Khabib Nurmagomedov Might Be The Best In The World, But He Needs Conor McGregor To Be A Mega Star

UFC lightweight champion Nurmagomedov defends his title
Valery Sharifulin/TASS

I spent much of the weekend singing the praises of Khabib Nurmagomedov after the UFC Lightweight Champion pounded and choked out interim champ Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.

Nurmagomedov is worthy of the accolades because he’s arguably the most dominant champion in the UFC. However, social media statistics from this past weekend suggest his popularity is noticeably lower when he’s not involved with former champion and bitter rival Conor McGregor.

Per stats I’ve obtained from the social media listening firm ListenFirst, almost every Nurmagomedov-associated social media tag and post saw less engagement than last year’s mega-brawl between the Dagestani great and McGregor.

In fact, social media interest around UFC 242 looked to be down when compared to other recent high-caliber UFC PPV main events.

Take a look:

  • Convincingly beating Dustin Poirier, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s biggest challenge Saturday might have been the absence of Conor McGregor. There were 42.5K Tweets mentioning Nurmagomedov's Twitter handle @TeamKhabib on September 7, 2019 while in comparison there were 116K Tweets mentioning the hashtag @TeamKhabib on October 6, 2018 when Khabib beat McGregor, with McGregor's handle @TheNotoriousMMA mentioned in 128K Tweets on the day.  
  • Nurmagomedov's Twitter handle @TeamKhabib was mentioned in 22.6K Tweets on April 7, 2018 on the day he fought Al Iaquinta and @TeamKhabib was mentioned in 17.5K Tweets on December 30, 2017 on the day he beat Edson Barboza. What that illustrates is the victory against McGregor made Nurmagomedov a star; and while he's a lot more popular than he was before that fight, there's still not the level of social media interest around Nurmagomedov that there is around McGregor. 
  • Overall, there were 196K Tweets mentioning the hashtag #UFC242 on September 7, 2019. The top performing Tweet using the hashtag was Dana White sharing a video of Nurmagomedov jumping out of the octagon to hug him, which generated 45,582 responses. You could argue this moment was only interesting because it was directly relatable with the brawl that followed Nurmagomedov’s win over McGregor last October.
  • That puts UFC 242 slightly below the level of real time social media interest around other recent hight profile UFC events. There were 255K Tweets mentioning the hashtag #UFC239 on July 6, 2019 around the Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos main event, with the #UFC241 hashtag generated 219K Tweets on August 17, 2019 around Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic
  • The top performing social media content for UFC during the week of September 1-7, 2019 was a YouTube video that generated 13.5M Interactions, showing the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor fight from 2018 for free for the first time. Meanwhile on Instagram, the top performing UFC content for the week was video that received 749K Responses showing Khabib Nurmagomedov in the moments immediately following his victory over Dustin Poirier. 

Love or hate McGregor, the Irishman moves the needle like no other fighter before him. He is truly the Floyd Mayweather Jr. of MMA (without the undefeated record) because simply associating his name with an event or fighter leads to more interest and revenue.

If you include his 2017 boxing match with Mayweather, McGregor has headlined every one of the five highest-grossing UFC events in history. Nurmagomedov is an all-time great in the Octagon, but still a second-tier star when it comes to drawing power.

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I spent much of the weekend singing the praises of Khabib Nurmagomedov after the UFC Lightweight Champion pounded and choked out interim champ Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.

Nurmagomedov is worthy of the accolades because he’s arguably the most dominant champion in the UFC. However, social media statistics from this past weekend suggest his popularity is noticeably lower when he’s not involved with former champion and bitter rival Conor McGregor.

Per stats I’ve obtained from the social media listening firm ListenFirst, almost every Nurmagomedov-associated social media tag and post saw less engagement than last year’s mega-brawl between the Dagestani great and McGregor.

In fact, social media interest around UFC 242 looked to be down when compared to other recent high-caliber UFC PPV main events.

Take a look:

  • Convincingly beating Dustin Poirier, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s biggest challenge Saturday might have been the absence of Conor McGregor. There were 42.5K Tweets mentioning Nurmagomedov's Twitter handle @TeamKhabib on September 7, 2019 while in comparison there were 116K Tweets mentioning the hashtag @TeamKhabib on October 6, 2018 when Khabib beat McGregor, with McGregor's handle @TheNotoriousMMA mentioned in 128K Tweets on the day.  
  • Nurmagomedov's Twitter handle @TeamKhabib was mentioned in 22.6K Tweets on April 7, 2018 on the day he fought Al Iaquinta and @TeamKhabib was mentioned in 17.5K Tweets on December 30, 2017 on the day he beat Edson Barboza. What that illustrates is the victory against McGregor made Nurmagomedov a star; and while he's a lot more popular than he was before that fight, there's still not the level of social media interest around Nurmagomedov that there is around McGregor. 
  • Overall, there were 196K Tweets mentioning the hashtag #UFC242 on September 7, 2019. The top performing Tweet using the hashtag was Dana White sharing a video of Nurmagomedov jumping out of the octagon to hug him, which generated 45,582 responses. You could argue this moment was only interesting because it was directly relatable with the brawl that followed Nurmagomedov’s win over McGregor last October.
  • That puts UFC 242 slightly below the level of real time social media interest around other recent hight profile UFC events. There were 255K Tweets mentioning the hashtag #UFC239 on July 6, 2019 around the Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos main event, with the #UFC241 hashtag generated 219K Tweets on August 17, 2019 around Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic
  • The top performing social media content for UFC during the week of September 1-7, 2019 was a YouTube video that generated 13.5M Interactions, showing the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor fight from 2018 for free for the first time. Meanwhile on Instagram, the top performing UFC content for the week was video that received 749K Responses showing Khabib Nurmagomedov in the moments immediately following his victory over Dustin Poirier. 

Love or hate McGregor, the Irishman moves the needle like no other fighter before him. He is truly the Floyd Mayweather Jr. of MMA (without the undefeated record) because simply associating his name with an event or fighter leads to more interest and revenue.

If you include his 2017 boxing match with Mayweather, McGregor has headlined every one of the five highest-grossing UFC events in history. Nurmagomedov is an all-time great in the Octagon, but still a second-tier star when it comes to drawing power.

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I write about boxing, MMA, pro wrestling and sports video games. As a lifelong combat sports, pro wrestling fan and sports gamer, I've been blessed to make a living disc...