Conor McGregor's abrasive personality presents problems in a market that values men "of character" and "of values," according to Chatri Sityodtong.
Conor McGregor is one of the biggest names in the fight game, but his career would be a flop if he were competing in the Asian market rather than the UFC.
That is according to one of the most powerful promoters in the business, Chatri Sityodtong, who believes the Irishman's abrasive personality is at odds with the values he looks to instil at his firm ONE Championship.
"I don’t think he would do well in Asia," Sityodtong said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show on ESPN.
Based in Singapore and founded in 2011, ONE promotes mixed martial arts events and is regarded by Forbes as Asia's largest global sports media property.
A number of prominent fighters have competed in a ONE cage, including the UFC grappler Ben Askren and the UFC heavyweight Andrei Arlovski. Additionally, ONE has made three groundbreaking signings recently as it recruited Eddie Alvarez, Sage Northcutt, and Demetrious Johnson, all from UFC.
It is the signing of Johnson, a wildly dominant flyweight who struggled to win fans in UFC, that has specifically pleased Sityodtong, and this is because he says the wrestler's core values mesh perfectly with his own, with ONE's, and with Asia's.
Sityodtong said Johnson "will never be the trash talker or the guy who disses people" like McGregor — the UFC's marquee attraction. He added that Johnson is "a man of character" who will be valued and "much happier" than he ever was at UFC.
Sityodtong said the signing of Johnson is more suited to his company, than if he were to recruit McGregor.
McGregor, of course, was charged with assault and criminal mischief when he was seen on video throwing a trolley through a bus window in an incident that left two fighters requiring hospital treatment earlier this year. He called UFC 229 opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov a "smelly Dagestani rat," mocked Nurmagomedov's accent and slugged his own branded whiskey at a media event in September, and even called Nurmagomedov's manager Ali Abdulaziz a "snitch terrorist."
And that is just this year.
Previously, McGregor attracted negative headlines when he said he was not racist because he's "half black from the bellybutton down." He called Nate Diaz a "cholo," and before he faced the Brazilian fighter Jose Aldo, he said: "If this was a different time, I would invade his favela on horseback and kill anyone who wasn't fit to work."
For Sityodtong, this type of behaviour causes problems with sponsors in Asia. "Some of the things that he did, already done… a lot of companies here would take serious, serious issue," he said.
"With any organization or company, there are going to be companies for x, y, and z type of people and companies for a, b, c type of people. I think what you see now with companies like UFC, ONE Championship and Bellator, an athlete can choose where he or she is best represented or most feels at home for core values."
He added: "I have a lot of respect for Conor and what he’s done, he’s just not a guy for us, ONE Championship or Asia, He’s just not the right guy."
ONE's next event is the "Destiny of Champions" show in Kuala Lumpur on December 7, but it is not yet clear who McGregor's next opponent is in UFC.
This is because he is currently awaiting the result of a disciplinary hearing regarding his involvement in the post-fight brawls that marred UFC 229.
McGregor lost when he was submitted in the fourth round because of Nurmagomedov's tight neck crank. While McGregor contemplated defeat on the canvas, Nurmagomedov mounted the fence and charged at McGregor's cage-side friend Dillon Danis.
While that was going on, members of Nurmagomedov's team invaded the cage and exchanged punches with McGregor.
McGregor and Nurmagomedov have been instructed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to attend a disciplinary hearing on December 10. They could get slapped with a $250,000 fine, and banned from fighting in Las Vegas forever.