Ronda Rousey: Whatever It Takes To Bring Attention To Women’s MMA
By Phil Lanides
Aside from the obvious differences, there are some definite similarities between pro wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts. Some fans enjoy both, some are fans of one or the other, and some that are fans of neither.
If pro wrestling does have an advantage over MMA, it lies in the fact that wrestling promoters can pick and choose who their winners are, and who they are going to build into superstars. In MMA, a lot of promotion can go into a particular fighter, but if he or she loses a few fights, that investment goes out the window.
MMA promoters and fighters could learn a thing or two from their spandex-wearing counterparts. Mostly, it has to do with building a persona. Wrestling fans care about wrestlers because they connect with their personality. Many in MMA have yet to learn how to leverage this. But there are a few who have.
Frank and Ken Shamrock were probably the first MMA fighters who learned how to build and promote personas and fights outside of the cage. Both knew who to utilize their interviews to make people want to watch them fight.
Over the years, other fighters such as Tito Ortiz perfected this. Whether his fight was the most action-packed on the card or not, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” made fans want to see him compete.
Recently, UFC middleweight title contender Chael Sonnen has taken this to an entirely new level. His comments have bordered on the delusional at times, but as a result, fans clamor to see him fight.
Women’s MMA has yet to produce a fighter who can captivate the audience based on her persona. Gina Carano is beautiful, and has carved out a solid niche, but she hasn’t competed since 2009, and has never been known for her interviews. Cyborg absolutely possesses the looks and fight skills to make herself a huge star, and has been the face of women’s MMA over the last couple years, but her recent positive steroid test has her status in limbo, and has left the title of top women’s fighter wide open.
Enter Ronda Rousey.
At seventeen years old, Rousey was the youngest Olympic competitor at the Games in Athens in 2004. In 2008, she again qualified for the Olympics, and this time took home the bronze medal, becoming the first American to win an Olympic medal in women’s judo since it became an Olympic sport in 1992. Utilizing this impressive athletic background, Rousey entered amateur MMA in 2010. She went 3-0 before turning pro.
Rousey, undefeated as a pro at 4-0, brought something new with her to the professional ranks: trash talk in women’s MMA. In fact, some have stated that the judo expert talked her way into her title fight with Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate, rather than earning it with her actions inside the cage. Some MMA pundits have also questioned her verbal approach to her fights, as Rousey has not been shy in engaging in verbal attacks against her opponents. And she doesn’t apologize.
“A year ago, I was working three jobs and struggling to train,” says Rousey. “I realized I didn’t want to sit around for a few more years doing this, being polite, saying ‘please’ and ‘thanks’ and bowing and all that. If giving more entertaining interviews than some of the other girls helps me, then I’m going to do that.”
And that’s just what she’s done.
In promotion of the Tate-Rousey bout, things have become quite personal between the competitors. It’s not something seen all that often in women’s MMA.
Yet, its personal rivalries that have helped carry the sport of MMA to new heights in times past. Shamrock-Ortiz, Liddell-Ortiz, Sylvia-Arlovski, “Rampage”-Silva, Sonnen-Silva, Edgar-Penn, Edgar-Maynard…the list goes on and on.
Can Tate-Rousey be the first great multi-fight rivalry for women’s MMA? Will both respond to the pressure and deliver a top-flight fight on Saturday, March 3rd at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio?
Regardless of the outcome, Rousey and Tate have already taken the promotion of a women’s fight to another level. And that bodes well for the future of the sport.