Paddy Pimblett looks like he wants to be a UFC star. The 26-year-old made his UFC debut last Saturday and put in an outstanding performance. Before the fight and after the victory, Pimblett took his chance to yell at the microphone. He played his personality and called himself the new “cash cow” of the UFC.
The thing is, he’s right. He has everything to make him the next star of the organization. He has a unique look, he can talk and he can fight. These days the first two – gaze and speech – can be even more important than fighting, but it shouldn’t be. In the Conor McGregor era, fighters want to trash talk shows and sold-out shows, but few can do it by losing. That’s why the UFC shouldn’t rush Pimblett to the top too quickly.
Conor McGregor is a bit of an aberration. He became a superstar very quickly while having success inside the cage. He was able to remain a top fighter and a star even when he lost. This may not be the case for young talent. Historically, when a star has the potential to become popular, the UFC puts all the media support and pushes it. Thinking back to two examples over the past few years, Sage Northcutt and Paige VanZant immediately spring to mind. Northcutt and VanZant aren’t even in the UFC anymore. Has the pressure exhausted them? Or was it worth it?
Northcutt and VanZant had the look. They had been stars from almost day one. Then they started to find more attention elsewhere. Their careers in the UFC were short, but they starred in themselves, which allowed them to find more lucrative opportunities outside of promotion. That’s a risk the UFC takes when promoting young stars. It’s their job to train these young fighters and make them marketable, but if it’s done too quickly, it could be their downfall in the long run.
Another reason the UFC should be careful with Pimblett is that he’s still so young. He only has one fight in the UFC and is already probably the most talked about fighter to come out of the UFC Vegas 36 event. Another fighter Pimblett looks like is Darren Till. Till titled the card on Saturday, but could be a top speed warning.
Till is the UFC poster in the UK. He also has the floor to support his battles. But now he’s lost four of his last five games and may be in danger of falling too low to regain his momentum. Till has titled five cards in his last seven appearances. This is the price to pay for an employee. Pimblett might be up for it, but with the headliner comes some expectations.
Heading a card usually means you suck. Maybe you will fight an unranked fighter but probably not. Names draw names, and going up too quickly without being ready can stop a young fighter’s train too soon. If the UFC is wise, they would pit Pimblett against young fighters like him and allow him to continue to increase his skills organically. A rush to the top is not necessary. Look at Sean O’Malley, he’s a rising star and hasn’t fought anyone in the top ten yet. Taking your time and climbing the ladder is a good plan.
The UFC could see the money they can make with Pimblett and rush over to him. But hopefully they keep it slow and in control. Fans want to keep “The Baddy” for a while.