UFC President Dana White needed a new star. His company was enjoying the lingering boom period stemming from 2005’s inaugural “Ultimate Fighter” reality TV show which created a plethora of new fans to MMA. The UFC had been struggling to reestablish itself for the first half of the 2000’s before this televised tournament concept captured an audience of young men. “The Ultimate Fighter” worked as a vehicle for several seasons to provide unknown UFC prospects with enough TV time to become familiar with the fans. However the long running show began to slowly see viewers erode due to staleness in its presentation and a cooling off of marketable match ups being propped up by the program.
As this unfolded, the UFC saw other money drawing avenues dry up as Chuck Liddell’s jaw finally gave out on him, Randy Couture at last lost his battle with Father Time, A deal to bring in Fedor Emelianenko for a series of dream matches never came to pass, Brock Lesnar got sick and became a shell of the beast man he had been, GSP left due to personal and professional reasons and Chael Sonnen drifted into retirement after a drug test failure.
A new batch of fighters had been fostered but they by and large hadn’t spiked business like the old guard had achieved. The next star that finally broke through to the mainstream came as a surprise. White had stated for years that women would never fight in his cage as he felt the number of elite fighting women was limited and that seeing a woman being pummeled was unappealing. Things all changed in 2012 when the UFC bought out the StrikeForce MMA promotion and took on the contract of one Ronda Rousey. White immediately made her the centerpiece of a PPV and began to build a division based around his new acquisition.
To Rousey’s credit, she delivered in spades. She dismantled Liz Carmouche inside of a round, survived a catfight with Miesha Tate before finishing her in the third round, then Sarah McMann, Alexis Davis and Cat Zingano were finished in a total of less than two minutes. America took notice and the buy rates for her fights grew and grew. Along the way endorsements and movie deals filled her coffers as Dana White scoured the MMA world for someone to challenge his crown jewel.
The following are a few options for who possibly could dethrone the Mean Queen of MMA:
Bethe Correia Rousey’s female teammates at the Glendale Fighting Club are Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, and the four ladies (all big pro wrestling fans) have dubbed themselves the “Four Horsewomen”. They train, eat, live and party together, making for a tight knit group of lady warriors.
In 2014 Bethe Correia took aim at the fearsome foursome and met Baszler and Duke in the Octagon, handing them both defeats. This raised the ire of Rousey, who has vowed revenge when the women throw down on August 1st. To add further fuel to the fire, Correia told Rousey she hoped Ronda wouldn’t resort to suicide in the event she loses the title fight. Correia did not realize Rousey’s father had committed suicide when Ronda was a child, and this gaffe added a whole new layer to the intensity that burns inside of Rousey.
Correia, who is a striker, has finished two of her nine opponents, taking the rest to a decision. She has been placed as a heavy underdog by the odds makers but hopes to add her name to the list of fighters who have scored the biggest upsets in UFC history in just a few days from now.
Miesha Tate Tate and Rousey began their rivalry in StrikeForce, where Rousey forced her to submit in the first round of their bout. Tate came into their second fight, this time in the UFC, with a new battle plan but still found herself on the losing end in round 3. Tate is convinced the secret to victory lies in dragging Ronda into the “championship” rounds. Her belief is that due to Ronda’s extreme weight cutting (she competed in Judo at around 160 pounds and walked around at 180 but now fights at 135) that Rousey will tire and fade. Meanwhile Tate has recently shown remarkable guts by surviving early beatings by Liz Carmouche and Sara McMann before overtaking them to win in the end. Rousey has acknowledged her less than ideal dieting methods in the past and now has a top notch dietician to keep her in great shape at all times.
Holly Holm Holm won 18 boxing titles spanning across three weight classes- in addition to dabbling in kickboxing before entering into the MMA world. Since she’s compiled a nine and 0 record. It was believed that the UFC had planned to hot shot her into a title match quickly but her early UFC bouts haven’t been “exciting” so Dana White’s hand hasn’t been forced yet.
Holm has natural height and reach advantages over Rousey, is a master of knowing striking distance from her years of boxing, has strong take down defense and is known to be a precise counter striker. Some have compared her skill set to that of Anderson “The Spider” Silva’s, but Holm has better wrestling. Age is becoming a factor however as Holm is already heading towards her mid-30’s and her window of opportunity is closing. Her most recent victory on July 15th cemented her place in the title picture and her next fight may very well be a championship eliminator.
Cyborg Justino The Cyborg is the fighter that most fans of women’s MMA have been clamoring to see face Rousey. Cyborg is the current Invicta FC Featherweight champion and was the former StrikeForce Woman’s champ. She is both dominant and infamous, as Cyborg’s chiseled physique has caused her to be treated as a freak show at times. Justino has a history of positive PED tests as well which takes some of the luster off of her long series of brutal striking finishes.
Rousey and Cyborg have been in a war of words for years, with Ronda refusing to move up in weight to meet her at 145. Ronda has also mocked her PED usage. Cyborg has already killed off one golden goose of WMMA when she pounded the popular and buxom Gina Carano into retirement while both were in StrikeForce, and Cyborg would love a chance to do the same to Rousey.
Hollywood When Cyborg finished off Gina Carano in 2009, Carano decided a career in Hollywood was a better plan of action than having her face smashed inside a cage. Rousey has already participated in three theatrical releases, and the offers will probably only increase in line with her growing fame. The more time spent in the movie studio means less time spent improving and learning in the gym, which can be the downfall for any athlete no matter how dominant they are.
Her current pop culture relevance is already effecting Rousey’s day to day life, as she has frequent photo shoots, radio interviews, TV spots, promotional appearances and other related media issues to work around thanks to her surge in popularity. Reports have her getting up at 4 a.m. almost daily to meet the demands of live interviews with morning drive-time radio hosts. Perhaps the day will come when Ronda decides that the flash bulbs of the red carpet burn brighter than those that shine over the MMA cages.
Herself The story of Mike Tyson can and has served as a warning to many aspiring athletes as to what can befall an athlete, no matter how strong their natural gifts are. Tyson was the most dominant boxer of his generation who underwent changes in management, training and overall lifestyle. This ended with Tyson lessening his usage of technique and becoming a shell of his potential as a boxer.
These changes came and soon after he suffered the loss of his title, then a rape charge removed him from his dignity. Tyson would fight on until his late 30’s but his fortune was squandered and his legacy tarnished from his actions in and out of the ring. It is only thanks to America’s love of a good comeback story that Tyson can now be seen ringside at MMA and boxing events and be showered with love.
Ronda is now in a similar position of being the top athlete in women’s MMA, one who seems almost untouchable skill wise. The fire that burns within her that got her to this point must remain emblazoned. The day that the last rep isn’t pumped out, the day that the grind of training seems not to be worth it thanks to an overflowing bank account, that’s the day that corner will be turned and the eye of the tiger will be lost. It’ll be up to Rousey’s mettle to mix the training, the media, the family affairs, and her inner passions to remain on top of the sport.
In an article full of hypothetical questions, the one thing we can say for sure is that millions of eyes will remain glued to Rousey until they see her penultimate battles in MMA.