ROUNDTABLE (pt. 2 of 3): Who is the bigger star, Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor? Is it even close?

Conor McGregor (Photo credit Gary A. Vasquez © USA Today)

Who is the “bigger star,” Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor? And “by far” or not “by far”?

MIKE HISCOE, MMATorch contributor

Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor are both huge stars in the same galaxy, their stars just shine on different planets. The numbers this past year don’t lie; Conor McGregor is the biggest draw the sport has ever seen. He’s broken records trading wins with a mid-tier lightweight with no championship on the line. In the fight world, Conor McGregor gets all of the attention whenever he speaks. If he has a demand, UFC will (almost) always give in to it. No one has shown the ability to move numbers on his own the way McGregor has.

Rousey is also a big draw, but she draws from a different pool and she reaches an audience that McGregor will never connect with, no matter how big he gets. The story of Ronda Rousey breaking out in 2015 is one of the more remarkable stories in the history of MMA. She headlined a show against Cat Zingano that was expected to do an average number of about 300,000 pay-per-view buys and it doubled that, surprising everyone. Her next two fights in 2015 did over a million buys each, both in international markets against opponents without much name recognition. She made a star out of Holly Holm in losing to her. Holm can be a win-one-lose-one fighter for the rest of her career, but she’ll always be the woman who knocked out Ronda Rousey, and that carries a lot of weight.

Rousey appeals to the mainstream audience in a way that McGregor likely never will. She does very well in TV interview settings, and can get onto shows that aren’t going to have interest in UFC otherwise. There are probably hundreds of thousands of people that haven’t watched a UFC show since Rousey last fought, and probably won’t until she fights again. Rousey’s appeal is a special one, and it is one that can’t be created through marketing or careful matchmaking. She’s one of a kind, and for that reason, I think she’s a bigger star than McGregor, despite the numbers indicating otherwise.

MICHAEL GROCKE, MMATorch contributor

It seem these days popularity is based on the size of one’s social media footprint. Let’s take a look how Rousey and McGregor compare:

Twitter: Rousey 3.1M vs. McGregor 2.4M

Instagram: Rousey 8.5M vs.  McGregor 6.9M

Facebook: Rousey 11M vs. McGregor 4.3M

Clearly Ronda Rousey is more popular on social media, but does that tell the whole story?

McGregor can boast that he drew the most UFC PPV buys ever for his rematch against Nate Diaz, but if you go by cross-over appeal then Ronda gets the nod. Dana White is on record saying Ronda Rousey is UFC’s biggest star ever, and I agree with him.

CHRISTOPHER KING, MMATorch contributor

To most UFC fans McGregor is much bigger. However, Rousey’s mass market appeal, driven by her looks and movie work, give her the edge, so I say Rousey, but not by far. If McGregor can remain undefeated through his next three or four fights, then he will be bigger than anyone ever. However, with possible impending fatherhood on the way and a possible year off, it seems unlikely. Rousey has been away for some time and, if she is not back in the next 12 months, I see the roles being reversed.

WADE KELLER, MMATorch editor

There’s a mix of data and indicators, and both are huge crossover stars. I think Dana White undercuts any argument with exaggeration that states Rousey is “by far” the biggest star. He may sincerely believe that, or he may be looking at indicators and metrics that we’d disagree deserve the weight he’s giving them, or he may be being completely insincere for negotiating reasons or to settle a score or butter someone up. It’s Dana. I can say there’s no way Rousey is bigger star “by far” according to any set of metrics I’d consider fair. My inclination is to say Conor is bigger today if for no other than reason than he’s fought recently and Ronda hasn’t. I think the right to revisit this is in February 2017 when we know how Conor and Ronda both did in their late 2016 fights in the Octagon and in terms of PPV buys (although the undercard for each show will influence buys and should be accounted for).

NOW CHECK OUT PART ONE OF THIS ROUNDTABLE TOPIC: ROUNDTABLE (pt. 1): Who is the bigger star, Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor? Is it even close?


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