If you would have predicted in 2012 that two of the UFC’s biggest names by 2014 would be Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, chances are your prediction would have been met with stiff laughter. Or, depending on who you were talking to, the response would have been “who?”
While by 2012, Rousey was making waves in Strikeforce, the decorated Judoka was far from a household name. McGregor, on the other hand, was emerging as one of Ireland’s top prospects while fighting for Cage Warriors, but there again, very few, casual fans had even heard of “Notorious” at that juncture.
As 2015 gets set to begin, however, Rousey and McGregor are up there with the likes of Chris Weidman, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva in terms of their star power, and it remains to be seen where they go from here.
UFC commentator and comedian Joe Rogan has had an inside look at the evolution of many of the sport’s greatest figures over the years, and on the latest edition of “UFC Tonight”, he had this to say about Rousey and McGregor (quote via FOX Sports 1 press release):
“She’s not just a once in a lifetime athlete, she’s a once ever. She’s so dominant. She’s not just a really beautiful girl just getting by, she’s smashing people. Conor McGregor is a dynamo, a great talker and is so confident. He has unique moves. He’s so loose and confident. He says he’ll knock people out in first round and does. He’s a legit superstar.”
Although Rousey has the same amount of UFC fights as McGregor, most would likely agree that her status surpasses the latter at this juncture, considering many believe she will remain champ for some time.
McGregor, on the other hand, has yet to face the best of the best in the UFC’s featherweight division (he hasn’t fought a wrestler comment could go right here). That said, there’s no denying that McGregor has a certain way (yes, the smack talk) of buzzing crowds, whether it’s negative or positive.
Rogan also had this to say, when asked what he believes has been the biggest change in the sport, since he started commentating way back when:
“The level of athlete’s skill. I started off the postfight interview in UFC 12 in 1997 and Vitor was there, and he’s still fighting. I don’t know how he keeps his motivation and not just training, but also mentally.”
Yup, it’s pretty crazy to think that Belfort had his first back in 1996…McGregor’s first amateur bout was in 2007.
The UFC’s next event is scheduled for this Saturday in Austin, Texas. Frankie Edgar will battle fellow featherweight contender Cub Swanson in the process.