Think Bigger

How Conor McGregor turned smack talk into a $150,000,000+ empire

The list of things I wouldn’t do to make one hundred million dollars is pretty short.

There are about three things on it:

  1. I wouldn’t strap seal steaks on my legs and try to outswim a great white shark.
  2. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt my kids.
  3. And I would not climb in a boxing ring with undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather.

If sports aren’t your thing, I’ll quickly catch you up: Mayweather is the greatest boxer of his generation. His professional career spans more than 20 years, and he’s never lost a pro-fight.

You couldn’t pay me enough to stand there and let him beat the tar out of me for 30 minutes.

Which is one of the many things that prove I am not Conor McGregor.

McGregor is the reigning champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He is Mixed Martial Arts’ biggest star. And McGregor spent a year chasing down a fight with Mayweather that he knew he could never win.

You see, a UFC fighter needs to practice five or six different styles to be competitive. Boxers just worry about boxing. There’s no way an amateur boxer like McGregor could climb into the ring with Floyd Mayweather and come out on top.

Demanding that fight sounds insane. Until you realize that winning the match was never the point. All he wanted to do was step into the ring because that fight was part of a brilliant marketing ploy that more than doubled his net worth.

It made him $100,000,000 in one night — which isn’t bad for a guy who was fixing toilets and living off food stamps in 2013.

You may think boxing has nothing to do with online business. But you can use the same strategies that landed McGregor a nine-figure payday to massively grow your business. Though before we do that, we need to forget about Conor McGregor the athlete and take a look at Conor McGregor the business.

Why sign on for a fight you can’t win?

So why would McGregor want to climb into a boxing ring with someone like Mayweather? To understand, let’s look at where his business was at the end of 2016.

He’s profitable. He’s got a loyal fan base. And he is easily recognizable, but only in a small niche market. So what’s the next step? How does he keep his business growing?

Imagine you’re a successful author in a tiny niche. You write sci-fi mystery novels, and you want to make more money. What can you do?

You have two choices.

  1. You can work yourself to death trying to find the handful of people who read those kinds of books who don’t already know who you are.
  2. You can co-write a book with Stephen King and get instant access to his endless army of fans.

Which do you choose?

Or say you’re a fitness company with a new kind of diet. It works, but it’s weird. People eat nothing but raw spaghetti and cabbage.

You could spend years trying to promote it on your own with no success.

But what if Oprah, or Dr. Oz, got behind your diet and pushed it to their tens of millions of fans? Stores wouldn’t be able to keep cabbage on the shelves. There’s no faster way out of a niche than by tying your business to the right influencer.

That’s exactly what McGregor did.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is growing fast, but it’s still a niche sport. The audience for boxing is 5X the audience for most MMA fights. There’s no way McGregor could have convinced that audience to watch one of his fights without help.

But he didn’t have to convince boxing fans of anything. All he had to do was get Floyd Mayweather to step in the ring with him. Suddenly, every boxing fan on the planet was scrambling to find out everything there was to know about him.

Google searches for “Conor McGregor” leading up to the fight

Google searches for “Conor McGregor” leading up to the fight, relative to past volume

By agreeing to step into the ring, Mayweather told his fans, the promoters, and the media that McGregor was someone worth watching.

Forget about the $100,000,000 payday McGregor scored from the fight. The exposure it gave him skyrocketed his brand and his credibility. Now, the entire sports world knows his name.

McGregor didn’t just raise the ceiling for his success, he raised the floor.

Even if he goes years without another payday this big, that exposure has doubled, maybe even tripled what he can expect to bring in each time he promotes a fight.

In fact, there’s talk of the UFC — Mixed Martial Arts’ biggest business — giving McGregor an ownership stake in the league just to keep him fighting. That’s something no other MMA fighter or promoter has ever even dreamed of.

And if you want to get the same kind of results for your business there’s only one question left to answer.

What does it take to convince the right influencer to get behind your business?

Over the past five years I’ve worked with New York Times best-selling authors, former hedge fund managers, Merrill Lynch VPs, and two different entrepreneurs who’ve made over a billion dollars in their career.

