Jon Jones is a marketing all-star. He’s articulate, good looking, well dressed, has a megawatt smile, and he’s charismatic. Oh, and he just happens to be a rock star in the Octagon. In a sport full of international superstars and testosterone crazed—or deprived—men, one can’t overlook the little things needed in order to market an athlete successfully. Such as the ability to speak clearly or that all-American charm. Thus, the UFC has a lot riding on the new golden boy of MMA this Saturday night in Atlanta as he faces Rashad Evans in the grudge match of the century.

Every sport, brand or public entity needs to have something that sets them apart in order to be able to successfully market their product. The UFC has never had a shortage of fighters to market, however Jones may be on a different level.

Brock Lesnar was great for the crossover wrestling fan, or the brash 18 to 35-year-old male demographic, but he’s returned to the WWE after a tough battle with diverticulitis and consecutive TKO losses inside the Octagon. On the flip side, his brashness and WWE persona rubbed many the wrong way making him just as, if not more, hated than he was loved.

Georges St-Pierre is the ultimate professional and certainly helps draw the female fans. The welterweight champ is also the current pay-per-view cash cow for the promotion. However, his long layoff due to knee surgery has no doubt put a cramp in PPV buys over the last year. Couple the champ’s injury with English being his second language and he’s not as effective of a marketing tool as Jones is.

Anderson Silva is another big name—helping with the international demographic—but it’s tough to truly market someone who is hesitant to speak English in post-fight interviews. When he does speak English, it can be very tough to understand. At 37-years-old, his days as a mixed martial artist are probably limited as well.

The second Jones recorded his TKO victory over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to become the light heavyweight champion, was the same moment the director of marketing for the UFC began salivating over the gift he had just received.

As the youngest champion in UFC history, Jones has a long, bright future ahead of him. The UFC can bank on him over the next decade, and count on him to not only grow the sport, but bring in a different type of viewer, propelling the sport into mainstream popularity.

Inside the cage, Jones is creative, energetic and dynamic. He’s finished nearly ever fight he’s been in, and done so in dazzling fashion. Whether one loves or hates him, no one can deny that he’s fun to watch.

Outside the cage—when he’s not busy saving people from random park muggings—Jones is racking up award after award—ESPN Fighter of the Year, Spike Most Dangerous Man, etc.—and appearing on late night talk shows, magazine covers, and serving as the Daytona 500 race official. He may just be the sport’s first truly mainstream star.

The champ is crossing over into demographics the UFC hasn’t been able to crack, and finding a way to make people, who once had no interest in MMA, count down to his next fight.

So what happens on Sunday morning if the light heavyweight belt is around the waist of Evans?

While “Suga” has moments of brilliance inside the cage—he finishes approximately the same amount of fights as those that go to decision—and is a former UFC champion and TUF winner, he lacks the charisma that Jones seemingly protrudes. He just doesn’t have that “it” factor to thrust him into the echelon of super stardom that GSP and Jones live in.

Evans is, in a sense, like Lesnar, where people love to hate him. He has his loyal fans, but there’s many more who don’t like him. The difference between Evans and Lesnar is one: Evans won’t bring the pay-per-view buys that Lesnar brought by way of the WWE die hards, and two: a lot of people are indifferent when it comes to the Blackzilian fighter.

Indifference is the hardest thing in the world to market. If a fan loves a fighter they’re going to watch. If a fan hates a fighter they’re going to watch. When a fan is indifferent, it means they don’t care, and if they don’t care there is nothing, even a marketing genius can do, to provoke them to spend the money on a PPV headlined by a fighter they’re not interested in—especially when there’s another PPV in a few weeks.

Combine the fans indifference with the fact that Evans walks around with a chip on his shoulder, often times going past the point of cockiness and straight to arrogance. It’s clear the UFC marketing department will have its work cut out for them in order to  successfully market Evans.

Jones is like a gift served up on a silver platter. He markets himself through exciting fights, social media and appearances on late night TV. With him, all that’s left to do is sit back and watch the money role in. Somewhere in Vegas, some marketing exec is pacing back and forth in his cubicle hoping that come Monday morning his job is still a walk in the park—a park that Jones is protecting.

Photo: Jon Jones (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.