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Should you focus on self-promotion or honing your craft?

As a new hustler (freelancer, writer, fighter, wrestler, dancer, stripper, you name it) you’re likely not sure what to focus on. You know that you should be working hard. Everyone tells you to work hard (useless advice). Nobody tells you what to actually work hard on.

Trash talkers rule the world

“If you don’t ship, you actually haven’t started anything at all. At some point, your work has to intersect with the market. At some point, you need feedback as to whether or not it worked. Otherwise, it’s merely a hobby.” — Seth Godin

I’m going to show you why it’s important to focus on self-promoting and self-marketing (the other side of the hustle equation). As important as it is to work hard on becoming better, you have to get the word out about your hard work. Too many of us get timid when it comes to sharing our work with the world. We hide because we’re afraid of criticism. We hope for the best. Guess what? Hope isn’t a game plan.

I don’t want to discuss hypotheticals. I wanted to share real numbers and figures that I could find. I don’t really follow many shows or sports. I do religiously follow the world of MMA and pro wrestling. Since the UFC is a private company they don’t exactly reveal too many numbers. I did my best to dig up some legit figures.

I wanted to share some numbers on Conor McGregor. Let’s see what Forbes had to say:

“According to the Nevada Athletic Commission, McGregor will receive a UFC record $1 million. McGregor is getting a flat fee for the fight with no bonus for winning. But the Irish fighter stands to make much more than that once his cut of pay-per-view revenue comes in. McGregor told CNBC this week that including PPV and sponsorship income, he expects his total take from the fight to top $10 million.”

That’s a lot of money. We’re talking millions of dollars. The second highest earner isn’t even close. Nobody’s really close to making that much money from fighting.

Why’s he getting paid so much money? Why’s Conor making millions while other fighters are struggling to pay the bills?

Let’s take a look at this a little more…

Is Conor the best fighter in the UFC?


He’s clearly coming off a devastating defeat as witnessed by the whole world.

What was his record in the UFC before this big money fight? 7-0 prior to his fight with Nate Diaz.

Is this the best record? Nope. There are actually fighters with better records. There are now even two fighters on the roster who have beaten Conor (Nate Diaz recently and Joe Duffy many years back).

Demetrious Johnson has won his last 9 fights. Nobody at his division has come even remotely close to being as good as him. You can say that he is one of the best fighters in the company. Winning 9 fights in a row in championship fights is no joke. Sadly, the pay doesn’t reflect this:

“Mighty Mouse” garnered $191,000 for his dominant five-round verdict over John Dodson ($60,000) in the UFC 191 headliner at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, according to salary figures released by the Nevada Athletic Commission on Tuesday.”

Fighters on the same card were paid more than the champion with the stellar record.

“Three fighters – Andrei Arlovski ($225,000), Frank Mir ($200,000) and Anthony Johnson ($230,000) — took home more than the reigning flyweight king.”

The champ who was coming in with a record of 8-0 wasn’t even the highest paid fighter on the card. I’m not sure if he got a bonus or not. It’s pretty obvious that being the best at your craft doesn’t pay the best.

Why does Conor get paid more?

People want to see him fight.

It’s really that simple.

Fans/customers always vote with their dollars and their eyeballs.

Some bloggers make lots of money because people want to read their work (and then pay for premium content). Books are bestsellers because lots of people want to read them. Actors get big roles in movies because the paying fans go out to see them.

We will always vote with our dollars and eyeballs. Every time we order a PPV, watch a fight on free TV, or click on a blog article, we are letting the higher ups know who we care about. You can complain all you want about this, but it’s just the way the world works.

Why do people want to see Conor fight?

He talks trash and self-promotes! I found some highlights of his best work, so keep on reading.

Historically speaking, those who talk the best and talk the most, get paid the most because everyone wants to see them perform. You either want to see a trash talker lose because you’re sick of them or you want to see them win because you love the act.

Most hustlers are confused about promotion. They get so caught up in the getting better that they forget to ever talk about their work. I don’t want you to fall into this trip.

Dana White said it best in this article here when speaking on the McGregor – Diaz fight:

“These are things that capture people’s imaginations. That is why the thing does 1.5 million PPV buys. That is because it captures the imaginations of fight fans.”

Can you believe that? 1.5 million people apparently ordered the PPV. Last year the UFC raised the suggested price for a single PPV event to $59.99 for the HD version. Keep in mind that this is in US funds. These figures don’t factor in all of the bars around the world that ordered the show for their sold out venues. The math here is simply insane.

How do you capture an imagination?

By talking trash and promoting!

Is self-promotion a new thing?

Hell no. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. You don’t need to go looking for magic bullets and a secret formula.

Check out this one pre-fight interview. This one interview is filled with gems. Imagine how many eyeballs the other press conferences and promotional media had?

Here are some of the quotes from McGregor on Diaz from another media event:

“His last fight was a decision, I bounce heads off the canvas every time. I’m going to slap the head off him. I’ll bury him.”

This right there is promising an exciting match-up. Fans are going to be interested in something like this for sure.

“I’ve got world titles and multi-millions of dollars. You have $20 thousand to show for your last fight and teach kiddies Jiujitsu on Sunday morning. You have to teach seminars all across California just to make end’s meet.”

This insult was a bit ridiculous. However, it made people laugh.

You can ignore that promoting works or you can accept it and STEAL! Have no shame because shame is a soul killer. It’s your life. Do what’s best for you.

Let’s watch some epic trash talking videos.

The man who led the way, Muhammad Ali at his finest.

Then pro wrestlers took smack talk to another level. Ric Flair was known for talking some of the best trash in pro wrestling. His interviews would garner interest and sell out arenas around the world. People wanted to see him perform.

Eventually Chael Sonnen started talking more trash. Instead of thanking his training partners, sharing his religious beliefs, and professing his love for his family, Sonnen decided to call out other fighters to build interest. Check out this Chael Sonnen interview from 2013…

Pretty funny huh? Check this out from 1977 with Superstar Billy Graham…

Then Chael took off and started snapping! This is a highlight reel of some of his epic trash talk. You can say what you want about Sonnen’s fighting ability, but he talked his way into multiple title matches (twice with Anderson Silva and once with Jon Jones).

It should be noted that all trash talkers deny being trash talkers.

Should you focus on promoting instead of improving always?

This is where things get tricky as a hustler. You obviously want to promote yourself. You just don’t want to promote the wrong thing because you only get one shot at a first impression.

There’s one caveat with promoting that I must share right now.

Don’t promote crap.

Write the best book possible. Become the best fighter that you can be. Then promote. Tell stories. Get people interested. Sell yourself. Tell more stories. Engage. Create conflict. Get people involved. Give the world something to talk about.

There’s one important thing left to mention…

What happens when you master the art of promotion but the final product doesn’t deliver?

Not everything you promote will do well. Your book might suck, you could lose that fight, and that song won’t become an instant hit.

What do you do?

You apologize and promise to do better next time. You go back to the drawing board to improve the quality of your work. What else can you do? Every trash talker has come back from defeat.

I’m not telling you that you have to go against your morals or that you have to spread lies. You don’t even have to say anything negative. I just want you to understand the important of self-promotion and creating compelling stories. Nobody cares about you until you have something worth sharing.

I leave you with my favorite Seth Godin quote:

“The best the timid can hope for is to be unnoticed. Criticism comes to those who stand out.”

Share your stories with the world. Don’t be shy.

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