Conor McGregor’s return to the UFC as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 31 didn’t exactly set the world on fire last Tuesday.
McGregor appears as a coach this season opposite Michael Chandler, with the two expected to fight by the end of the year, making it the second time McGregor has been a headlining act on the long-running show. Previously, McGregor coached alongside Uriah Faber in Season 22 to higher views.
The show debuted with 294,000 viewers, down significantly from the 622,000 viewers from McGregor’s previous appearance.
This could serve as a sign of McGregor’s waning influence in MMA. Nine years ago, McGregor was at his peak marketability and physical fighting prowess. Many saw him as a larger-than-life figure with crossover appeal beyond the UFC. While that ended up being true, time has not been kind of McGregor in the years that followed.
His fighting spirit has waned, along with his overall activity, and McGregor is more known for his debauchery outside the octagon nowadays. If The Ultimate Fighter 31 shows us anything, it is that McGregor is not “that guy” anymore. To be fair, the previous two seasons of the show have been restricted to ESPN+, which is available to fewer viewers than Vanilla ESPN.
Conor McGregor will bring in the views where it counts
Even though McGregor’s presence wasn’t enough to pump up The Ultimate Fighter this time, that shouldn’t be the case when McGregor returns to active competition.
The Chandler fight is one that fans are clamoring for. McGregor’s UFC appearances have brought in over 1 million pay-per-view buys since 2015. As the season continues, and McGregor gets closer to fighting shape, the show will be the perfect hype package for the Chandler showdown.
If nothing else, McGregor’s involvement on the show prompted the UFC to take the show on a more public platform. It may be lagging behind now, but we’ll see how relevant McGregor is once the Chandler fight is formally announced.