Is Paddy Pimblett the UFC’s Next Superstar?

By Timothy James  |  March 20, 2022  |  423 Comments

The UFC Lightweight’s ascension to popularity is reminiscent of Conor McGregor’s rise to stardom, but some are doubting whether Pimblett will be as successful as The Notorious inside the Octagon.

There’s no doubt about it, fighters out of the UK and Ireland can pull a fanbase into their orbit faster than most. Paddy “the Baddy” Pimblett is the perfect example of that. The Liverpool native has seen his popularity skyrocket since his UFC debut back at UFC Fight Night 191. After he beat Luigi Vendramini via TKO in the first round, the Scouser saw his Instagram following skyrocket from around 28,000 followers to over 200,000.

Now, after another first  round finish in his second UFC fight, Pimblett’s following is closing in on 400,000. It’s a meteoric rise that has no doubt been mega-boosted by a ravenous UK and Liverpool fanbase. Some have made comparisons to Irish superstar Conor McGregor, who famously had the entire country of Ireland rooting for him during his initial ascension through the featherweight division.

However, Paddy’s tendency to get hit has some wondering whether his trajectory in the UFC will more closely resemble Darren Till’s rather than Conor McGregor’s. Till is a fellow Scouser who had a ton of hype surrounding him when he entered the UFC. Till rode that wave all the way to a welterweight title shot, but his rise to stardom hit a bump in the road. Since losing to Tyron Woodley and moving up to middleweight, Till is 1-4 in his last 5 bouts.

It’s true that Pimblett’s opening UFC performances haven’t been picture perfect. In both fights he was rocked on the feet, before being able to switch the momentum and finish the fight. One thing is for certain, his fights are always exciting. Mix that in with a charismatic Scouser personality and you have a recipe for accruing fans.

If Paddy can continue his winning ways, there’s no doubt he’ll become one of the most popular fighters on the UFC roster. Many MMA fans and pundits are placing their bets on which fighter has the most superstar potential between Paddy Pimblett, Sean O’Malley, Khamzat Chimaev, and newcomer Ian Garry.

Similarly to Pimblett, Khamzat Chimaev is a prospect who saw his social media presence explode back in 2020 when he racked up 3 wins in the span of 2 months, with two of the fights being separated by only a week. “Bors” is already getting mentioned in title shot talks, after he made quick work of Jiangling Li back at UFC 267. The Swedish-Chechen welterweight is scheduled to fight Gilbert Burns in his toughest challenge to date at UFC 273 this April.

The other potential superstar on the UFC roster is Sean O’Malley, who has been in the UFC promotion for the longest out of the four candidates. The heavy-handed bantamweight is currently ranked 12th in the 135 lbs division after his knockout of Raulian Paiva at UFC 269. While injuries and a loss to Marlon Vera slowed O’Malleys hype train a bit, he’s still one of the most popular fighters on the roster.

The dark horse candidate is Ian Garry, the Irish welterweight dubbed “The Future.” Like Pimblett, he had a rocky start to his UFC tenure, getting touched up on the feet before finding the winning combination and finishing the fight in the first round. The 24-year-old cited Conor McGregor as an inspiration in his Octagon interview, and if he can rack up some wins, the Irish fanbase is sure to get behind this promising prospect.

When it comes down to it, Paddy “the Baddy” Pimblett has all the makings of a UFC superstar. He’s good on the mic, has an insane accent that Americans love to misunderstand, with a wild personality that only a Scouser could bring. The only question is whether or not his superstardom is wholly dependent on how well he does as he climbs up the ranks.

The lightweight division is by far the most stacked in the UFC, meaning Pimblett will have to tighten up his defense moving forward. However, he’ll keep improving with every victory, and he’s the kind of special personality and talent that could survive a loss. Hell, Conor McGregor’s popularity grew exponentially once his rivalry with Nate Diaz started.

The sky's the limit for Paddy Pimblett, Khamzat Chimaev, Sean O’Malley, and Ian Garry. While replicated Conor McGregor’s popularity is a tall order that is incredibly difficult to attain, a few wins and UFC gold could catapult any of these young prospects into that limelight.

The question becomes, which one is going to capitalize best on all their momentum?

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