An interesting question has arisen today. And as these interesting questions so often do—at least lately, it seems—it revolves around Strikeforce bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
Yahoo Sports publishes a monthly pound-for-pound rankings list. These things are subjective of course, but the list is voted on by over 20 of the best MMA journalists in the world, so it's a collective effort. Rather than having one guy publish his own rankings—as we've seen when I publish my own set of rankings...that usually doesn't go too well—all of the journalists with a vote are polled and the results are tabulated.
On this month's rankings, Canadian journalist Dave Deibert inluded Rousey on his list. He placed her ninth overall, in fact. And the question is this: Should Rousey's gender prevent her from being included on a male-dominated list?
Kevin Iole heads up the poll for Yahoo Sports, and here's what he had to say:
Upon receiving Deibert's vote for Rousey, I emailed the panel and asked their views on including Rousey, or any other woman, in what heretofore has been an exclusively male Top 10. The issue is beyond whether or not Rousey deserves to be in the Top 10, but rather whether she should even be eligible for it.
The simple solution would be to create a separate women's poll, as is done in college basketball. The problem that would arise is that the majority of voters don't see enough female fights to make a valid assessment of their relative abilities. The women who fight regularly on television – largely Rousey, Miesha Tate and Sarah Kaufman – would have a massive advantage over the rest of the field.
This is an extremely interesting subject to me.
First of all, I'll point out that Rousey probably doesn't deserve to be on a pound-for-pound list because of her record. All things being equal, there are plenty of male fighters who have more experience, better records and have beaten better opponents. What Rousey has done over the past year or so has been extremely impressive, but I can't imagine ranking her higher than Demetrious Johnson, Renan Barao, Dominick Cruz or anyone else hovering near that bottom end of the top 10.
But what happens if a time comes that Rousey has amassed a stellar record? What happens if she remains undefeated for the next five years, running her tally to 25-0 against the best competition the sport has to offer? What if she eventually goes into the UFC and continues to dominate and becomes the kind of megastar we all know she can be?
Will she then deserve inclusion on the pound-for-pound list? I'm not sure I could support the idea.
The idea of a pound-for-pound list, at least in my humble opinion, is to compare and contrast the best fighters in the world. It's not a place to debate how Rousey would fare in a fight against Brian Bowles or anyone else in the 135-pound men's division; it's simply a way to recognize the best fighters in the sport and how they perform against their peers.
I couldn't put Rousey on the list because I simply couldn't consider the rest of the guys on the list to be her peers. This is not to say that men are better than women at fighting or anything else remotely sexist, because Rousey is clearly one of the best fighters in the world, regardless of her gender.
And I've long maintained that Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino would have a fighting chance against some of the lower-end 135 and 145-pound fighters in the sport, mostly because I've seen her spar with them and utterly dominate the proceedings.
But if the point of a pound-for-pound list is to compare and contrast the best in the world—and to measure their value against the value of their peers—you simply cannot include her. Female fighting has come a long way, and Rousey may ultimately do more than anyone in the history of the sport to advance the cause of women getting in the cage and trading punches. However, these two separate genders cannot be measured against each other because they don't compete against each other and never will.
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