Ronda Rousey is a potential crossover star—of that there is no doubt. She is attractive, athletic, fights like a T-X Terminator and has a fetish for severed arms. However, when a fighter reaches a certain level of notoriety, there is always the danger of them buying into their own hype.
On a recent episode of the MMA Hour, the former Olympic bronze medalist provided a few quotes that would have delighted her most vocal detractors. On a potential bout with Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, she had the following to say:
I think if it was done right and it was done correctly, you could have people watching that fight that have never seen a single MMA fight before. Lots of them. I think it could be the biggest MMA fight of all-time.
Perhaps sensing that her assertion hadn’t been taken seriously, the Strikeforce bantamweight champ gritted her teeth and doubled down on her claim:
I'm serious. Think about it. Every MMA fan will watch, and a whole bunch of other people that aren't even the least bit interested in MMA would watch. That's the kind of demographic that fight could reach to that none of the men can right now.
That’s a bold statement. In fact, there are several bold statements contained within her hubristic rant on Ariel Helwani’s show.
Rousey may draw viewers, but she must realise that she operates within the world of women’s MMA, which is still in its infancy in the developmental sense. One need only look at the ratings in order to gain a sense of perspective.
Obviously the latter boasted the two biggest stars in WMMA at the time and a fight between Rousey and Santos would likely surpass those numbers. But it wouldn’t be by much and it certainly wouldn’t be on the same scale as, say, UFC 100 or UFC 148.
In order for Rousey to legitimately become the biggest thing in MMA since Brock Lesnar, she needs a lot more high level competition. As compelling as a bout with “Cyborg” is, Ronda exists in a talent starved section of the sport.
MMA fans demand stakes if they are going to invest their time in your product. That means that they want to tune into fights with implications that go beyond what happens on that particular night. Where does Rousey go after (if) she takes “Cyborg’s” arm home and puts it on her mantelpiece?
Options are limited for the women’s 135-pound queen. There is the potential of a fight with Sara McMann, which is mouth-watering for the hardcore fans: two Olympic medalists going head to head. Unfortunately, McMann has no profile and the fight is unlikely to draw the kind of numbers it deserves to.
With such slim pickings at the top of WMMA, Rousey would be well advised to use Jon Jones as a cautionary tale and tone down some of her rhetoric. If there is one thing MMA fans do not like, it is a fighter who gets too full of themselves too fast.
History tells us that the fanbase will not hesitate to smack a fighter back down to reality. And Ronda Rousey is currently walking that particular tightrope.