Our colleague Matt de la Rosa wrote about how fighters in MMA fail to sell or promote their fights and how that inability really hampers their ability to become stars in the sport. He wrote:
By no means am I saying that every fighter should start talking trash and make outlandish statements that emulate WWE’s TV-MA ‘’Attitude Era’’ type programming of the late 90’s in order to draw the interest of fans. But fighters should not totally overlook the ‘promo’ aspect of pro-wrestling and makes it their own.
I agree with this statement 100% and have written extensively about this vary subject in the past. Tito Ortiz is a master of promoting fights and his ability to do that kept him relevant in the sport even though he had not won a fight since 2006 prior to this past weekend. Remember how the crowd reacted when he defeated Ryan Bader and did the gravedigger routine in the middle of the octagon this past weekend? He had fans that were tuning in hoping that he would pull off a miracle win and he had fans tuning in hoping to see him get beaten into retirement. It didn’t matter why they were watching as long as they were watching him fight.
This is something that Dominick Cruz to understand if he wants to become a star in this sport. I saw that the fighter salaries were released and he received $40K(including his $20K win bonus), where Ortiz brought home $450K. I understand that heavier weight classes usually get paid more and that Ortiz has been in the game much longer than Cruz but you get the just of what I’m saying.
The bottom line is that fighters that fill the seats and influence fans to purchase the pay per views get paid the most and are the stars.
You probably noticed that the fans heavily boo’ed Cruz after his fight with golden child Urijah Faber. Almost all of Faber’s opponents are given the ‘heel’ role by fans, butt is is the perfect opportunity for Cruz to embrace that role. He should take a page out of Josh Koscheck’s book and irk the fans that dislike him just enough to tune in and watch him fight whether it’s on cable tv or PPV. Check out what Chael Sonnen has been able to do in the last 2 years with the way he hypes his fights. He has gone from a journeyman fighter to a guy that’s #2 in the world while giving excellent performances against the best middleweights in the world. You can talk all you want, but you must continue to perform in the cage as well and Cruz is certainly capable of that.
The other component is his style of fighting which although different, is still similar to Lyoto Machida in his early UFC fights in that almost all of his fights go to the judges. If Cruz can begin to put people away decisively as Machida began to do, he’ll certainly begin to carve out a niche of fans. The advantage he’ll enjoy is that English is his native language and he can directly relate to the fans whereas Machida had to rely on interpreters most of the time.
I think Cruz has begun to understand how this stuff works though, he’s still very young but I can sense an aura of confidence from him. That was evident in the UFC 132 post fight interview and press conference with the way he answered questions from Joe Rogan and the media. I’m almost certain he’ll get another shot at the “California Kid” to settle the score once and for all. That could be the fight that sends him to the next level if he’s able to seize the moment.
He has the skills to be dominant for a long time, he just needs to hone his mic skills to back it up and take his career to the next level.