2017 has been a very strange year for mixed martial arts. We’ve had soaring highs and we’ve had damning lows. And through every moment, one man has appeared as the sole face of the company, whether he is competing or not. When people talk MMA among the casual fanbase, Conor McGregor comes to mind. Now that Floyd Mayweather vs McGregor has passed, we can argue that his star is shining brightest as of this moment. However, we cannot expect him to continue starring in too many more fights when you consider who he has left to fight and the money he has already made. While the UFC may be the strongest promotional power right now in sports and entertainment, their development of stars seems to be very random at best. With the talent and charisma available within the UFC’s roster, lets take a look at who, with the right results and a little luck, could be the “face of the franchise” in the coming years.
Kevin Lee has seemingly blazed through the UFC’s lightweight division. Athletically gifted and armed with a sharp tongue and unique fashion sense, Lee is a man who garners attention. Lee is undefeated in his last five fights and has an impressive fight IQ that sets him apart from the rest. At 24-years of age, he is one of the few athletes we can look at today and sense them becoming a future champion. He is a competitor that presents similarities to former UFC fighter and now Bellator kingpin Rory MacDonald. Lee is well rounded, always has a solid gameplan and fights to his strengths. Lee also resembles McGregor’s promotional tactics. His talk, presence, bravado and his ability to make you hate him or love him means that that if he defeats Tony Ferguson and continues his streak, he’ll become the UFC’s next biggest star.
Can he back it all up?
There is something about this behemoth of a man that screams “TKO!” when Francis Ngannou enters the octagon. Although he’s still extremely raw, he is blessed with physical gifts that only some superheroes can dream of and with a record of 10-1, he now has the future of the division in the palm of his humongous hands. He doesn’t really need to talk trash, does he? To go with his heavy hands, he also brings speed and agility to a division of old, cumbersome fighters. Ngannou’s secret to UFC stardom is the untapped African market. Ngannou is originally from Cameroon and moved to France in his twenties. As of right now, he could potentially have an entire continent behind him, something that not many fighters can boast of. The UFC could find this very useful. Defeating the current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will be a tough ask, but if he could get the job done, he would find himself thrust into the spotlight.
Will the predator become the UFC’s next heavyweight king?
Cody Garbrandt, the current bantamweight champion, isn’t necessarily the best talker, or the coolest head, but the guy can fight. In addition, he has a certain appeal to the UFC’s casual fanbase which is impressive considering that he fights in one of the UFC’s lighter divisions. Garbrandt is blessed to be in a division with Dominick Cruz and TJ Dillashaw, as if he continues to stay on top in this three-way challenge for the UFC’s bantamweight championship, he’ll emerge as one of the main stars of the organization. Garbrandt is definitely a wildcard, but he could be a future trailblazer for the lighter divisions and, who knows, maybe a potential fight with the pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson is on the cards.
Can Cody Garbrandt be one of the biggest draws in the UFC?
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