Paddy Pimblett made his return to action at UFC 296 with a decision victory over Tony Ferguson. It was his first fight back since recovering from injury and since his last fight with Jared Gordon, the fight with Gordon was controversial because many felt Gordon was robbed of a victory. Before that fight, Pimblett was a UFC fan favorite, and since it seems like his fanbase is split.
Fandom in sports can be an odd thing to watch, and in today’s landscape of mixed martial arts especially in the UFC, it can be mind-boggling. Pimblett is well aware of this and when asked if he felt he was back on track, he addressed what he called a “toxic” fanbase in the sport.
At the post-fight press conference, Pimblett said, “Of course, it’s a bit of redemption but this is the sport we live in. You get judged on your last performance, there’s probably still people talking about me now saying I couldn’t finish a washed-up Tony you know what I mean? That’s the game we play a lot of the MMA fan base is very toxic but we get on with it.”
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Pimblett or not, he’s speaking a very real truth. Fans love winners, but it’s very rare to see the same support when fighters lose or have controversial bouts like Pimblett had with Gordon. A fighter’s follower count matters a lot to the UFC as it can translate to more eyes on the sport and more asses in seats. But the flip-side is that it can work against them too and Pimblett seems to be well aware of that.
Pimblett even pointed out the same in the case of Colby Covington when he was asked about his thoughts on the fight. Covington was cheered on before Thursday’s press conference then after he crossed the line on making comments on Leon Edward’s deceased father the cheers turned to boos once he lost to Edwards.
“It’s crazy though,” Pimblett said, “The crowd they were all cheering him on Thursday, and then today after he loses he gets booed. That’s what I’m saying that fight fans are fickle.”
They are, but as Pimblett pointed out it’s all part of the game as long as they keep the wins coming, fans will come around in one way or the other.