So there I was at UFC91 in Las Vegas.
A break in the action so I make a dash to grab some peanuts, beer and a sausage (seriously, can’t the MGM stock some pizza or something other than peanuts and giant pretzels?).
As I walk up the stairs the cameras are flashing, the crowd is rising to their feet and I think, wow, finally I am getting some recognition for my work in the publishing field of mixed martial arts.
I waved, smiled, stopped while they took photos and genuinely felt loved. Then I heard someone in the crowd say “get out of the way idiot, GSP is right behind you!”.
Turning around I concluded they were right, there was George St. Pierre walking up the stairs behind me to get a pretzel.
I had watched six fights to that point. The promotions in between fights were filled with marketing of the BJ Penn and GSP upcoming rematch January 31st in Vegas.
BJ Penn was in attendance and had been shown on the screen countless times that evening along with 50 Cent, Anderson Silva and many of the stars that lined the MGM floor seats.
But GSP? Nope. Not once. No mention of him even being at UFC 91.
GSP and I were shown on the screen at UFC91 to our adoring fans the exact same number of times – zero.
And yet you could not have had a stronger positive crowd reaction for anyone as GSP made his way up those stairs last weekend.
So what is up? Why is the UFC downplaying GSP in press conferences, advertising, and at live events? The answer is easy – he snubbed his nose at the UFC and signed with the professional sports agency CAA. In an attempt to capitalize on his success in the cage, GSP has signed on with the agents that represent guys like David Beckham and Derek Jeter. Same path that Randy Couture went down with different agents and one can only predict that if GSP’s popularity continues to grow and should he be able to put on a performance for the ages against Penn, will undoubtedly land him in Dana White and the UFC’s crosshairs just like Randy experienced.
There are fingers crossed in the UFC head offices that BJ Penn can take down GSP in January and stem the tide of the UFC superstars headed to top ranked sports agents looking to upset the financial applecart in favour of the athletes.
Until then, GSP will just end up standing in line with the rest of us for a pretzel as the UFC downplays one of their top stars.