Here’s what it takes to get someone like that to work with you…

The 3 keys to getting ANYONE to promote your business

Mayweather didn’t care that he was helping McGregor, any more than influencers in your market care about helping you. So why did he agree to the fight?

Well, to start with, he got paid something between $400,000,000 – $500,000,000.

For context, the hit movie The Matrix grossed about $460,000,000 in theaters. In other words, Mayweather pocketed more money in one night than the total worldwide box office revenue of most major motion pictures.

Now none of us can offer an influencer anything like that kind of money. But that doesn’t mean you don’t bring anything to the table.

Here are three things anyone can do to convince an influencer to work with them.

1. Don’t be vanilla

Say what you will about Conor McGregor, he’s a hell of a showman.

Just check out this smack talk compilation someone put on YouTube leading up to the fight. (Unless cussing offends you. Then just take my word for it and skip the video.)

  • He drives expensive cars.
  • He wears outfits that would make Lady Gaga blush (including one suit with pinstripes that read “F*** You” on closer inspection).
  • He flashes jewelry and bricks of money that could probably pay off my mortgage. *Checks mail* Yep, he definitely could pay off my mortgage.
  • He’ll publicly start a beef with pretty much anyone.

And it’s a whole lot of fun to watch.

Like my boss Ramit Sethi said, when you turn vanilla, the world abandons you. People want to be entertained.

If you want a major influencer to work with you, then you need to bring energy that will get their fans excited and the media talking.

You need to be different. You need to have a unique voice.

You need to not be vanilla.

2. Work 20X harder than everybody else

MMA is a niche sport. But that doesn’t mean that taking it over was easy.

There are literally thousands of pro-fighters around the world who barely scrape by. Yet McGregor came from nothing and within three years he was being paid $1,000,000-plus per fight.

How? McGregor flew to conferences, booked himself on radio stations, and took every opportunity available to promote himself to the public. (Even spending his own money to book himself on events the UFC didn’t feel were necessary.)

And that’s on top of the brutal training regiment he kept up so he could actually win his fights.

If you want to be successful, you have to be willing to outwork everybody else.

You need to do what it takes to dominate your niche. Because if you don’t own your market, it’s not time to expand.

3. Put your ego aside

You need influencers more than they need you.

  • Why do you think Mayweather got paid four times more than McGregor?
  • Why do you think they fought in a boxing ring, rather than an MMA-style cage fight where McGregor would win?

Because McGregor needed the fight. Mayweather didn’t.

Every step of the way, McGregor had to make sure that Mayweather looked better, got more exposure, and made more money. And if you watched that video above and you’re thinking “Wait a minute, McGregor did nothing but trash talk Mayweather for a year.” You’re right.

McGregor spent months talking about how completely he was going to pummel Mayweather.

Then they stepped into the ring. There wasn’t a second of that fight where anyone doubted Mayweather’s control. He dominated that fight from the opening bell until he decided to knock McGregor out in the 10th round. Take extra note of the word “decided.”

The only thing those months of trash talk did was make Mayweather look like a boss.

If you want to get a major influencer promoting you, then you’ve got to be willing to do the same.

  • Don’t offer them 40% affiliate commissions. Offer them 90%.
  • Promote them to your audience, without any strings.
  • Talk them up every chance you get. If you land a media appearance be sure to mention what an inspiration they were, and how much they influenced your success.
  • And do everything in your power to make them look good.

If you can do that, you’ll have influencers lining up to help grow your business. I know because I’ve worked with them. They’re waiting for people just like you.

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Anybody who follows boxing would tell you that if you have to get into a ring with a boxer to make $100,000,000, you should pick Mayweather to be that boxer.

Because he’s a defensive boxer who wins by out-pointing his opponents, not by knocking them out.

By contrast, Miguel Cotto, Pacquiao, Maidana etc, will knock you out and give you permanent brain damage.

Rest of the article was good.

I don’t think you’d have to be a powerhouse striker like Pacquiao to handle my patented “curl up and try not to die” boxing style.

