As the hype surrounding Ronda Rousey’s Octagon debut at UFC 157 continues to intensify, it’s hard not to wonder whether Dana White and company are harbouring unrealistic expectations for the former Olympian.
The UFC president’s fascination with all things Rousey-related has been well-documented over the past several months.
From calling her “a dude trapped inside this beautiful body” (MMAFighting.com) to claiming that the UFC’s interest in women’s MMA essentially begins and ends with Ronda Rousey, it’s safe to say that White is infatuated with his new star.
In fairness, he has good reason to be enthusiastic about Rousey’s future. The UFC president is not wrong when he says that “nobody in the history of this sport has brought attention to the sport like Ronda Rousey” (FightHubTV.com).
Unfortunately, that attention doesn’t necessarily translate into ticket sales and pay-per-view buys.
As I pointed out in a previous article, viewing figures for Ronda Rousey’s appearances on Showtime peaked at around 676,000—when she faced Sarah Kaufman. While that’s a respectable number, it falls far short of the 856,000 viewers who tuned in to see Gina Carano take on Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos.
Dave Meltzer has suggested that anything above 250,000 pay-per-view buys should be considered a success for Ronda’s UFC debut.
For those who don’t know, that number is significantly below average for a UFC pay-per-view. It’s almost unheard of for a world champion who has pierced the mainstream consciousness.
In truth, there is nothing wrong with Rousey pulling in 250,000-300,000 buys for her debut, particularly given the modest profile of UFC 157 opponent Liz Carmouche. However, the time and money that the UFC has invested in promoting their new star leads me to believe that there is a much loftier goal in mind.
The Zuffa brass may have misjudged Ronda Rousey’s current drawing power. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time their projections have missed the mark.
Does everyone remember UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II? It was marketed as the biggest MMA fight of all time and slated to break all sorts of records—at least according to the UFC, if no one else. Unfortunately, the event fell approximately 700,000 pay-per-view buys short of the previous record set by UFC 100.
Personally, I hope my present skepticism becomes a future punchline and Rousey develops into a huge money-making star. I am deeply invested in the future of WMMA, so this is certainly one of those times when I would be ecstatic to be proved wrong.
Only time will tell if Ronda Rousey has the potential to draw GSP-like numbers. For now, I can’t help but remain skeptical.