Ronda Rousey has become everything to the sport of mixed martial arts that female fighters could have asked for, and then some.
Not only has she broken barriers in the mainstream, having appeared on late-night talk shows and magazine covers, but on Saturday night she will become the first UFC women's champion to defend her title. And she is doing it in the main event on pay-per-view, against Liz Carmouche.
There was a time when it looked like women's mixed martial arts was going to break down walls before Rousey came into the sport.
Gina Carano was quickly becoming that kind of star in Strikeforce. She had a profile feature on ESPN's E:60 program. She drew ratings like no other female fighter in the sport, setting a new Strikeforce record for her bout with Cris Cyborg in 2009.
However, despite her claims that she wanted to fight first and leave everything else to the media, Carano was not long for the sport. Her budding star made her too big for Strikeforce and she moved on to making movies.
There is nothing wrong with what Carano did. In fact, when you are a young woman with a chance to capitalize on your fame in a profession that doesn't require you to train constantly and get beat up, you would be a fool not to take it.
But Rousey is a different kind of animal. She is a fighter to her very core. She has been trained in Judo and fought in the sport during the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, becoming the first American woman to medal in the event when she won a bronze medal in 2008.
On top of all that, as good as Carano was in the cage, Rousey trumps her when it comes to personality.
MMA is a sport that is all about self-promotion. You have to be willing to go out of your way to talk if you want to become a star. Rousey has never been shy about talking trash on an opponent.
Her battles with Miesha Tate and Sarah Kaufman on Twitter and YouTube last year were better than most of the storylines that the media created leading up to the Super Bowl between Baltimore and San Francisco.
But that was on the Strikeforce stage. Now Rousey has the biggest stage that mixed martial arts has to offer: UFC.
Women's MMA is still trying to find an audience in this country. It also needs a forum to grow so that young women interested in the sport know that they will be given a fair chance to showcase what they can do on the biggest stage in the sport.
Having Rousey headline the show on her first UFC pay-per-view is a big deal that will have a huge and positive impact on the sport for years to come. It will take time to build the division, but at least we have some place to start.
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