Will,

The button to “join the conversation” didn’t work, so I replied here – thanks for the article! It’s good. I was definitely thinking these things in my head watching the whole show leading up and during so it was great to have someone speak to that very thought.

I’m working on revamping my dad’s martial arts school (been in our family 3 generations, my sister and I are fourth but don’t know that much) online and repositioning it so it speaks to what people are looking for at the moment. I’m still trying to gain clarity on the ‘what’ of the business, and the ‘who’ (target market), then will work on finding influencer blogs.

The vanilla comment stuck out, so that was a great reminder. If you have any suggestions for content on the clarity pieces I mentioned above, I’d be so grateful!

Keep on creating great work!
Caitlin

I’m not a boxing fan butt he whole Conor McGregor thing did have me curious about the why of the fight. Now it all makes sense!

Sounds like he might have a little Jay Abraham influence :) Thanks for the insight. When I heard there were more million dollar bets than on the superbowl – I knew that money was on Mayweather because of it being such a sure thing.

I think another point can be polarization. Many saw the fight as a farce, an affront to boxing, and just a hyped-up gimmick. True, True and true – but it didn’t stop both from building their fan base, earning enormous pay days, and providing entertainment value. Oh, and most of those haters still watched the fight or at least were spending time visiting multiple blogs and listening to multiple clips about the fight – seems like they found entertainment value out of it whether they wanted to or not!

This article misses the long game that McGregor is playing. Not only did he win $100MM+ for the fight, but he announced and promoted his own brand of Irish Whiskey at the post-fight press conference. Celebrity whiskey/alcohol is hot right now and he is using his Irish heritage and fan base to promote his brand. Sets him up for making money when his fighting career is over.

Excellent point. The fight was as much about the exposure for his brand as it was about the payday. McGregor isn’t planning to stay in the ring forever. He’s always said his plan was to “Getin. Get rich. Get out.”

This was 100% about building a brand that will take him beyond fighting.

THANK YOU, WILL! THANK YOU!

Everyone is so stuck on Mc’s boxing technique and how the fight went, blah, blah, blah…
WHO CARES?!

The point was for him to:
1) Get the fight.
2) Get paid.
3) Not get any permanent brain damage from the fight.
4) Leave with $100MM in his pocket and a brand bigger than any MMA fighter in HISTORY

People who are making jokes about Mc – who is doing a Scrooge McDuck backhand stroke with his money, with his hot wife, in Bali (probably) – might want to get the eff off Twitter…stop spending your time on making a gif…and think about how they can reach THAT money making level for themselves.

Great to see GrowthLab looking into the fight game and extracting business lessons from it. There are a few things I’d change up though:

1. McGregor is not THE reigning champion of the UFC. He is the reigning lightweight champion of the UFC (max weight: 155 lbs). There are multiple UFC champions in different weight classes. To say he is THE reigning champion makes it sound like there is only one champion in the UFC.

2. I don’t think McGregor fought just to get a paycheck. I think he fought because he really believed that he would win. Although the judges scored it the other way (boxing is not immune to corruption), many boxing pundits scored the first 3 rounds for McGregor. Why? McGregor punched Mayweather more than any other boxer ever. To say that McGregor had no chance is incorrect. If you watch the boxing pundits before the fight, most of them dismissed McGregor and said that he wouldn’t last a round with Floyd. After the fight, all of them had praise for McGregor because not only did he last 10 rounds, but McGregor actually gave Floyd one of his most competitive fights.

3. You are right to say that McGregor is in a niche sport, MMA. However, to say that MMA is a small niche market is incorrect. Even before the Mayweather vs McGregor fight was announced, Conor had over 4 million Twitter followers and over 5 million fans on Facebook. McGregor is a star in his own right.

4. I agree with the first commenter. No one who knows boxing is afraid of Floyd. He is not known as a knock out artist. Rather, he is known as a really good defensive boxer who wins by decision.

That said, the 2 points you pulled out at the end were helpful. McGregor is definitely unlike all the other MMA fighters. He’s definitely not vanilla and he definitely works super hard.

