Conor McGregor is the real deal. | Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is at something of a crossroads. Pay-per-view buys are down across the board, its two most reliable draws -- Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre -- are either nearing or are already at the end of their careers and the combination of international expansion and the demands of the television deal with the Fox family of networks has put substantial pressure on the promotion’s ability to continuously put out a strong product. As goes the UFC, so goes MMA as a whole. Bellator MMA, meanwhile, is attempting to recycle names like Ortiz, Jackson and Bonnar to draw attention to its brand and product.
It is far too easy to fall into doom and gloom when examining the big picture. The sport has never boasted a stronger crop of up-and-coming fighters, many of them already under contract to a major promotion, any one of whom could turn into the next big thing with the right promotional push and a little bit of luck along the way. It is a tremendously diverse crop of young men and women who can and will take mixed martial arts into the future, and the UFC and Bellator will rise and fall with their fortunes.
The latest Sherdog Top 10 focuses on those rising stars. The criteria were simple: no current or former champions of a major organization -- UFC, Bellator or Strikeforce -- and no former UFC title challengers. Panelists focused on in-cage skills, personality, age and potential drawing power, weighing each of those according to his or her preferences and judgment. Although the order of the entries differed from panelist to panelist, the selections were remarkably consistent, and the final list reflects the strong consensus of the Sherdog.com staff:
Number 10 » The welterweight is a compelling personality who always has a quip or bit of trash talk on his lips, and in a sport that is predicated as much on spectacle as it is actual performance, that kind of charisma matters a great deal.