There is no question that without Ronda Rousey, without her unique personality and skill set, that women would not be fighting inside the Octagon. Rousey has given the bantamweight division that chance. However, she is not required to be the champion for it to succeed.
Rousey will enter Saturday as a massive favorite. Everyone is expecting her to win and to win via first-round armbar.
But this is MMA and anything can happen.
If Carmouche does upset Rousey, it could be argued that it would be more positive than negative for women’s MMA.
If Rousey wins, as expected, all will be right with the world and fans will begin to look at who her next challenger is. Who will be the next victim?
There may also begin to be rumblings, again, about how the 135-pound division is not deep enough to be sustained in the UFC. If Rousey wins, not much will change about the question marks. Those who feel that it won’t last will still hold that opinion, and they will believe that it all rest on Rousey’s shoulders.
If Carmouche is victorious and completes the historic upset, it will show that the bantamweight women are legit. That is because there will not just be one supreme female athlete in the division, but a strong list of fighters behind her that will makes the division more interesting.
Furthermore, a loss would not crush Rousey’s popularity. Her style of fighting is exciting, and she knows how to sell a fight with her mouth. The UFC can re-build her up for another significant bout within the promotion. This is not a one and done. The UFC has options to market their star, even with a loss.
Also, the UFC has signed four other women. Is the UFC going to cut Sara McMann, Miesha Tate, Cat Zingano, and Alexis Davis immediately following UFC 157? No, they will not. That is ludicrous to even suggest.
The public relations backlash alone that could result makes that a terrible idea, and anyone with half a brain knows it. The UFC is an incredibly smart and efficient business. They know how they would come off to the public if they cut the division after one fighter loses one bout. It is asinine to even suggest that they would do such a thing as they begin to dump money in to the newly minted division.
This is a process. The UFC has to sign more women to the division, market those new athletes and show fans who have not been exposed to women’s MMA that is it just the same as the men. The UFC has already begun to do that and they will remain committed to the cause.
The other side of the coin is that Carmouche, and others, are also marketable. Yes, the focus of UFC 157 has been on Rousey. That is to be expected, but Carmouche is a marketable star.
Her story has not been fully told. McMann’s Olympic backstory has yet to be sold to the public, Tate is marketable and the list goes on.
Rousey is the unquestioned star, but there are more women behind her that are marketable and hold value to the UFC business. It is not as if the lower weight classes in the UFC draw massive numbers. UFC 150, featuring Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson, failed to break 200,000 buys. The compelling stories of the women can surely match that with a similar undercard.
Rousey’s star power can help women’s MMA grow, and a win would keep everything right on track. However, if she happens to lose, women’s MMA is not dead in the UFC. There is a line of marketable athletes waiting behind her waiting for their shot. They are waiting to be pushed by the UFC’s strong marketing arm.
Women are a part of the UFC brand and family. Get used to it. They are not going anywhere.