The 3rd point makes sense but I don’t think it applies to McGregor and Mayweather. The truth is this: McGregor would not be able to make $100,000,000 without Mayweather. But it is also true that Mayweather could never make $400,000,000 without McGregor. Even though Mayweather has had major blockbuster fights in the past, there is no current fighter, whether MMA or boxing, that would have generated the buzz that McGregor did. To say that Mayweather didn’t need McGregor is incorrect. I would change the 3rd point to something like, “Bring something to the table that NO ONE else can.” That is exactly what Conor did. He has a legion of young fans around the world following him. Conor IS the biggest name in MMA right now. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest trash talkers in sports history which would only bring more buzz to the fight. If Mayweather wanted to fight again, he could have fought a popular boxer like GGG and still made millions of dollars. But, he would have never made the kind of payday he did against Conor.

Conor brought all of these things to the table and made it worthwhile for Floyd to be involved.

Thanks for writing the post! This is the first time I’ve commented on a GrowthLab blog post. Good stuff here!

I love the added thoughts you put into the article. Without casting aspersions you made me write down thoughts the more. Thank you. How can I get to link up with you please…

Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Except for the thing about not being afraid of Mayweather, I agree with most of what you said. (And if you think the difference between a world class striker and a world class defensive boxer would matter in my case you are paying me a deeply flattering, and totally undeserved, compliment.)

You’re totally right that Conor is the biggest name in the UFC right now – to the point where some people speculate that the UFC needs him more than he needs the UFC. He’s absolutely a star and he brings an unholy amount to the table.

That’s where you want to be before you go looking for the major influencer to help you bust out of your niche. And like I said if you aren’t there yet go back to dominating your niche.

But once you’re there make sure you don’t bring ego to negotiating table.

Leave as much meat on the bone for the influencer as you can – because you should be playing the long game. Winning over their audience is worth a lot more in the long term than anything you’ll make in one night or marketing campaign.

Simon Clements

Mostly nonsense like the fight. When asked about his retirement Mayweather said he was retired but he isn’t stupid. Getting paid $300m for 36 mins work is great money.

All boxing pundits that I read predicted the fight exactly as it happened. Mayweather would soak up the pressure and that once 25mins fight time was up McGregor would be finished off.
For any credibility the fight needed to last beyond a couple of rounds.

McGregor will never get a payday like that again, and it’s likely he got way less than US$100m.
Whatever he has adequate funds to do whatever he wants whenever he wants.

It’s Mayweather that has enabled McGregor on the world stage, at a price.

Thank you Will for this thoughts. Good stuff. I think I’ll working more with some of the shared thoughts above. Thank you

I’m neither a UFC fan, nor do I watch boxing (unless Henry Maske is fighting), but this fight (or the lead-up thereof) had business GENIUS written all over it!

I love how you laid it out and made it applicable and relevant to Growth Lab’s audience. It made me think of collaborations between Marie Forleo & Lisa Belgray, or John Lee Dumas & Richie Norton, for example; people that decided to work together for much the same reasons, one being more known than the other (without the smack talk, and not for that kind of money, of course). On a much, much smaller scale, I think this also applies to entrepreneurs’ guest posting, as writers make use of that publishing platform’s established audience in order to create and increase credibility and brand recognition.

Thanks so much for this great post, Will.

Patrick Ratliff

As a huge MMA Fan, I loved this article! What stood out to me was point #2. A lot of fighters absolutely HATE doing media, and complain that all they want to do is train and show up on fight day. They forget about the business part and leave it up to their “managers” to handle it for them. But fans don’t have 0 interest in managers and want to be invested into the fighter. UFC has a sponsorship deal with Reebok and it is terrible for all of the fighters. But by showing up everywhere and promoting yourself, the fans become emotionally attached to you. The worst thing for fighters is for fans to feel indifferent about you. If they hate you, they will pay to see you get beat up, and if they love you they will pay to see you win. Having fans on the fence about you is how fighters starve.

You’re absolutely right – and that’s true for all business owners, not just fighters. Building an audience that’s emotionally invested in your success is one of the smartest things you can do.

