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UFC 196: Jim Ross compares 'bad ass' Conor McGregor to Ric Flair, says 'Notorious' is better talker than Chael Sonnen

Jim Ross loves what he sees from Conor McGregor and compared him to two of the biggest icons and heels in pro wrestling history, as well as former UFC title contender Chael Sonnen.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A veteran of the professional wrestling business for over 40 years, WWE Hall of Fame inductee Jim Ross can spot its influence on mixed martial arts (MMA) and identify it quicker than most.

"Good Ol' JR" knows a thing or two about a killer promo, the crowd's approval of a hero and a villain's ability to draw the heat and hatred from that very same crowd. MMA has borrowed quite a bit from pro wrestling since its inception back in the early 90s, but only a few have truly taken it to another level. Chael Sonnen caught lightning in a bottle back in 2010 in his lead up to a title fight with Anderson Silva and became one of the biggest stars in the sport's short history.

Following the path Sonnen laid out before him, UFC featherweight Conor McGregor burst onto the scene in 2013 and currently stands alone among his peers in promotion, ticket and pay-per-view (PPV) sales and popularity. Ross, who is a huge UFC fan, has been paying close attention to the Irish champion's meteoric rise to the top in and out of the Octagon, and sees the obvious similarities to pro wrestling with McGregor's wardrobe to his antics on the mic.

"Well, we all know that the basics of modern-day MMA are the foundation and old-school basic principles of pro wrestling," said Ross, who makes his New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) commentary debut Friday night (March 5, 2016) on AXS TV.

"By and large a lot of the same elements are in place. You have organically imposed heroes and villains. Sometimes a nationality makes a guy a fan favorite or a villain. Conor McGregor is a money making sound bite machine. Not withstanding the fact that he is a bad ass. I still don't know if the MMA world truly knows without a shadow of a doubt just how good he is or isn't in the Octagon. Now, he's damn good, don't get me wrong. I'm not questioning his skill level. But I think we can say, ‘have we seen the best of him or not? Does he have any weaknesses someone hasn't exploited?' All these questions need to be answered, and when you have four-ounce gloves coming at you the answers are very compact. That four-ounce gloved fist is a difference maker. So I think he is a gold mine. He seemingly came out of nowhere. If I had watched some of his smaller MMA events maybe I would’ve seen him. But he was a brand new guy to me and I was just amazed with him."

Ross has called thousands of matches throughout his career and during his time as executive vice president of talent relations had a true eye for future talent signing future stars like "The Rock," John Cena, Batista, Edge, and Brock Lesnar among others. He witnessed the best personalities in the business year after year, and there are two that come to mind when he sees McGregor operate.

"He reminds me when he is all dressed up of Ric Flair in his ability to provide a compelling sound bite," Ross said. "And then I seen a tee shit with his accent very pronounced and for whatever reason, some strange reason, he reminds me kind of a heel, sinister ‘Rowdy' Roddy Piper, who was about as good as there ever was in that role. So he's got some really good traits and I'm not telling you he's impersonating these guys. He might not even know who those guys are. I don't know. Their traits remind me of Conor McGregor at times. So I look at this as nothing but a compliment to him. He has broken the mold."

Ross, of course, was a big fan of Sonnen and his ability to cut a promo, insult and opponent and stay in character and on point, but says McGregor is even better.

"I thought Chael Sonnen was by far the best talker I'd ever heard in MMA until Conor McGregor came along. Of course Chael didn't have a cause to fight for, at least not on TV, unfortunately, which is a bit of a travesty. But Conor McGregor is in elite company and hopefully his peers in other weight classes will take his lead and will follow it and perfect their own interview skills and ability to communicate in a natural fashion so that we don't think Conor McGregor is working this. I truly believe what he says he believes. Maybe I'm naive, but I like what I hear and what I hear sounds real to me."

McGregor takes on Nate Diaz at UFC 196 on Saturday night (March 5, 2016) in his welterweight debut. In addition to Ross commentary debut with Josh Barnett on NJPW on Friday night (March 4) the renowned broadcaster will sit down with Michael Schiavello on a new episode of "The Voice Versus" prior to NJPW at 8 p.m. ET as well.

For more on this weekend's UFC 196 event click here.

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