Should Ronda Rousey be the face of women’s MMA?
by Traverse Davies
“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey is named after the exuberant Rowdy Roddy Piper, a former wrestler of the WWE who is well known for his over-the-top meltdowns and quick wit. Like her namesake, Rousey has a lot of the attitude of the WWE. Trash talking and aggression are her stock in trade. This accompanied with her slick arm bar submissions, are the reason she is the Strikeforce 135 lb women’s champion. Because of this, Lorenzo Fertitta is talking about women’s MMA and how impressed he is with this new phenomenon.
Perhaps that’s a positive, but I worry about the effect of someone like Ronda Rousey making it to the top of the heap. The UFC has done a lot to get away from the idea that MMA is for meatheads and to make it a more legitimate sport. The WWE isn’t a legitimate sport and will never be viewed as such. Part of that is because it is scripted drama, there is no air of sportsmanship and no mutual respect in public. While people like Ronda Rousey (and Chael Sonnen) may sell a lot of tickets, they may also hurt the legitimacy of the sport in the public eye.
One thing you notice when you watch football or hockey, or really any major sport, is that the idea of sportsmanship is incredibly important. The “larger” sports fine and fire players for acting like Ronda Rousey did in the lead up to the Misha Tate fight. It is behaviour that even in the world of boxing wouldn’t fly, however it seems to be encouraged in MMA in general right now. Mike Tyson was basically viewed as a pariah from the moment he bit off an ear until the documentary about him aired. That kind of behaviour is not sustainable, there are far more people who want to see honour and pride; athletics as a contest between elite athletes, not athletics as cheap theatre.
Is this the right approach for the women’s division. Something that proves they can be just as hard and strong as the men. It’s clear that the brass at Zuffa are impressed by trash talk, especially Dana White (although he hasn’t started talking positive about women’s MMA so far). Maybe in order for the world to see a women’s division in the UFC, there needs to be characters for a bit, heels and heroes, a soap opera with a twist, the wrestlers really fight each other and anyone can win. Maybe that will get enough tickets sold in the short term to deepen the talent pool and the sponsors pool, and hopefully it won’t drive out the really big money sponsors before they even get in the game.
Basically, I think that Ronda is good for women’s MMA however, in the long run she’s probably bad for the sport in general. Unless she can lose the bad girl image and figure out how to just be a fighter we may be looking at WWE 2.0.