensated, financially.
McGregor became the highest paid UFC fighter in terms of guaranteed money. For UFC 202, he was paid a guaranteed $3 million, along with a percentage of the pay-per-view revenue, which is where the big pay day comes from. At the rumored $5 per and the 1.65 million sold, he earned about $8.25 million and then the $100K purse for winning the fight. In total, McGregor pocketed about $11.35 million for UFC 202. This doesn’t even count his many endorsement deals, which brings in millions more.
So, why is McGregor at the top of the sport now in terms of popularity and pay day? Let’s dive into why he is almost larger than life at the moment.
Love him or hate him, UFC fans won’t miss a McGregor fight.
It doesn’t matter if you are a die hard McGregor fan and watching in hopes of seeing him dominate yet another fight, or if you can’t stand him and are watching in hopes of seeing him receive an ass beating. The point is, you are going to tune in.
He has fans coming from every direction. He is an Irish legend, and understands his “home town” roots are where his main backers are. This is why any time he encounters an Irish fan he instantly switches into “marketing mode.” These are the fans that are going to buy his merchandise and support the brands that pay him a hefty amount of money to endorse their products.
Even the “haters” have a financial value to McGregor, so that’s why he is a little over the top when conducting media interviews or participating in press conferences before a major fight. He wants to get EVERYONE so excited for the fight that they pay the high pay-per-view fees. His fights have almost become “must see” events in the sports world.
In a perfect world, McGregor wants the following to happen..
His Supporters: He wants them to be so excited for his upcoming fight that they order the pay-per-view and get decked out in official Conor McGregor merchandise to further show their support. These super fans are his cash cow. They are loyal and spend freely when it comes time to support the big guy.
His Haters: He wants them to be so pissed off by his antics that they also watch the fight. There are some fighters that people just don’t want to watch because they can’t stand them. Well, McGregor definitely has haters, but the difference is that they can’t miss the fight. They are so curious as to what the outcome will be that they need to watch live and couldn’t possibly wait until the next day to see the outcome. They crave McGregor just as much as his fans do, just in a different way.
Just look at these McGregor Fans!!…
He knows when to ‘turn it on’ for the cameras.
Why was UFC 202 such a success? The pre-fight press conference saw McGregor roll up 30 minutes late and then it ended with bottles being thrown at the Diaz camp. Security quickly removed him and the internet exploded with buzz. This stunt helped to build up the fight and it was likely responsible for the record breaking pay-per-view numbers.
Was it just a marketing stunt or pure raw emotions? Only McGregor knows for sure, but I’m willing to bet that he was in “marketing” mode through that entire ordeal. Even his competitors respect his marketing hustle. Featherweight rival Jose Aldo, who McGregor beat at UFC 194, says the fighter isn’t always in marketing mode when the camera is pointed away, saying:
“There are several times that I’ve seen him standing, facing the wall and staring at nothing with everyone trying to provoke him, and he’s almost glazed over.
“He is a normal, quiet guy but if he sees a camera or an Irish fan nearby, the guy turns. Outside you see him laughing, joking, talking shit but talking normally… but then he spots a little camera or an Irish fan and he acts up in such a way that you think, ‘You son of a bitch’.
“He is who he is. Sometimes you play jokes with him and he is laughing. There was one day we sat together and he asked if I wanted coffee. I said I wanted sugar and he answered in a way that it was all good.
“I met him recently at a hotel. He was eating breakfast and I said I wanted barbecue but he said it was his breakfast.
“But most of the time we encountered each other, there was always someone filming so he had to keep up his thing. With no camera, his face changes completely.”
There have been many reports of encounters with McGregor when the cameras were “off” and he is said to be a very down to earth and pleasant person (which I firmly believe with him being an Irish man! ). He is a showman that knows the time and place to go into his act. It’s this “act” that is responsible for creating his massive following and making him one of the most financially successful fighters in UFC history, and he isn’t anywhere close to being done. Every fight he has from this point on is likely to break the previous record, held by his previous fight. He is the UFC golden boy right now.
McGregor understands his role in addition to fighting.
