Ronda Rousey: How Best to Introduce Her and Women's MMA to the UFC

James MacDonald@@JimMacDonaldMMAFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2012

Courtesy of The Telegraph
Courtesy of The Telegraph

With the recent news that Ronda Rousey has signed with UFC, it is worth asking how she—and women’s MMA generally—should be introduced to a mainstream MMA audience.

Some might argue that her star already shines so brightly that UFC needn’t make the effort to introduce her to the masses. That perspective doesn’t jibe with the facts, however.

The truth is that the UFC audience is generally oblivious to what goes on in the larger world of MMA. If it doesn’t happen in the UFC, it might as well not have happened, so far as most viewers are concerned.

It should not be assumed that there is a huge built-in audience for Rousey. Indeed, the numbers she pulls on Showtime, while impressive, are comparable to those of Gina Carano during her tenure in Strikeforce.

Like Carano, she has pierced the mainstream consciousness to some degree, with appearances on  TMZ and Conan. But despite what she has said in the past, Rousey does not boast the kind of profile that would allow her to be one half of the biggest bout in MMA history—at least not yet.

Dana White and company must introduce the former Olympian in the right way, for her sake and for the sake of women's MMA.

That means matching her up with an opponent who can last longer than a teenager lasts his first time. The last thing UFC needs is to start promoting the kind of squash matches that wouldn’t look out of place on a 90s WWE show.

That wouldn’t do WMMA any favours, whatsoever. In fact, it wouldn’t even do Rousey any favours. People want to see competitive action, not the modern day equivalent of feeding Christians to the lions.

This is all easier said than done, of course. If Rousey is truly that much better than her contemporaries, there isn’t much that Joe Silva and Sean Shelby can do about it.

There is at least one fighter who could challenge Rousey and have a realistic shot at winning, however:

Sara McMann.

Not only would the bout be extraordinarily competitive, but it would also have a built-in storyline, with two Olympic medallists duking it out for bragging rights and, very likely, the honour of becoming UFC’s first female champion.

With the kind of wrestling base that McMann possesses, it’s hard to imagine Rousey being able to ragdoll her and slap on an armbar within the first minute of the fight. In all likelihood, we would finally get to see how evolved Rousey’s stand-up game is at this point in her career.

One wonders whether UFC would risk pitting their star against the one fighter who has a serious shot at beating her—besides a juiced “Cyborg” Santos. Chances are they may look to build up to an eventual clash of the former Olympians.

Unfortunately, that leaves them with the problem of what to do with Rousey in the meantime. Should they simply put her in the cage with clearly overmatched opponents, in a WSOF-style approach to matchmaking?

The fans may enjoy it for a while, but it won’t be long before they grow tired of watching one mismatch after another.

One can only hope that the Zuffa brass have some concrete plans in place for Rousey, otherwise they risk botching the larger project of growing women’s MMA.