January 03, 2012
Brock Lesnar retiring from MMA is not just a problem for the legion of fans who were hoping to see the former WWE star return to championship form. It's a problem for the UFC, as Lesnar brought with him regular consumers of pay-per-views and merchandise.
But his decision to hang up the four-ounce gloves to spend time with his wife and suddenly deceased animals doesn't have to be the death knell for the UFC.
1. Build up Alistair Overeem vs. Junior dos Santos as battle of skill and size. The next heavyweight UFC championship battle will be between two huge men who can hit really hard. Though that's reason enough to tune in, the UFC can only go to that well so many times. They would be better served by pointing out how dos Santos is a skilled puncher and Overeem is a master of strategy, not just two behemoths winging at each other.
2. Get Jon Jones on every talk show, magazine cover and any other piece of media. The light heavyweight champ is personable outside the Octagon and unstoppable in it. He is the exact person the UFC can build their next big growth spurt on, but to do it, he needs to be the guy your mom watches on "The View."
3. Embrace the heel of Chael Sonnen. Villains sell tickets, whether it's because the buyers love to hate him or they secretly envy the way he embraces the dark side. Sonnen is a first-rate talker who Dana White compared to Muhammad Ali, and is incredibly skilled at the heel role. The UFC needs to use that. Pull from his best speeches and press conferences for commercials. He called himself "the real American Idol," and that line should run at least once during Fox's broadcast of the incredibly popular show. If Fox is serious about promoting his fight with Mark Munoz at UFC on Fox 2, put him on the show.
4. Put the lighter weights center stage. Though conventional combat sports wisdom is that only the big fighters sell, Manny Pacquiao is the world's most popular fighter and has never boxed at over 155 lbs. The UFC has a stable of interesting fighters at who are Pacquiao-sized. Sell them as skilled, interesting, and maybe even good singers like Pac-Man.
5. Move over Strikeforce heavyweights as soon as humanly possible. The UFC plans to migrate Strikeforce's big men after the Grand Prix final. Considering that this group includes master of the post-fight speech Josh Barnett, two-time Olympian Daniel Cormier, the gigantic yet sweet Antonio "Big Foot" Silva, and many other fighters with great back stories, it makes sense to get them in the UFC as soon as can be.
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