Ronda Rousey is a star, and that is why her next fight should be inside the Octagon.
However, there appears to be a massive roadblock in the way. Strikeforce fighters cannot sign with Zuffa, the UFC parent company, even after their deal expires. UFC president Dana White said this at the UFC 149 pre-fight press conference:
"There's not a list of protected fighters – (Strikeforce women's bantamweight champ Ronda) Rousey and this one and that one," UFC president Dana White said at a pre-event press conference for UFC 149. "The reality is, and I've said this a million times, (it's) the entire Strikeforce roster."
The last time I checked, Rousey was a member of the Strikeforce roster, unfortunately.
That does not negate the fact that her next fight needs to happen in the UFC. Can Showtime Networks and Zuffa work out a deal that would allow Rousey to compete in the eight-sided cage? I believe it to be possible, because at the end of the day, it is a business.
Using Rousey on MMA's biggest stage can only help women's MMA as a whole. It will show that women's MMA has a place among the elite in the sport. As for the UFC, it gives them another star to promote.
The Strikeforce schedule seems to be complete for 2012, and the opportunity for Rousey to find a home on one of those cards seems unlikely. She is a main event-caliber star, and they are not going to waste that as a co-main event.
The list of potential contenders to her crown also is incredibly short. Strikeforce needs time to get another contender for Rousey.
If the UFC can bring Rousey over to the big show, it will be a landmark event for women's MMA, and that is the biggest reason of all to have her compete under the Zuffa banner.
From Showtime's perspective, it would be hard to let such a star like Rousey go, but it is doing her and the sport a disservice by keeping her locked up to the Strikeforce roster. If the UFC wants to commit to a women's bantamweight division, then Rousey should be afforded the opportunity to leave Strikeforce. It is the right thing to do for her and the sport.
The casual fanbase that only follows the UFC would finally be able to see what kind of monster Rousey is and just how exciting women's MMA can be.
When Rousey's face is shown on the big screen at UFC events, the crowd responds with loud ovations. At UFC 148 she received a huge welcome from the weigh-in crowd, and she was mobbed for autographs and pictures. The media hype surrounding her has already transcended, but putting her in the Octagon is the ultimate goal so the fans can see her incredible talents.
Rousey is a star in the sport, and putting that star on display inside the Octagon will have a lasting impact on the future of women's MMA. That should be the ultimate goal. Strikeforce and Showtime have a limited audience, and it has done a lot for the sport, but it is time to let Rousey go.
Allow the Zuffa machine to elevate Rousey and the sport. Her next fight needs to happen under the UFC banner.