Conor McGregor (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)Notorious Notoriety: On Conor McGregor’s Title Shot Paul French October 17, 2014 News Dana White’s recent statement concerning the future of the featherweight title proves what many fight commentators and fans already know: publicity can trump meritocracy. After only four wins in the UFC, the new doyen of Dornálaíocht, Conor McGregor, has been cited by White as the next opponent for champ Jose Aldo (pending the results of this weekend’s event). This has ignited an outcry of protest on forums and comment boards around the web as some fans claim that McGregor’s trash talk and flamboyant character are the leading factors behind this decision. For instance, if one pores through the comments on the UFC Download, he’ll notice that every other comment seems to point to an allegedly more deserving featherweight title fighter. And while it’s true that many of these complaints figure the already-taken Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar (slated to battle each other at Fight Night 57) for the shot, their irritation is understandable in the sense of keeping competition fair. Fighters shouldn’t be able to talk their way to the top, should they? I’ve often heard people deride showboats and trash-talkers for this reason. They’ll claim these theatrics detract from the purity of the sport, that they’re inessential (in the same way I argued that ring girls were inessential in my last article). “Just shut up and do your job” sums up the attitude of these anti-showmen, with whom I can sympathize. The problem with this attitude, however, is its unrealized contradiction — being that the boundaries between the job and the show can blur in a sport that depends on the love of the TV watching masses (“Win the crowd and win your freedom!”). More importantly, this attitude neglects to admit one of the fight game’s most important powers: the power of drama. In my first article for The MMA Corner, I talked about the inception of Team Fighting Championship, which pitted teams of amateur mixed martial artists against each other in the hopes of creating a massive donnybrook dirtier than Jason “Mayhem” Miller’s arrest record; there’d be no way popular audiences could resist, except, of course, that they did. TFC’s formula has fallen flat and the sport is only a year or so away from total obscurity. But why? You can read that article for more, but the gist of it is because a fight is more than a fight. A fight is a story: the better told, the better heard. In Conor McGregor, the UFC has found a new protagonist — one whose character is familiar to audiences almost to the point of stereotype: he’s the hot-blooded, nation-loving, proverbial fighting Irishman. What’s more, this character has more than punches and kicks in his arsenal; he has personality, a corrosive one, perhaps, but one that, like Ronda Rousey, will put asses, enemy and friendly alike, in the seats. Now, does this mean that every fighter with a foul mouth should have a place at the king’s table. Of course not. As long as fights are still determined by physical dominance, verbal talent will remain a better battle axe for politics. But in terms of catching our interest, winning fighters like McGregor who can incite a drama of words and personality away from the octagon will always be an asset for the sport, which needs (and this has been really apparent lately) exciting big events to climb higher into public view.