The importance of trash talk in modern day MMA

Khabib McGregor UFC MMA mixed martial arts
Harry Kettle Harry Kettle

Mixed martial arts combines all of the biggest and best disciplines in combat sports, and in the end, two men step inside of a cage to see who truly is the best. You’d think that their ability would be all that matters, but as it turns out, there’s a brand new element that so many fans resent – and that’s the art of trash talking.

This is something that has been utilised ever since MMA began, but it’s become gradually more and more prevalent as the years have gone on – and it’s no use pretending like professional wrestling isn’t a big factor behind that. The two industries go hand in hand together and they always have done, because the art of competition and the art of promos are kind of the same thing. You’re trying to get the best of someone, whether that be in order to move further up the card or just because you want to get another win on your record.

The obvious examples of stars who have been able to build some momentum off of this needs to start with Chael Sonnen and Conor McGregor, because the proof is in the numbers. Chael laid the blueprint on how to get the fans invested in stories that go beyond the Octagon, whereas Conor had that charm that took things to the next level. Of course, both men have fallen in the past but they’ve been the first to get straight back up again – because they know that in order to remain at the top of their game, they must maintain a strong public image in victory and in defeat.

The reason we’re bringing this up is that Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is now arguably one of the greatest fighters on the planet, showed a major hatred of Conor’s tactics and even went so far as to attack his team in the aftermath of their UFC 229. We can understand that The Eagle is a proud man and that he wants to protect those close to him, but there are lessons to be learned from this.

Freedom of speech is something that exists in the United States of America and although both men are of European descent, they were on American soil when the Irishman threw the aforementioned insults in the direction of Khabib. He doesn’t have to like what he said and he doesn’t even have to sit quietly and accept it, but it’s clear to see that the lines have been blurred for the Lightweight Champion of the world.

In some ways we find it ironic that Khabib noted his interest in jumping ship to the WWE, if only for a one off appearance, because he doesn’t appear to understand the logistics behind this game. We know that emotions can get the better of us all at times but there are a few home truths about this subject matter that continue to fly under the radar.

Without trash talk, no matter how big or small, MMA wouldn’t be the juggernaut that it is today and that’s just a fact. Rousey, McGregor, Jones, Lesnar. While they had varying levels of trash talk throughout their biggest fights, all four of those ‘superstars’ so to speak were able to benefit from a few jabs and jibes here and there both in the Octagon and with their pay per view buy rates.

Just think about the recent Cormier/Lesnar brawl for example: does Brock deserve a title shot? Of course not. Will it do big numbers courtesy of his name value as well as their scuffle at UFC 226? Of course it will.