The verbal body blows Conor McGregor aimed at WWE and John Cena served as a reminder of just how skilled a carnival barker he is.
The UFC featherweight star drummed up attention for himself by attacking the world of pro wrestling, spouting hot air and deftly manipulating the audience. While his words have certainly made him a pariah of the squared circle, they also assure him of a fatter wallet.
A rematch between Nate Diaz and McGregor is set for Saturday night at UFC 202. While making the media rounds for the fight, The Notorious has fired off as many shots at WWE as he has about his opponent.
It began with an answer during a recent conference call (h/t Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet, contains NSFW language) in which he maligned WWE wrestlers as a whole.
After a wave of backlash to the comments, McGregor doubled down. He tweeted that he could slap the heads off the WWE roster:
The fighter wasn't done. In a press conference last Friday, McGregor shared more harsh thoughts on WWE (h/t Fight Booth, contains NSFW language).
He said: "I think some of these WWE guys think this is...they are not right in the head—some of them. I mean, the new age are dweebs. Let's be honest here—they're absolute dweebs."
Then he zeroed in on WWE's biggest star over the past decade—Cena. McGregor called him "a big, fat 40-year-old failed Mr. Olympia."
MMA fighters dismissing the athletic prowess and toughness of pro wrestlers is nothing new. But these comments were especially caustic.
What does all this mean beyond assuring McGregor a storm of angry tweets from WWE fans? For one, there are more people talking about Diaz vs. McGregor post-WWE bashing.
McGregor has long been a fantastic salesman for his own fights.
He trash-talks at an elite level. He trumpets his skills with great bombast.
This time, he's simply taking a different approach. By needling the WWE world, he's enraging an entire fanbase and industry. That will lead to an increased number of folks tuning in to see Diaz shut him up.
NXT champion Samoa Joe sees McGregor's rants for what they are.
In an interview with Scott Fishman of Channel Guide Magazine, Joe said of the comments: "This is the promotion business, and he was promoting his fight. People are rabid and angry, but people also pay someone [to] beat someone up or get beat up. So if he sold a few extra pay-per-view buys from WWE fans that paid to watch him get beat up, then I guess it's mission accomplished."
At the very least, McGregor has WWE fans talking far more about the Diaz fight than they would have otherwise. The reactions to his shots at WWE and the discussion of those reactions all keep McGregor's name in the forefront.
And that wouldn't have happened had he said in that conference call that he respects the WWE Superstars and what they do.
McGregor essentially held up a middle finger to the WWE roster. That is going to leave him few friends in that world.
As Mike Mooneyham of the Post and Courier wrote: "Don't expect Conor McGregor to be invited to a WWE dressing room anytime in the near future."
Pro wrestlers have to constantly deal with snark about their industry. The word "fake" gets tossed around. Wrestlers' athletic ability is underestimated by many. All while they beat up their bodies night in and night out.
No wonder they're so sensitive.
It's clear that McGregor's comments irked a number of WWE Superstars. After his initial comments, several grapplers fired back via Twitter.
Former WWE world champ Sheamus seemed to be referring to McGregor when talking about small dogs who overestimate their size:
Third-generation wrestler Curtis Axel challenged McGregor to take him on:
Should McGregor ever appear at a WWE event, he will receive a stone-cold welcome from the locker room. Should he ever get in the ring for WWE, count on his opponent putting a little extra mustard on their submission holds.
Future Drawing Power
Every insult that McGregor fires off about WWE ups his value as a crossover star.
Company higher-ups would have been thrilled to have him aboard beforehand. That feeling has to have only increased. McGregor would walk onto the WWE stage bearing great heat.
Fans have reason to boo him right away. Ready-made rivalries with anyone on the roster are waiting to be started. McGregor vs. Cena. McGregor vs. Reigns. McGregor vs. Sheamus.
Paint him as a loudmouth outsider with contempt for the WWE, and McGregor would instantly be one of the biggest heels in the company.
Jeremy Botter of FloSports believes WWE has to make use of all of this at WrestleMania:
It's hard to argue with him. When WWE can blend in real-life friction with its own narratives, the result is usually magic. McGregor created the chance for exactly that here.
By trashing the roster, McGregor gave the company more incentive to showcase him. While hyping a UFC fight, he also increased a potential WWE payday.
That's first-rate self-promotion right there.