Hype and The Fighter: UFC 243’s Megan Anderson

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Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer, UFC Rochester
Megan Anderson vs. Felicia Spencer Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Megan Anderson has managed to keep fans enthralled with her career despite struggling en route to a hometown showdown with Zarah Fairn dos Santos at UFC 243.

In a day and age where “influencers” rule the marketing campaign, it isn’t surprising that one of the primary elements in marketability today has been reduced to hype. Starting from the first day business of a film to the initial sale of fashion wear, everything depends on the kind of hype they generate. This marketing style does guarantee an initial boost to returns, but if the product doesn’t turn out to be great, the run is very short-lived and forgettable. So when this kind of marketing campaign is used to kickstart the career in any kind of sporting world, the athlete needs to deliver.

The MMA world has for the past few years has been running on this model. It’s not just anyone in particular or any company, it’s the entire system which is now caught up in this insane drive. A fighter wins a few good matches, he/she is immediately proclaimed to be the next greatest of all time. However, one loss and the fighter loses an insane amount of momentum. To survive this system requires skills beyond basic charisma. If there’s one fighter who’s managed to display it, it’s women’s featherweight Megan Anderson.

The Aussie found her major break in the MMA world after a series of exciting knockouts in all-women’s MMA promotion Invicta FC. These wins and her ability to connect with hardcore MMA fans made her the challenger that fans thought would dethrone the great divisional stalwart, Cris Cyborg. Her display of confidence and bold call-outs to arguably one of the scariest women’s MMA fighter ever got her a lot of love from fans.

All of this converted into interesting opportunities like being an ESPN correspondent, having interviews on multiple mainstream MMA media outlets and most importantly a UFC contract.

Things started going downhill for the fighter, however, when she lost her very first match in the UFC against former bantamweight champion Holly Holm. A loss that bad after being hyped for months would have resulted in a severe backlash and an immediate crash for most fighters, but given Anderson’s charm and an absolute absence of contenders at featherweight fans never really gave up completely on her. Her controversial win over Cat Zingano at UFC 232 should have put her back in the title picture but things changed completely for the former Invicta FC champion that night as the undefeatable Cyborg lost to Amanda Nunes, putting an end to her tyrannical run.

This loss almost killed the women’s featherweight division, but it still had a few things keeping it alive. Like the possibility of having a Nunes-Cyborg rematch. However, in the meantime, Anderson was pitted against rising contender Felicia Spencer at a UFC Rochester. As the division crumbled, Anderson too broke down as she ended up tapping out to a rear-naked choke locked in by Spencer in the very first round.

However, what is interesting about Anderson’s story is the ability with which she has managed to stay relevant. Anderson knew how the game worked and despite suffering bad losses she managed to keep her audience interested in her career path. She captured people’s attention and so far has held it for two years. A major chunk of her success must be credited to the fact that the women’s featherweight division is very shallow but one can’t deny that she does have what it takes to hold attention in the ever-volatile MMA world. Which means that fans will be watching the UFC 243 prelims, where Anderson takes her next step in her MMA journey.

UFC 243 takes place Saturday, October 5. The card airs exclusively on ESPN+ PPV in  America after televised and online prelims, traditional PPV in Canada, and on BT Sport in the UK. In India, the card airs live on October 6 on SONY Ten 2 and SONY Ten 2 HD.  

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