One of the main criticisms often levied at the UFC is that the promotion struggles to create stars. For years, the focus has been on the brand and the idea that those three letters will forever mean more than any individual who enters the cage.
While stars like Georges St-Pierre, Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor have done their best to provide evidence counter to that assertion, the $4 billion the company fetched when it was sold earlier this year might be enough to suggest the “UFC-first” line of thinking has some merit.
Either way, the UFC needs stars to maximize its brand. It needs athletes to go out and sell fights, perform once the fights are sold and then start the whole circus over again once the fight is over. With St-Pierre and Lesnar likely gone, Rousey possibly going and McGregor already into his late-20s, it’s never too early for the promotion to look to the future and see who might be next in line for stardom.
It’s also worth considering that the UFC has been, and likely will continue to be, focused on becoming a global brand and accessing all parts of the world through its brand and associated stars. It will need names that can sell in North America, Brazil, Asia, Europe and Australia, and oftentimes will need niche stars who can sell in particular corners of those markets.
With that in mind, here’s a list of folks who might be up to the task in the coming years.