What really sets McGregor apart from all other UFC competitors is his understanding of how the business side of fighting works. When the camera is on him and when he has the attention of the media he is in promotion mode. He understands it’s in his best interest, and the interest of the UFC, to pump up his fight as much as possible. He knows that the more outrageous he is, the more buzz it will create, which then translates into pay-per-view buys. He is such a large name that he can now negotiate a much larger piece of the pay-per-view pie than any other fighter.
While he was paid upwards of $5 per pay-per-view buy for UFC 202, Diaz was rumored to only receive $1 per. But his earnings are well deserved, as it’s his marketing machine that is responsible for creating the buzz that generates the record breaking sales. While he’s a great fighter, it’s his business savvy moves that is one of his biggest assets, financially speaking.
There are plenty of great UFC fighters, but they aren’t a complete personality in the sense that McGregor is. Sure, they train and fight, but they don’t have that “wow factor” that translates into mega purse contracts, record breaking pay-per-view sales, or huge endorsement deals.
While McGregor wouldn’t be a star if he didn’t train or wasn’t a great fighter, he definitely wouldn’t be experiencing the financial success without his marketing effort.
He understands how to play the social media game.
For a UFC fighter, McGregor has a very strong social media presence. With 2.32 million Twitter followers, 4.3 million Facebook fans, and 6.6 million Instagram followers, he is a legitimate social media superstar.
He makes sure that his social media content doesn’t only appeal to UFC fans. He understands that the core UFC fan base is small, so in order to really expand his reach, he needs to post content that triggers engagement from a much broader audience. He will share the occasional UFC related post and also retweet fans that post pictures wearing his merchandise, but then he will also post pictures of himself with famous celebrities and doing things like driving exotic cars or shopping at Gucci and Luis Vuitton.
This strategy keeps the core UFC audience entertained but it also attracts fans of mainstream celebrities, who see this UFC fighter rubbing elbows with their favorite celebrities, which triggers interest. “Who is this guy? What does he do? When is his next fight?”
Everything McGregor posts on social media is done with one goal in mind: stir up interest in himself as a brand.
Confidence is king.
McGregor is one of the best trash talkers in all of professional sports. He isn’t afraid to taunt his opponents and remind them how good he is. He can get away with it because he backs it up. This really gets his fans riled up and shows just how confident he is.
The same principle applies to every business. You have to believe in yourself if you want to be successful. Nobody is going to think you are the best if you don’t ooze confidence. So, always aim to build the best products or deliver the best service, regardless of what you do.
When you hit a certain level of success don’t be afraid to show it off. If you or your company is featured in the media share it on social media and place that logo proudly on your website. Your customers take notice of stuff like this and it helps to establish your business as an authority. Being featured in the media and asked to write for some top blogs has opened several doors for me, and none of that would have happened if I wasn’t fully confident in my abilities and the company I have built.
McGregor backs it all up.
Let’s be honest for a minute. McGregor wouldn’t be this over the top if he wasn’t a great fighter. He would be a complete joke if he acted the way he did and lost all his fights. He backs it all up by being very good at what he does. This applies to all businesses. You have to be good at what you do. I couldn’t guest blog for the websites that I can be found on if I wasn’t good at SEO. I wouldn’t be interviewed by media outlets like Inc. and Entrepreneur if I wasn’t good at SEO.
The lesson: you can have all the flash and be over the top, but in the end, if you aren’t really good at your job, then you will never experience success. You can’t fake being good at what you do, no matter how hard you try.
I’m a diehard McGregor fan. While I’m a UFC fan and follow the sport closely, it’s more than just the Irish connection or the fact that McGregor dominates in the octagon that has turned me into such a supporter. It’s the fact that he truly understands the marketing side and I see things he does that the average fan wouldn’t even notice. I respect what he does when fighting, but I respect his marketing and how he handles himself outside of the octagon even more.
I’m genuinely excited to see what career path McGregor takes after his fighting days are over. With his marketability and drive, I can honestly see him getting into acting and becoming a larger than life movie star, taking a similar path as The Rock. I believe he has several more years in the UFC, but something tells me that the money that will be offered to him for movies might be too much to pass on, and might be responsible for an early exit from the sport. He is just that marketable. His box office appeal is on the same level as The Rock, who is now the highest paid actor.
What do you think of McGregor’s marketing and promotion effort? Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below.