Paddy Pimblett quickly emerged as one of the UFC's rising stars in an era when the MMA promotion has more mainstream media attention than ever before. A former world champion from the Cage Warriors promotion, Paddy Pimblett has stamped his mark on the UFC lightweight division with back-to-back finishes.
While 'The Baddy' is yet to earn a ranking in the division's top 15, he has endeared himself to fight fans around the world with his colorful personality, brash swagger, and recognizable haircut. As entertaining as his character has been outside the cage, it is his exploits inside the octagon that have reinforced fan interest in his young career.
Thus far, Paddy Pimblett has produced nothing but thrilling bouts in the UFC. The rising lightweight star rarely allows his fights to end via judges' decision. Whether it's with his striking or his dangerous submission grappling, the Scouser always seeks to finish his fights.
As the UFC brass exhibits increasing interest in promoting Pimblett, the question has arisen as to whether Liverpool's latest MMA export can surpass former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion Conor McGregor's popularity.
This list aims to tackle the reasons why that may indeed be the case.
#5. Paddy Pimblett's fanbase
One of the key factors that helped Conor McGregor launch himself into MMA superstardom was his loyal fanbase — a fanbase that is largely comprised of his own countrymen.
McGregor's every move was, and still is, followed by a legion of fans whose loyalty to him is tied to their shared nationality. It offered a common thread through which fans felt they could connect with him, and every McGregor victory gave them a surge of national pride.
Paddy Pimblett is another fighter who commands such a fanbase. Instead of Irish fans, however, 'The Baddy' is trailed by English fans. While the UFC is bloated with fighters representing the likes of the United States and Brazil, fighters from more underrepresented countries tend to enjoy greater support from their fellow countrymen due to how few of them seem to populate the sport of MMA.
English fans in all sports are among the most fervent supporters of their chosen athletes and teams. This is no different when it comes to Pimblett.
In both of the UFC's recent events in London, no fighter — not even main eventer Tom Aspinall — generated as loud a crowd reaction as Paddy Pimblett. With a loyal fanbase who will likely follow him wherever he goes, Pimblett may very well be able to rival McGregor's popularity as a fighter in the near future.
#4. Pimblett takes mental health seriously
Israel Adesanya once stated that no one teaches fighters how to handle the pressures of fame. Perhaps no tale in MMA can be used as a cautionary tale more than Conor McGregor's downward spiral upon achieving superstardom. While the Irishman remains popular, his numerous scandals outside the cage have turned away a percentage of fight fans who once supported him.
The sexual assault allegations, physical assaults, etc. were so threatening to McGregor's image that 'The Notorious' was forced to behave in an uncharacteristically polite manner in his bout with Donald Cerrone and his initial rematch with Dustin Poirier. Paddy Pimblett, however, is unlikely to repeat the same mistakes that McGregor has, partly due to 'The Baddy' being able to examine McGregor's career to determine what to do and what not to do.
Furthermore, given the importance that Pimblett puts on mental health, as evidenced by his post-fight interview at UFC Fight Night 208, 'The Baddy' will be better equipped to keep himself from suffering a downward spiral that might damage his reputation and lose him fans.
#3. He is unique
While Conor McGregor is one of the UFC's most recognizable faces due to his brand of brutal trash talk and peacocking persona, the Irishman is not entirely inimitable. Much of McGregor's swagger and persona can be traced to the likes of Vince McMahon, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Muhammad Ali.
'The Notorious' was not the first UFC fighter to wear a well-tailored suit and indoor sunglasses, nor was he the first to use biting trash talk to promote his bouts. He is merely the most successful mixed martial artist to do so. Paddy Pimblett, on the other hand, is a different beast altogether.
'The Baddy' sports a haircut that is uniquely his in the sport of MMA. Hardly anyone would be able to highlight another high-profile fighter, if any, who wore a bowl-cut in the UFC. Not only does his hairstyle render him uniquely identifiable, but so does his overall persona.
Pimblett is comical, whereas many UFC fighters take themselves far too seriously — McGregor included. While Paddy Pimblett is purposely funny due to his intentionally outlandish behavior, 'The Notorious' would only draw laughs with outlandish remarks he was serious about. Pimblett, by contrast, is a breath of fresh air.
#2. He is more well-rounded
Conor McGregor has the undying love of MMA's casual fanbase. However, the hardcore portion of fight fans routinely denigrate the Irishman's lack of grappling skills. McGregor is primarily a striker. Specifically, he is a counterpuncher who uses pressure to force his foes into committing mistakes.
While his defensive wrestling and grappling are fairly good, his offensive wrestling and grappling are nonexistent. The last time he successfully implemented his grappling and wrestling was against a young and green Max Holloway who, at the time, routinely struggled with counter-wrestling. Worse still, the last and only time McGregor won a fight via submission was in 2012.
Paddy Pimblett, however, is more comfortable in every facet of MMA. He is a skilled grappler with a breadth of submission wins, earning him the support of the niche part of MMA's fanbase that appreciates Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Pimblett's exciting submission grappling will hopefully convert many casuals who only appreciate striking.
Similarly, while 'The Baddy' is no elite striker, his willingness to engage in striking battles, alongside his rising knockout percentage, have endeared him to the casual fanbase who often favor knockouts over submissions. McGregor does not — and will not — have this stylistic crossover appeal with MMA fans.
#1. Pimblett does not need to be a UFC champion
As exciting and unique as Paddy Pimblett is, a world championship in the UFC is likely not in his future. 'The Baddy' not only has some stylistic flaws (primarily in his defensive striking), but he is also in the deepest division of a promotion where everyone in the top 15 is a tough test.
However, a world championship is not necessary for 'The Baddy' to achieve MMA superstardom. Jorge Masvidal, Nate Diaz, and Sean O'Malley are prime examples of fighters with massive fanbases despite their lack of UFC world championships.
Masvidal is currently 0-3 in his last three bouts, having failed in two consecutive attempts to capture the UFC welterweight title. Diaz has not won a fight since 2019 and has not been on a win streak since 2016, yet he is more popular now than he ever was. O'Malley is not even ranked in the top ten of his division, but he remains one of the most popular bantamweights in the world.
The sheer strength of Paddy Pimblett's personality and his exciting fighting style are enough to maintain his stardom whether he loses or wins. Conor McGregor, by contrast, hinges much of his image as a fighter on being the self-proclaimed best in the world. While the Irishman's losses haven't yet damaged his stardom, if he loses his next bout, that might be the case, whereas Pimblett will suffer from no such limitation.