Mr. Green, you forgot about the racism. Mr. McGregor positioned himself as an actively racist white man to garner attention, both from anti-racists (like myself) and white supremacists.
I still resent Mr. McGregor for getting me to silently root for the illiterate, (alleged) woman-beater Mr. Mayweather. 😐

Aside from the impressive feat of turning his skills into a $100M payday in only a few years, this story is the accumulation of many things I find disgusting about our culture in the US and as humans today.

1. Brash, rude, and obnoxious behavior and violence gains so much attention and adoration
2. We will pay actual dollars we work to earn to consume this garbage
3. Individuals simply with athletic ability or size become “role models”
4. Our culture lacks critical thought but simply regurgitates what the media tells them and claims it as opinion or fact
5. Marketing effectively tells us how to spend our money and who to make rich, and we comply
6. It’s not good deeds that get reward. Teachers, elder care, leaders in charity scrape by while these egotistical assholes earn multi-generational wealth.

This spectacle and the economy that surrounded it was an example of the worst attributes of our society and truly makes me disgusted. No doubt, it is an amazing ride from the gutter to the very top, I just don’t think it’s a story worth glorifying.

impresive! you are right we ate trash ! and even pay to do it. the fight was a charade, a mimic. great athletes but in the end just trash.

Drake RameeN

LOL keep crying you little bitch. This ain’t a charity, this is business. FOOK OUTTA HERE!

Hey Ramit,

Long time reader and Earn1k student here from England! First of all, thank you Ramit for all of the value you provide, all of your material and guest posts have helped me more times than I can count.

That is a great article by Will; I have always said that Conor Mcgregor is an absolute marketing master. The most interesting thing I find is that in interviews with Mcgregor, he attributes a lot of his success to the law of attraction. In each interview, he says he visualizes exactly how he is going to win and progress with his career and acts like it has already happened. I always pictured ‘law of attraction’ believers to be a small cult of people sat around a camp fire, all wearing straitjackets who tell each other to ‘welcome the positive vibrations in their bodies’… but each time he has said exactly what he is going to do, worked his ass off consistently and then done it, then told us how familiar it felt.

This got me thinking, a lot of Ramit’s emails are about breaking down limiting beliefs and barriers. From yours and Ramit’s experience, when you first started out working for yourself, did you just go by almost blind-faith that everything will work out and put all your energy into it? Or was it more a strategical, little and often sort of approach?

I ask because I am a top performer in any day job I have done and any time I get a little success with a side venture, my focus automatically goes back on my day job for months and all momentum gets lost. I can’t help this, it is in my nature to be the best at what I do. Ultimately, my work ethic is actually hindering me from doing what I want as I make sure whoever my employer is – they get results. So from your experience being a top-performer as well…. how do you shift focus?

Like you guys, I love psychology and I would be curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

-Rob

Very good article but following the link you provided, I really can’t agree that boxing is still 5x the size of MMA. Especially since the article shows that in the last 5 years, boxing has topped 1m views 4 times vs MMA 8 times.

Unfortunately, I mostly agree with Ben. Whilst I really appreciate the skill and athletic talent, I find myself watching less and less UFC simply because I can’t stand the trash talking. And this is coming from someone who has stepped into the MMA cage a few times now. On my side pacific the over whelming majority of fighters tend to be extremely respectful of each other, treating the matches as a test of martial arts and athletic skill. At a local match, the crowd will applaude skill but get to their feet for a fighter showing real heart and determination – even if they lose.

When the UFC comes to town however, it’s very different. A crowd full of bogans who love the trash talk and just want to see blood. Yes I know this proves the marketing works but maybe we really should care who our fans are and what it says about us.

I think this article was brilliant! Conor is an amazing marketer, or has an amazing manager, which could have been the case to start with.

My question is with influencers– treat them amazing and well. Agreed. But, if you have a physical product and offer them 90% commission, is that realistic? Would you loose money to gain exposure? I am curious. I have offered 15%, and truth be told, it is dead before it started. What would be a good middle ground?

And another question, how does one go about finding these influencers? It isn’t a daily thing to hook up with one? I am being a grinch of success right now, but I did love the article. It was point on perfect!

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