If Conor McGregor loses against Donald Cerrone, there won’t be any recent evidence for ‘trashing your way to the top’. With UFC 246 less than a month away, we haven’t heard a peep from McGregor, let alone anything directed at Cerrone. We’ve seen Conor mock Dagestan and Khabib a while back, but not Cowboy.
This begs the question: Does anyone care about trash talking anymore? Does it even work?
Your next highest-ranking trash talker may be Colby Covington. While his performances are more-obviously a character – which you might not be able to argue as much for a McGregor or a Chael Sonnen – he certainly wasn’t able to get under the skin of Kamaru Usman. Why? It’s just not as believable coming from the smiling (now broken) face of Covington.
Both sides tried to hype this fight as much as possible, getting as personal as possible. Yet, Usman didn’t care when Covington mocked his father for being in prison, mocked a deceased manager, mocked Matt Hughes, and even accused him of juicing.
Inversely, Covington didn’t care when media and fans took his words as racist, said he was a horrible fighter, and so forth. Neither competitor changed their face nor did they let their frustrations boil over a-la Jose Aldo v McGregor. We didn’t even see a harsh exchange of words to the tune of Cormier and Jones.
Despite all of these non-reactions we got one of the best fights of the year; Covington stumbling Usman several times and the still-champ breaking the jaw of, and finishing the MAGA-supporting fighter in the fifth round.
The talk didn’t effect the fighters at all, it did however sell the fight and get some writers a few clicks (both honestly and dishonestly).
So, who is next on the pantheon…Cody Garbrandt? ‘Cody G’ is certainly exciting in the cage and entertaining to watch in interviews, even if it does end up being as weird as it was with Dominick Cruz.
But, after three-straight knockout losses, Garbrandt is rarely seen spitting flames these days, save for getting into a brief altercation with Petr Yan recently. With Yan sitting pretty at #3 in the Bantamweights, it’s hard to see #8 Cody getting any title shots in the near future.
The trash-talking seems more effective with selling fights (narratives) to fans now, and not necessarily to get a mental edge over an opponent as it was in recent years past. As we see quieter, more respectful-fighters holding belts (depending on which Jon Jones you get) one has to wonder if the jig is up.
In 2019, we got calm killers like Khabib, Adesanya, Masvidal and Zhang Weili retaining and acquiring belts.
The WWE-style antics can now be easily spotted, and fans will be even more savvy in 2020; we’re all getting used to the fake news. But even with very-personalized insults flying, it takes two to tango to make it a grudge match, and one fighter disengaging often kills any controversial sparks quickly.
Garbrandt and Dillashaw had a long history, McGregor and Khabib really disliked each other, Jones and Cormier, etc…
If McGregor loses and/or continues his in-and-out relationship with the UFC, there may be no one left for trash-talkers to mimic, nor will it be a necessary requirement in the immediate future. Rather, we may just see a push for wacky or fun characters. Henry Cejudo and Max Holloway come to mind.
Who knows, maybe Cejudo-cringe is profitable in the long run, and Volkanovski standing up for “virgins and nerds” is the new, new.
Maybe being a ‘good guy’ is the new ‘bad guy’. It would certainly throw some MMA writers through a loop when they are doing their best to villainize a guy for making meme-worthy content.