Paddy Pimblett seems like he is bound for UFC stardom. The 26-year-old made his UFC debut last Saturday and put on a stellar performance. Leading up to the fight and following the win, Pimblett took his chance to shout himself out on the mic. He played up his personality and called himself the new “cash cow” of the UFC.
The thing is, he’s right. He has everything going for him to be the next star of the organization. He has a unique look, he can talk, and he can fight. Nowadays, the first two, the look and the talk, can be even more important than the fighting, but it shouldn’t be. In the era of Conor McGregor, the fighters want to trash talk and sell-out shows, but few can do that while losing. That is why the UFC must not rush Pimblett to the top too quickly.
Conor McGregor is a bit of an outlier. He rose to superstardom very quickly while having success inside the cage. He was able to remain a top fighter and star even when he loses. That may not be the case for young up-and-comers. Historically, when a star has the potential for becoming popular, the UFC puts the whole backing of the media and pushes them. Looking back to two examples over the past few years, Sage Northcutt and Paige VanZant instantly come to mind. Northcutt and VanZant aren’t even in the UFC anymore. Did the pressure burn them out? Or was it worth it?
Northcutt and VanZant had the look. They were stars from almost day one. Then, they began to find more attention elsewhere. Their UFC careers were short, but they made themselves stars so they were able to find more lucrative opportunities outside the promotion. That is a risk the UFC makes when promoting young stars. It is their job to build these young fighters up and make them marketable, but if it’s done too fast it could be their loss in the long run.
Another reason the UFC should be cautious with Pimblett is that he is still so young. He has only one fight in the UFC and is already probably the most talked-about fighter to come out of the UFC Vegas 36 event. Another fighter who Pimblett resembles is Darren Till. Till headlined the card on Saturday but could be a cautionary tale of speed to the top.
Till is the poster boy for the UFC in the UK. He also has the talk to back up his fighting. But now, he has lost four of his last five and is perhaps in danger of falling too far down to ever regain his momentum. Till has headlined five cards in his past seven appearances. This is the toll being an earner gets you. Pimblett could be ready for that, but headlining comes with certain expectations.
To headline a card usually means you are a draw. Maybe you will fight a non-ranked fighter but probably not. Names draw names, and moving up too quickly without being ready can stop a young fighter’s train too early. If the UFC is wise, they would pit Pimblett up with young fighters like himself and allow him to keep rising in skill organically. A rush to the top is not needed. Look at Sean O’Malley, he is a rising star and has not fought anyone in the top ten yet. Taking his time and working his way up is a good plan.
The UFC could see the money they can make off of Pimblett and make the mad rush on him. But hopefully, they keep it slow and controlled. Fans want to keep “The Baddy” around for a while.