With the NFL and MLB in their offseasons, the sports world will shift its focus on Saturday to NASCAR and the UFC as the Daytona 500 and UFC 157 will take center stage.
While the spectacles surrounding NASCAR races and MMA fights are not unusual, what is unusual is where the attention will be focused.
On February 23, Danica Patrick will become the first woman to start the Daytona 500 from the pole position and Ronda Rousey will battle Liz Carmouche in what will be the first women's fight in UFC history.
These monumental occasions could very well be the foundation that is laid for women in sports to be taken more seriously by the mainstream, perhaps even as equals to men in many cases.
Given their ever-growing popularity, it should come as no surprise that Danica Patrick and Ronda Rousey have a lot in common.
Both began competing as youth. Patrick began racing go-karts competitively at 10 years old while Rousey starting her Judo training at age 11. Both women were very successful in their previous jobs as well, with Patrick having won an Indy Car race in 2008 and Rousey winning an Olympic bronze medal in Judo the same year.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that both ladies have a certain undeniable beauty to them both as experts in their craft and in general as members of the fairer gender. Sex appeal and talent combined have helped these women land the kind of national media coverage that is rarely, if ever, found for women in sports.
But where these two differ is who they're competing against when they go to work.
Danica Patrick isn't the first female to have driven against men, but she is undeniably the most famous despite having never finished on the podium in a NASCAR race. Nevertheless, she has already crossed the obstacle that women's MMA may never overcome—she's on equal footing with the opposite gender every time she gets into a car.
For Ronda Rousey, an undefeated record with six first-round submission victories is incredibly impressive as she heads to her 157 fight against Liz Carmouche. There would be little denying that she's the biggest star the sport of women's MMA has ever seen and the No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter on the planet.
Heck, she might already be there.
Unfortunately, a victory for Rousey in that fight just doesn't compare to what a Patrick win at the Daytona 500 would mean for women in sports.
Rousey could win every fight from here until eternity against women and the question would always be, "Yeah, but can she beat men?"
If Rousey wins on Saturday and solidifies her place as the top woman in the sport and the unquestioned UFC champion, it will do wonders for her and the women of MMA. Still, it's a bit early to be comparing her potential success on Saturday to the complete shock that would overcome the sports world if Danica Patrick wins the Indy 500.
In no way am I attempting to denigrate the importance of this fight for Rousey or even compare the physical skills of these two very talented women as I don't believe there is a direct comparison that can be made.
What I am suggesting, however, is that the national media wants to see a woman beat the men in her sport. As of right now, that's only achievable for Patrick, given the rules in MMA.
Perhaps one day we'll see Rousey or another woman get to the point where the only competitors for her are men. Maybe then we'll see something change. But until that point, if she wins on Saturday, Rousey will have to be satisfied with being the best woman in her sport...but hey, that's still pretty damn impressive.
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