Q: Who in the world of MMA is poised to become the Next Big Draw and mainstream breakout personality who hasn’t achieved that level before?
MICHAEL HISCOE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Predicting future draws can be difficult because it usually takes winning most or all of your fights to get to that “draw” status. Once you’re there, it’s easier to stay there after losing, but losses on the way up can really derail a fighter’s ability to become a draw. One current fighter who has a home run personality is Derrick Lewis. He has a sense of humor and knack for social media that should appeal to a younger audience that UFC has been losing lately, so there is value there. He’s winning his fights right now but hasn’t yet faced top-tier competition, but if he can get in a position where he can be in a key pay-per-view match and win, he could turn into a heavyweight draw for UFC.
I also like the upside of Michelle Waterson. Much like Ronda Rousey had an appeal to the “Ellen” watching demographic, Waterson has similar potential. She’s a mother which gives her additional appeal to a certain demographic, and she’s also attractive and markets herself that way (“Karate Hottie”) which appeals to a different demo. She’s good enough in the cage where she could soon find herself in the top mix. She did good ratings on Fox in December, so there could be potential as a pay-per-view draw if she keeps winning.
Finally, while young and untested, I think Mickey Gall has immense potential to be a star in UFC. He’s shown to have a knack for interviews and has utilized any camera and mic time he’s been afforded very effectively. The fact that he’s young, malleable, and undefeated makes him a very valuable asset for UFC that they should work to protect and strategically move up the ranks.
ADAM TINDAL, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I believe the next star to be born will be Cody Garbrandt. Compassionate, well spoken, handsome, and a masterful technician in the cage. His fearless perspective on fighting is something to behold and the way he dispatched of Dominik Cruz was one of the greatest victories of last year.
ROBERT VALLEJOS, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
This seems very difficult to handicap at this point, but Cody Garbrandt seems to check a lot of the boxes. If he ends up being a long-term champion, he has an exciting style, a unique look, and a marketable personal story. At only 25, he could potentially have a decade at the top of his division. Additionally, a unique large audience may have already been exposed to him. If we go with the premise that UFC 207 did a big number based of non-traditional mainstream MMA fans, theoretically that same coveted demographic saw his greatest triumph.
BRANDON SLOAN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
This is a fun question. In today’s MMA world, being the best fighter isn’t all that makes you a superstar. You need to have personality and/or a unique style. Well, in the UFC there are a few names that can fit that bill. I’m thinking about fighters like Cody No Love and Max Holloway. To me these are two of the games brightest stars. They have great styles and are two of the realest dudes in the sport. But the fact that are a bit rough around the edges and a couple of real life badasses, I don’t see them as stars that the UFC will market and burst into super stardom. Therefore the fighter who I think will be the next big superstar is Bellator’s Michael Venom Page. Yup a non-UFC product gets the nod here.
MVP has probably the most unique and most intriguing styles MMA has ever seen. Also, he has a very brash and cocky attitude . I also think the fact that he is not in the UFC actually does him a lot of good. In Bellator, the completion level isn’t as great so he has some time to score some more epic knockouts. Also, he is the main attraction in an up-and-coming promotion that has a national TV deal with Spike. Therefore I see Bellator owner Scott Cooker doing everything he can to promote MVP to the public eye. He can be the face of their promotion and with his unique style his stardom has the potential to go through the roof.
MICHAEL GROCKE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Michael “Venom” Page: So far Page has shown he has the skills needed to be successful in the cage amassing a 12-0 record while fighting in the Bellator Welterweight Division. Page is a fighter who goes for the finish whenever possible and, in 2016, he scored the Knockout of the Year when he KO’d Evangelista Santos with a flying knee that fractured Cyborg’s skull. Big John McCarthy, who was the referee for the bout, called it “absolutely the hardest knee” he’s ever seen. Michael Page is also a flashy, outspoken, good talker with the ability to sell his fights.
There are two factors that could derail his momentum, though. The first issue is he hasn’t fought the best in the division up until this point in his career. If he starts losing to the top fighters in the Welterweight Division, then he’ll likely become just another fighter under the Bellator banner. The second issue is he fights for Bellator. If he continues beating everybody the organization puts in front of him, eventually he’ll have to go to the UFC in order to become the biggest star possible.
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis: The heavyweight division needs someone like Derrick Lewis. To be honest ,he wasn’t even on my radar as someone who could be a star not long ago. But after his knockout of Travis Browne and his post-fight comments, how can anyone not be entertained by him? If you haven’t read the quotes or watched the interview, then do it now. And if you’re not following him on Twitter, you should be.
Oh yeah, and he’s also pretty good in the cage. Don’t blink during his fights because you might miss the end. He has 16 KO/TKO’s and 1 submission in his 18 pro career wins.
Honorable Mention: Mackenzie Dern. While nowhere near ready, she is definitely someone to keep an eye on.