Paddy Pimblett is off to a red-hot start to his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career. “The Baddy” has won his first three fights with the promotion in the span of 10 months, which includes back-to-back finishes over Rodrigo Vargas and Jordan Leavitt, whom he defeated this past Saturday (July 23, 2022) in London, England.
While he still has a long road ahead of him before he earns himself a title fight — or even a Top 10 ranking — Pimblett has already established himself as a potential star who the promotion can get behind and market.
But, can he actually be bigger than Conor McGregor? Dan Hardy seems to think he can.
During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Hardy talked about Pimblett’s ascension through the ranks, saying that he has the potential to be bigger than “Notorious,” who is without questions the biggest money-making star the sport has ever seen.
“I would hope Paddy’s focus is on the belt as opposed to the super fights right now because he is in a very strong position where he can become something way more than Conor McGregor,” Hardy explained. “And I know that is a difficult thing for us to imagine, but we couldn’t have imagined that of Conor McGregor before he stepped out of Cage Warriors.”
“The Outlaw” claims that McGregor has hindered his brand as a result of his myriad out-of-the-cage legal troubles that cast a dark cloud over him. While they say all publicity is good publicity, Hardy thinks McGregor’s following has dwindled over time as a result of his missteps.
“Especially because I think people's brands change and shift,” Hardy explained. “Conor is not the same, he is not as easy to gravitate toward as he used to be at the beginning of his career. It is much easier to relate to people when they are stepping off the streets, going through hard times.
“Now, [McGregor] is living on yachts and stuff and I think he is quite estranged from his fan base,” he continued. “I think people will tune in because of the fact that he is an entertainer, but I think people will follow Paddy to a much longer degree than they have Conor because I don’t think Paddy is going to fall off in the same way Conor did and find himself in handcuffs.”
McGregor did have a scorching start to his UFC career to the tune of winning seven straight fights, including capturing the Featherweight title with a record-setting, 13-second knockout win over Jose Aldo. He also made history by becoming UFC’s first-ever “champ-champ,” winning the Lightweight title after knocking out Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205.
Since then, however, McGregor has gone 1-3, losing his 155-pound belt to Khabib Nurmagomedov, as well as back-to-back losses to Dustin Poirier. His lone win during that stretch came against the now-retired Donald Cerrone, who hadn't won a fight in three years.
All that said, it remains to be seen just how much “Notorious” has indeed fallen off when he makes his eventual return to action after sitting out for more than one year now as a result of a broken leg suffered at UFC 264.
When he does come back, he will almost certainly headline a massive pay-per-view (PPV) event, and awarding him a title fight outright isn’t exactly out of the question. As for Pimblett, he is eying a return to action in 2022 ... just don’t expect it to be inside O2 Arena again.
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