As Johnson prepared to defend his title for a record-setting 11th time, the UFC put its marketing dollars elsewhere, leading to criticism from fans and pundits alike.
While some people get upset over these choices, some fighters are taking matters into their own hands. After studying creative marketing in college, UFC middleweight Elias Theodorou has taken his studies and applied them directly to his profession. In his interview with FloCombat's Top Turtle MMA Podcast, Theodorou discussed how he has connected his two passions.
"Early on I learned that if I was to get into the profession [of MMA], there was even more intertwining in that you are a product," he explained. "You are selling yourself."
Theodorou has seen his own brand continue to grow by snatching up marketing campaigns from all over. Perhaps most impressive is the way that he marketed his signature long brown locks into a sponsorship from Pert hair care.
"Now being the proud owner of The Mane Event… trademark included," he said.
But it's not just getting sponsorships that Theodorou is talking about. It's about ownership of those ideas. He uses his career to grow as a product.
"I actually own [the trademark]," he said. "Again, it's using mixed martial arts as a platform to develop inside the cage and out."
His influence doesn't end with just a series of hair-care advertisements.
Theodorou's command of his brand and understanding of social media has brought him into the world of toys. After he designed a campaign for Mattel Canada for Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots, the company loved Theodorou's work so much that it was made a global campaign. Plus, he's dabbling in plenty of other industries.
"[I've got] a movie and a TV show in the works," he explained. "I'm not just a host, but I'm a producer who owns 25 percent of the intellectual property."
And it's ownership over these ideas and this intellectual property that sets him apart from other MMA stars.
"I also own my namesake, which is one thing I have over Conor McGregor," Theodorou said. "I own my name."
Although he seems to be the blueprint for how to market yourself as a fighter, Theodorou recognizes that there are others out there making a splash. When asked about whether Chase Sherman is threatening his title as MMA's pound-for-pound king of Twitter, Theodorou doesn't withhold his praise of the heavyweight.
"[Chase] is doing some really good stuff," he said. "I chatted with him at the summit, and he took to heart one of the new social media add-ons… in regards to GIFs being one of biggest and newest ways to communicate."
Plus, Theodorou stressed that it's important to have good content in addition to the other marketing aspects.
"[Chase has] got amazing content; he's funny as hell," Theodorou added. "There's a reason why, whether or not he follows you, people are following him."
Although Theodorou admitted that the UFC's marketing hasn't pushed him as a star yet, he has no issue with the promotion's choices.
While other fighters look for the UFC to push them based on their in-ring prowess, Theodorou and Sherman proscribe to the "if you build it, they will come" mentality. The resulting product here is a man who is not only winning fights inside the Octagon but also has a brand behind him that is like no other, which is certainly a case study for up-and-coming fighters to follow closely.