Rousey Headlines UFC 170: McMann, the Olympics, and the Genius of Good Marketing

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2013

Dec 28, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA;    Ronda Rousey reacts with her corner after defeating Miesha Tate (not pictured) in their UFC women's bantamweight championship bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Sometimes the UFC just gets it right.

They get it so right that it makes you forget about all the times that they don't get it right.

They make you forget about ill-advised global expansion, watered down cards and the lack of stars they'll have for most of 2014.

They make everything else irrelevant and one thing matter, slamming a home run with the force of Mark McGwire at the juiciest peaks of his prime.

In the wake of UFC 168, with a seemingly off-the-cuff announcement, Dana White did just that.

Standing at the dais flanked by a collection of fighters in various states of physical and emotional dismay, fielding questions about the broken leg of a former champion for most of the night, he casually told the world that Ronda Rousey would defend her title on February 22 against Sara McMann.

It did little to crack the deafening dread of a press corps weighted by a gruesome injury to the best of all-time, but in other circumstances, it would have caused quite a stir. In fact, by February, it could be a full-on media circus.

Why is that?

Because February 22, 2014 is the final Saturday night of the Sochi Olympics and both Rousey and McMann happen to be former Olympic medalistsRousey a formidable judoka with a bronze in 2008, McMann a slightly more decorated wrestler with a silver from 2004.

All of a sudden, the UFC has created an event that can't be missed, and it pretty much sells itself. On a weekend when the successes of the world's greatest amateur athletes will be celebrated in Russia, Las Vegas will be rocking with two undefeated women fighting for the 135-pound title, both of who came from those ranks.

It's a brilliant piece of piggybacking by the promotion, one buoyed a little further by the appearance of former Olympian Daniel Cormier in the co-main event. It leads one to think that the hopelessness of a UFC without Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez and Anthony Pettis might not be so dire after all.

Apr 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Sara McMann (black shorts)  celebrates defeating Sheila Gaff (not pictured) during UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Taking one of the two remaining superstars the promotion has in Rousey (the other being Jon Jones), rebooking her at the peak of fan interest on the night she beat her greatest rival for a second time and exploiting her greatest non-MMA accomplishment to do it is a stroke of pure genius. To book her against another Olympian is beyond genius, entering some stratosphere of brilliance that may be beyond words.

Not since UFC 146, a night devoted to an all-heavyweight main card has the promotion so effectively used circumstance to market their brand so expertly. There's more to this game than two people punching each other in the face, and while that's enough for many, it's not enough for all.

Sometimes it's that hook, be it a rivalry, a story or a clever piece of salesmanship, that draws more eyes on a Saturday night. It's why Brock Lesnar routinely drew a million buys, guys people know from The Ultimate Fighter get more rope than guys people don't and events like UFC 146 are lauded for their creativity and accessibility.

With UFC 170, the promotion has their hook. They picked a perfect night to put their top Olympic draws on a marquee and watch the coffers fill with cash.

Yup. Sometimes they just get it right, and nothing else matters.

And is that ever fun to see when it happens.

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