The UFC hasn't had the best of luck over the past few years, what with the injury bug decimating planned pay-per-view events and causing the cancellation of plenty of highly anticipated fights.
But every so often—and it's a rare thing, mind you—the UFC finds Lady Luck shining her bright light upon it.
Tuesday is one of those days. The news that Cat Zingano tore her ACL and MCL and was forced to undergo knee surgery that removed her from coaching The Ultimate Fighter and her eventual fight with champion Ronda Rousey was likely met with smiles all around the Zuffa offices.
Instead of Rousey spending 12 weeks on television building up a fight against Zingano—a worthy opponent for her title, to be sure, but an opponent who isn't exactly a well-known commodity among casual fans—Rousey will instead share the television limelight with nemesis Miesha Tate.
According to Kevin Iole's report for Yahoo! Sports, Zingano injured her knee on May 16, but the UFC kept the news tightly guarded. Yes, it even kept the news from Rousey, who was allegedly so shocked by Tate's appearance at The Ultimate Fighter gym that she stormed off in search of Dana White:
Rousey did not know that Zingano was injured – UFC president Dana White said it had been a tightly kept company secret since Zingano injured her right knee during a May 16 workout – or that Tate had been brought in to replace her, until the opening scenes of the show were filmed on Tuesday.
When Tate came out, Rousey was clearly stunned and she stormed out of the UFC training center, searching for White. She later said she was angry because she thought Tate was replacing her.
I'm not sure why Rousey thought, even for a single solitary second, that Tate would be replacing her on the show when Zingano was the one who suffered the injury. And the idea that Rousey stormed off the set in search of White? That's a bit strange, if not downright amusing. It makes no sense.
But here's what does make sense: Instead of Rousey headlining a weekly reality show against an unknown commodity, she's now facing the one person currently on the UFC roster who can help her deliver good ratings when the show moves to Fox Sports 1. And in Tate, Rousey has an opponent for what will no doubt be a big-money pay-per-view at the end of the season.
That's the real story here. In choosing Tate, the UFC is giving yet another fighter coming off a loss a title shot.
But with Tate, the UFC is also guaranteeing higher ratings for The Ultimate Fighter than it would've gotten with Zingano. Rousey and Tate do not like each other; their rivalry isn't a Chael Sonnen-style creation. It's not a fabrication. It's real, and it is personal.
And they're now building toward what will no doubt be the biggest women's fight in history. Rousey and Tate will likely headline one of the UFC's December pay-per-view cards, perhaps even the traditional year-end event in Las Vegas. And if you thought the mainstream media onslaught for Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche was strong, well, let's just say you haven't seen anything yet.
In a sense, this worked out for everyone but Zingano. She'll be out of action for six-nine months following surgery to repair her knee, but White has promised her the first shot at the winner of Rousey vs. Tate. She'll miss out on the exposure that The Ultimate Fighter brings, but she still gets her crack at the gold. At this point, she has to be thankful for that.
But nobody is more thankful than the UFC right now. It's got a heated rivalry that should draw viewers into the first season of TUF on Fox Sports 1. It has a chance to capitalize on the hatred between Rousey and Tate and to book a fight that was spoiled by Zingano. And most importantly for its bottom line, it can build toward another huge women's pay-per-view main event that should only help to further solidify the division.
The combat sports gods weren't all that kind to the UFC over the past two years, but White, Rousey and the rest of the folks at Zuffa have to be considering themselves just a little bit lucky Tuesday.
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