Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Ultimate Fighter is an excellent vehicle for building new stars. The reality show has also been effective in building to a fight between the two opposing coaches. In most cases, the coaches are already established stars when they enter the show, but some of them have expanded fanbases when the season concludes.
Some coaches, however, suffer because of the way they are portrayed on the show. Who can forget Tito Ortiz slowly winning fans while nemesis Ken Shamrock alienated viewers during the third season? Or viewers getting a glimpse of the real, kindhearted and supportive Chael Sonnen after years of pro wrestling-inspired interviews?
When Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter began, Ronda Rousey was far and away the most popular female fighter on the UFC roster. Miesha Tate had her share of fans, but for all intents and purposes, it was the Rousey show. The show was built around the mercurial bantamweight champion.
As it turns out, that probably wasn't a good thing.
Those who have tuned in to TUF have been treated to a different side of Rousey than they've ever seen. She's still supremely confident and talented, but we've also seen her throw temper tantrums, erupt into tears at the slightest provocation and generally make an ass of herself.
The fans have responded. In fan voting to determine who will join Jon Jones on the cover of EA Sports MMA, Rousey was soundly defeated by Tate, this despite Rousey being a central attraction of the UFC and having far more Twitter followers than Tate.
Tate offered her opinion on why fans have turned on Rousey to MMAjunkie:
“I think a lot of people have been turned off by Ronda’s poor sportsmanship and just the overall negative attitude on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’” Tate told MMAjunkie on Monday. “I think she’s been kind of exposed.”
We must keep in mind that TUF, despite being billed as a reality show, is not entirely real. Producers and editors on the show have creative license to tell the stories they want to tell, which means they can spotlight all of Rousey's negative aspects while keeping the stuff that might create positive feelings on the cutting room floor. We see what they want us to see.
Tate's win doesn't mean she's a bigger draw than Rousey. It doesn't mean she is more famous. But it does mean that fans have been less than impressed with Rousey's attitude and general demeanor.
Thankfully for Rousey, being a gigantic heel is just as profitable as being a champion who is adored. She'll reap the rewards at the UFC 168 box office in December, and much of the damage done to her reputation can be repaired quickly. MMA fans, just like fans of any other sport, are notoriously fickle. Their allegiances change in an instant. Rousey can make everyone forget about her showing on TUF if she wants to.
But for now, Rousey's loss is Tate's gain.