UFC 170: Why the Promotion Needs a Rousey Win More Than Ever

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2014

Ronda Rousey gets ready for her UFC 157 women's bantamweight championship mixed martial arts match with Liz Carmouche in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Rousey won by tapout in the first round. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Sometimes you say things that get you in trouble. Writing a cheque your behind can't cash is one phrase for it, though there are others.

In recent weeks UFC president Dana White has been writing that variety of cheque so often he's probably icing his wrist as we speak, and there's been unprecedented backlash from fans as a result.

Seriously, go to popular MMA forum The Underground and look at the number of threads directed in frustration at White and his promotion. Or check out Luke Thomas' Chat Wrap over at MMA Fighting this week, where he's inundated with so many fan questions and comments on White that he's visibly baffled.

One of his most egregious cheque writings has come in the form of a proclamation that Ronda Rousey is the biggest star the UFC has. Not only now, but ever.

Even the most ardent UFC supporters and White fans are finding that one tough to take, especially considering names like Ortiz, Liddell, Lesnar and St-Pierre aren't exactly distant memories.

Really, names like Gracie and Shamrock aren't exactly distant memories.

But ignore even that much, or take it at face value. Say Rousey is, in fact, the biggest star the promotion has ever had. She's not, but say she is for the sake of argument. Boy, does the UFC need her to win on Saturday night.

At a time when St-Pierre is gone, Anderson Silva is up in the air and champions people are interested in like Anthony Pettis and Cain Velasquez are out for a prolonged stretch, the UFC needs a dominant champion to market.

Considering it doesn't seem keen on making Jon Jones that star, despite the fact he's earned the right more than anyone else in the promotion, it has to be Rousey. If she loses to Sara McMann at UFC 170—something far closer to a reality than almost anyone seems willing to admit—it's in deep trouble.

The UFC, or at least White, has put so many eggs in the Rousey basket that a bump in the road will be crushing should she lose. It's worked so hard to sell her as the face of the promotion that there hasn't been time to consider the risks involved.

She's still, like it or not, a two-fight UFC veteran with only eight total pro bouts under her belt.

She's shown that, like it or not, if she can't hit a throw and control position on the ground things will get interesting in a hurry.

She seems, like it or not, pretty keen on getting out of the fight game early and has hinted at retiring young. She has movie offers coming in all over the place, and they apparently pay pretty well.

Those don't seem to be the circumstances you'd want to build your biggest star around if you could choose to, but the UFC can't choose given the current climate. It's working with an air of desperation, like the snowball of promotional operation is already on its way down the mountain and its racing to catch up before it gets too big to handle.

That could be for any number of reasons.

It could be the retirements and injuries that have plagued the roster recently.

It could be the oversaturation of fight cards filled with no-names that prevent fans from connecting with the roster.

It could be the misguided belief that online fights from the other side of the world in the middle of the night are a good foundation on which to build your house of cards.

Realistically it doesn't matter. The UFC is out there selling Rousey as its biggest star because someone has to be its biggest star and there aren't a whole lot of options these days.

Now, more than ever, the UFC needs her to win. It needs her to win not only more than its ever needed her to win, it needs her to win more than its ever needed anyone to win.

The fans aren't happy. The roster is banged up and spread thin. There are countless questions where there were never questions before.

If Ronda Rousey is the biggest star the UFC has, it can't afford to see her upset on Saturday night. If she is there's no telling how the promotion will handle it, but it won't be pretty.


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