UFC is building its new female division around Ronda Rousey. She is the biggest female mixed martial artist in the world right now, skyrocketing to new heights of popularity thanks to her spotless 6-0 record and polarizing personality.
It also helps that all of Rousey's victories have come in the first round via armbar. She has seemingly done the impossible in a sport where there are so many different ways to win: Created a finishing move that no one has been able to stop.
Because of Rousey's popularity, UFC is giving her the honor of being the first female to headline a show when she defends the new bantamweight championship against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 in Anaheim, California.
Carmouche might not be on the short list of first opponents a lot of fans or analysts would have predicted for Rousey's first title defense, but that is missing the point of what this fight represents for UFC.
Dana White has said in the past that there will "never" be women fighting in UFC. Granted, the interview was hardly conducted in a serious sit-down situation, but he has been strong in his resolve that women fighting in UFC would likely never happen.
So what has changed in the last few years?
The female division is getting stronger, though there isn't a lot of depth yet. But UFC saw someone in Rousey who is capable of drawing in fans and being the foundation around which the company can potentially build a division.
It is no secret that Rousey has become a star through self promotion, which is exactly what fighters must do in order to get noticed. Winning fights is great, but there is a lot more to being a household name than just winning.
She has appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue. She has been on late-night talk shows. She has done all of these things without ever stepping into the Octagon.
Even if Carmouche isn't the most recognizable opponent for Rousey—which isn't to say she can't win, because anything can happen with one punch—this bout is making sure she looks and acts the part of a UFC superstar.
The big-time fights will come, though having Cris Cyborg ask for and get granted a release from the company certainly hurts the biggest money fight it could have had. However, as long as Rousey takes care of her business, the publicity will come.
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