A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Rhonda Rousey, The New Super Star of UFC
Ronda Rousey as UFC biggest star, traveled to Brazil to defend her bantamweight against undefeated Brazilian Bethe Correia. Rousey was recently crowned fighter of the year by ESPN and it is not hard to see why for she simply wins or I should say, she crushes her opponent. Her fight against Correia was no difference as it took just 34 seconds into the opening round and in this fight, Rousey unleashed her quick striking skills as oppose to her grappling skills that made her famous. Rousey is now becoming a complete fighting machine, something that will leave future opponents wondering; how do I beat Rousey?
Rousey has become an outlier when it comes to performances, as Five Thirty Eight researcher Andrew Flowers observed, Rousey has won all of her fights with ninety percent of time reminder and only three of her fights have lasted longer than sixty six seconds. Flowers observed that in the early part of this century, the average MMA bout lasted 400 seconds but now the average bout has lasted 600 seconds or two rounds. Part of this could be there is more competitive parity or a change in strategy as fighters might be a little more risk averse but judges are deciding more of these fights as more fighters are ending fights still standing. Rousey bouts end quickly but yet despite the domination, she has become the leading attraction on the UFC circuit, something that UFC leader Dana White said would never happen since he was not open to the idea of women fighting in the UFC four years ago.
Rousey appealed to White personally to give her a chance to be in the UFC after starring in the rival Strikeforce. She headlined UFC 157 and now, she is the most recognizable star in UFC and White has one of the biggest sport meal tickets that transcend the sport.
There are very few athletes that transcend their sports. In boxing, there was Muhammad Ali and later Mike Tyson, fighters who could literally get causal fans interested in the sports. When Tiger Woods was at the top of his game, even non-golfers took interest in Woods and PGA often saw their ratings sky rocketed when Tiger Woods was in the hunt for a Major title on the final day of competition. Part of their appeal had little to do with the sports and more to do with certain events happening outside the sport. For Ali, his politics during the Vietnam era was his drawing card and for Woods, it was being the first black Major Champion in Golf and what it symbolized in the late 1990’s.
Serena Williams is another sports figure who goes beyond her sport as Serena goes for her fifth straight major and try to tie Steffi Graf for the most majors in the Open Era. One major benefit of the rise Serena and her sister Venus is that they have attracted young black athletes to follow them in Tennis. Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens are the best of a new generation of American Tennis players but unfortunately, both Stephens and Keys still have to get through Serena before moving on to their own shot at a major.
Rousey is starting to have that same effect as better female athletes are now joining the MMA. Rousey impact has already been felt as many females are become hard core MMA fans, something missing from the other combat sport, boxing.
One evening, Buffalo Wild Wing featured an evening of MMA and what I notice was how many females were there to watch the MMA bout. In front of us was a table of twenty fans, families wearing MMA shirts from a local gym and preparing to sit down for an evening of MMA.
The genius of Dana White is that he has made MMA a rising sport and just as importantly, he made UFC the gold standard of MMA. Unlike boxing, where there is no gold standard to truly judge the sport as there are five or six major sanctioning body; MMA has the UFC and to be champion of UFC is to be the best in the world.
White may have had his qualms about bringing women into the UFC, Rhonda Rousey has now become the face of the sport and now it is the UFC advancing through the efforts of Rousey, the rise of women in combat sports.