Being a villain seems to come naturally for UFC women's bantamweight champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey. Being the likable, inspirational figurehead of women's MMA just doesn't suit her rough-edged, periodically profane persona.
To those in Rousey's circle, she may be a sweetheart, but she hasn't been coming off as such to the public—especially not lately.
TUF 18 and Recent Behavior Were Significant Strikes to Rousey's Rep
The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 was perhaps the beginning of Rousey's downward spiral in the court of public opinion. The 26-year-old's attitude and outbursts during the show caused her to lose favor with some fans.
Results of a poll on BJPenn.com seem to indicate that fans have turned on Rousey a bit. The poll was preceded by the following passage:
With the conclusion of The Ultimate Fighter Season 18, one of the hottest topics in our sport is female bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
If we are to believe the chatter online, Ronda has lost the majority of her fans, but lets see if that actually holds true in our poll below.
The poll simply asks: "Are you still a fan of Ronda Rousey?" The three possible answers were: "yes," "no" and "never was." With more than 12,000 tallied votes, 42 percent answered "no" and another 18 percent said they never were.
Obviously there are more than 12,000-plus MMA fans in the world, but Penn's site is a respected source for MMA news and opinions. Poll results with such a significant turnout would seem to paint a fair picture of fans' opinions on the rowdy one.
Could Rousey attempt to rebuild her image? She could, but it would be an uphill battle.
Society almost always seeks to destroy the stars and celebrities it creates. Scandal and criticism make news. People find it interesting to read, or watch stories, about the slip-ups of famous folks.
Is Ronda Rousey likable?
Some athletes, like Rousey, make targeting them easy. Whether it's bad behavior during the tapings of TUF, cussing on live television or perhaps the most despicable, refusing to shake Miesha Tate's hand after their awesome UFC 168 battle, Rousey makes it hard to like her.
It's even harder to embrace her because it's so clear that's exactly what the UFC wants you to do. Dana White has gone back on several declarative statements he's made in an effort to thrust Rousey into the spotlight of the increasingly popular sport.
Not least of which is White's claim that women would never compete in the UFC.
Money talks and Rousey's attitude runs a marathon. Unfortunately, the level of tact she has in reserve—or lack thereof—isn't plentiful enough to finish that race.
Perhaps her best option is to simply stop trying to be liked. Get rid of the cuddly side; it's a farce. It's been largely successful for others in combat sports before.
Take the Road Paved by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Chael Sonnen
Money Mayweather and The American Gangster have embraced their heel persona in their sports, and it has led to monetary success.
Per Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes, Mayweather has more than earned the moniker "Money" in his career. As of Sept. 2013, the pound-for-pound boxing champion had earned over $350 million in his illustrious—and undefeated—career.
Sonnen is not a boxer, of course. He's an MMA fighter who has had a slightly above-average career inside the Octagon. Because White sees to it that his fighters will never make anything close to what Mayweather brings in, Sonnen has only made $932,000 in his career, per Jeff Fox of MMA Manifesto.
That may seem like an extremely low total (because it is), but it's good for the 43rd-highest earnings total in MMA history, per Fox.
Proportionately, that's a pretty penny for a guy who has never won a championship.
Though the sport Sonnen calls a profession—and a bit of talent—have limited his ability to achieve as much as Mayweather has in his sport, he has maximized his earning potential by being the willing villain.
The same can be said for Mayweather. Money could have easily tried to be the quiet, modest champion, but the fact is, he wouldn't be nearly as polarizing, and he wouldn't have made as much money.
Rousey can be more like Mayweather than Sonnen because she is so talented. Her edge in grappling and the lack of fighters physically strong enough to hurt her in stand-up will make it really tough for anyone to beat her.
If she has the gumption to stick around long enough, she could remain undefeated for a long while.
If Rousey almost completely removes the filter on her mouth and actions—within reason of course—she'll increase the hate, but she'll also amplify the attention.
She'll still have fans, for sure, but her haters will show up in droves in hopes of seeing her lose. All the while, she'd be laughing all the way to the bank.
There is one significant drawback to this position, though. It takes thick skin to be the most-hated person in almost every room you go into. Rousey seemed bothered by the boos that ensued after she snubbed Tate's handshake.
Later she offered this hard-to-believe excuse for her actions to Ariel Helwani of Fox Sports.
Really Ronda? That sounded like the excuse from a little kid who does something they know they shouldn't have, but in an effort to cover their butt, they conjure up some fabricated explanation to justify their actions.
Just say: "I hate her and I was still fired up and had no desire to shake her hand." It would have been nasty, yes, but much easier to believe and accept.
The thing is, if you're going to behave the way Rousey does naturally, you have to be able to take what comes with it. Mayweather is able to do that, and so is Sonnen.
The thickness of Rousey's proverbial skin is still up for debate.
Ultimately, she is who she is. Nothing is going to change that. As long as she keeps winning, she'll get her share of attention, but not embracing a role that seems to be the inevitable landing spot for her in the minds of fans will just make her career more of a drag.
Follow me. I dig armbars, superman punches and spinning-heel kicks.