Dave Meltzer released a report yesterday on MMAfighting.com that seems to have the MMA community up in arms. According to Meltzer, UFC 157 pre-sale ticket numbers aren’t exactly mystifying: thus far less than 5,000 tickets have been sold. Naturally sports analysts are leaping to brand the UFC’s inclusion of female combatants as a complete and utter failure.
But let’s be honest: we’re jumping the gun.
As Meltzer himself indicates, Southern California venues don’t typically serve as a premiere hotbed for mixed martial arts fanatics. I’m not indicating an impossibility to draw outside of Nevada, I’m simply pointing out a fact: if the UFC aims to yank down massive attendance numbers, there are limited markets capable of meeting tremendous expectations.
That said, come February 23rd, the Honda Center in Anaheim, California will likely house a solid 12,000 plus spectators. How many of those seats will have been comp’d remains to be seen, but we’re still nearly two full months detached from UFC 157, and you can bet that as the event inches closer, media will swarm. And they’ll swarm for one major reason: Ronda Rousey, the UFC’s first female fighter will headline a stacked card.
Rousey has earned a wealth of publicity in the last year. Her stunning looks and terrifying signature armbar have turned too many heads to count, and the media hasn’t ignored this fact. ESPN has taken notice, and a slew of other noteworthy sports outlets have followed suit. The result is the sudden birth of a legitimate star.
Unlike many who are cast into the spotlight unexpectedly, Rousey likely has the talent to maintain her position as Queen of WMMA (that’s women’s mixed martial arts if you’re out of the loop). This is a woman with a competitive nature that few possess, and a knack for fighting that few rival. Ronda loves to fight, plain and simple. She’s not a pretty gimmick; she’s an outspoken warrior who appears hungry enough to devour all competition.
On February 23rd she’ll make history, and news outlets around the world will help to make her debut a success, as just about everyone in this business is eager to be associated with the revolutionizing of the sport, no matter how minor that part may be.
Everyone is itching to see how the woman performs on the biggest stage available in North America. The fact that she’s a stunningly beautiful specimen doesn’t hurt the situation, and you can rest assured as the calendar days slide by, and February inches closer, UFC 157 coverage will only intensify.
The box office may not be on fire right now, but Rousey’s debut will entice many, and the little engine that could will morph into a full-fledged high-speed freight train by fight time.
When it comes down to pure numbers, which at this point don’t look mind blowing, I admit, UFC 157 will likely draw fine Pay-Per-View marks, even if attendance falls short of expectancy. In addition to the mystery of Ronda Rousey, the card is weighted by a handful of compelling matchups, a few of which bear massive divisional relevancy.
Fan favorite wrestler turned slugger Dan Henderson will meet another beloved figure of the sport, former champion and artistic technician Lyoto Machida. The victor more than likely ensures a shot at the winner of the forthcoming Jon Jones versus Chael Sonnen fight, and both bring aesthetically pleasing styles to the cage. There’s a reason people adore both “Hendo” and “The Dragon”: they put on stellar fights.
Another crowd pleaser in Urijah Faber will take to the cage next month, and he’ll meet the always exciting Ivan Menjivar in what promises to be a fast-paced, thrilling rematch. The two met seven years ago at TKO 24, where Faber picked up a disqualification win. Odds are, Ivan is eager to claim revenge. Odds are just as high that fans are chomping at the bit to see it happen.
Toss in a few captivating matchups that will see Josh Koscheck and Robbie Lawler toe the line, as well as a collision between top featherweight talents Chad Mendes and Manny Gamburyan, and you’ve got yourself a damn fine card with plenty of appeal.
The men will help to sell UFC 157, and they’ll do a fine job of it, but at the end of the day, the public is attracted to the odd and unorthodox. Rousey’s debut will provide that fix. The horse may have emerged from the gate a bit slow in this instance, but she’ll warm right up with each stride.
Take that prediction to the bank.
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