UFC Dropped the Ball with Ian McCall
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the UFC can’t see for the forest through the trees. Friday night on UFC on FX: Johnson vs. McCall, it happened in a big way.
When introducing the 125-pound weight class – which, to this point has been a resounding success for a range so lightly populated at the moment – their main stars were to be Joseph Benavidez, Yasuhiro Urushitani, Demetrious Johnson, and Ian McCall.
Two proven Zuffa stalwarts dropping from 135lbs., two newcomers that many ranked in the top-5 or higher. The four men would mix it up in a four-man tournament, the winner of which would be crowned the first ever flyweight champion in the history of the promotion.
With an eye on maximizing the chances of promoting at least one proven commodity (preferably two, though you’d never get Dana White to admit it), the Zuffa veterans were split up. Benavidez got Urushitani, Johnson got McCall. No formal announcement on the matchmaking process was made, no drawing of opponents ever happened publicly. This was the tournament, and you were probably getting at least one guy that Zuffa had put time and money into since back in the WEC days in the final. Take it or leave it.
Except a funny thing happened along the way: nobody wanted that. The UFC got their wish, as both Benavidez and Johnson moved on, but the fans weren’t satisfied.
Thanks largely to the efforts of a moustachioed madman with a penchant for theatrics and an absolutely maniacal online fanbase, of course. The one and only, Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall.
McCall, far and away the most open and accessible fighter on the UFC roster (perhaps in the history of MMA) is absolutely beloved. Hardcore fans love him because he’s essentially one of them, and now mainstream fans love him because he’s an absolute treat in terms of both personality and performance.
He flat out does things differently, and people have taken to it. They’ve taken to it, in fact, to a level the UFC never saw coming.
In promoting their own fighters, the guys they wanted to make into the first true flyweight stars, they completely overlooked a guy who was naturally going to be a star. He had everything they were looking for, only they didn’t look for it.
He’s funny, thoughtful, engaging, and talented. He’s a little off the wall. He’s got a unique look. He’s literally the perfect face for a largely unknown division.
Sure, boring guys who offer up robotic interviews and workmanlike performances are the safe choices to launch a division, but if you’re relying on people to pay money for what they want to see, isn’t McCall the type of guy you want to build that on?
The fact is that the UFC completely dropped the ball with Ian McCall. It’s not like it can never be rectified, but by trying to maximize their chances of promoting properties that they considered “known” in the Zuffa universe, they were completely ignorant to the most marketable star they have at 125lbs.
Luckily, the man best known as Creepy says he isn’t going anywhere, so they’ll very likely be forced to rethink that choice as his star continues to rise.