5 Things the UFC Should Do While Ronda Rousey Is on Vacation
Following back-to-back training camps, dueling promotional efforts and a pair of championship fights within 56 days of each other, it looks like she wanted to get that vacation started as soon as possible.
Current estimates say we won’t see her in the Octagon again for six or seven months, though she hints she could be ready to go back to work before that.
While she’s away, Rousey’s promoters and the division she rules without mirth or mercy will have some work to do.
Let’s face it, for the UFC, Ronda on vacation is essentially a trial run for Life Without Ronda. During her absence, the company not only needs to build toward her return, but also solidify its women’s MMA product for the day its biggest star leaves for good.
Here are five things the UFC should do as Rousey is out making movies…
Sign Cyborg Justino vs. Sara McMann
If UFC president Dana White is going to be a stickler about making sure Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino can make the cut to 135 pounds before booking her a fight against Rousey, then Sara McMann shapes up as a perfect first bantamweight opponent.
Seriously, why let Cyborg languish on the independent circuit one moment longer than necessary? We all know Cyborg-Rousey is women's MMA's only legitimate superfight and with each day that passes with them in different organizations, the possibility of ever seeing it gets dimmer and dimmer.
With Rousey out cooling her heels somewhere in Hollywood, sign Justino immediately—stipulate in her contract she gets cut the first time she misses weight—and book her a bout against McMann as soon as both are willing and medically cleared.
It’s pretty much the perfect title eliminator, and a chance to promote a reasonably big fight while Rousey’s gone.
If Cyborg wins, it’ll prove she belongs in the big show and sets her up as an even bigger threat to Her Rowdiness.
If McMan wins, it paves the way for a rematch with the champion after getting jobbed on an early stoppage at UFC 170.
Either way? Instant unassailable No. 1 contender for when Rousey returns.
Get Holly Holm in the Octagon Already
Speaking of people the UFC needs to sign posthaste: Holly Holm has rocketed to a 6-0 record in smaller organizations, all the while flashing the kind of big-ticket athleticism and top-level striking that would make her an instant title contender in the Octagon.
There could be no more perfect time for her to ink a deal and start building her resume than while Rousey's taking a respite.
Holm will fight Juliana Werner for the inaugural Legacy FC Women's Bantamweight Championship on April 5. After she wins it, she'll immediately drop the Legacy belt in a trashcan and sign with the UFC.
Or at least she should, if the Zuffa brass is serious about lining up a stable of high-profile contenders for Rousey's championship.
Get Holm one fight in the Octagon—maybe against Alexis Davis in July—and she’ll be primed to see if Rousey can back up her recent claim that she's the best striker in the division.
Hey, Remember Miesha Tate? Maybe Promote Her Too
Remember five months ago, when the UFC invested an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter into building toward Rousey’s UFC 168 fight against Miesha Tate?
As a result, Tate probably still qualifies as the women’s bantamweight division’s second-most-famous fighter and—as luck would have it—she’ll still be around for the next six months.
Tate is scheduled to fight Liz Carmouche on April 19, but why wait until then to remind people she’s still one of the more accomplished fighters in the UFC 135-pound ranks?
Cash in on some of the political capital Tate built up during that season of TUF, when she seemed far more reasonable, likable and articulate than Rousey. Just because she failed to beat the unbeatable champion doesn’t mean she can’t still be a major force in the weight class.
Let’s get “Cupcake” working as an analyst on some Fox Sports 1 broadcasts. Let people know she’s still a compelling spokesperson for WMMA.
If/when the day comes that Rousey retires to be a full-time actress, the company might be glad it did.
Find the Strawweight Ronda Rousey
The UFC made waves a couple months ago when it plucked 11 fighters from the InvictaFC strawweight class to populate Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter and launch a 115-pound women’s division in the Octagon.
This week we learned lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and the newly paid-in-full Gilbert Melendez will serve as coaches, further fueling hopes that TUF 20 might actually be something special.
We already know this season will differ from innumerable previous incarnations of the UFC’s once-popular reality series for two reasons:
1. Because for the first time ever, it will crown an honest-to-goodness UFC champion.
2. Because we already know these people can fight and that they belong in the Octagon.
TUF 20 will boast some legitimate star power in the form of fighters like former Invicta champ Carla Esparza, Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig (check the awesome All Elbows vid at top for proof).
Here’s hoping the UFC’s public-relations effort matches our excitement level, that it can score a decent ratings push for the 115-pounders and maybe even identify a fighter to give the all-out star treatment its thus far lavished only on Rousey.
The show begins filming in May and should hit the airwaves of Fox Sports 1 around the same time Rousey plans to return.
What if she came back to not one, but two thriving women’s divisions in the UFC?
Figure out Who's Next
It’s largely assumed that when Rousey returns, Cat Zingano will retain the No. 1 contender status she secured by beating Tate in April, 2013.
Zingano, however, has been out since May with a serious knee injury and in January was dealt a devastating personal blow by the death of her husband.
Manager Ed Soares told USA Today’s Ben Fowlkes this week that Zingano is on schedule to be next up for Rousey, but a lot can happen between now and the summer.
With her split-decision win over Jessica Eye at UFC 170, 29-year-old Canadian Alexis Davis also has a realistic claim to edge Zingano for the next title shot.
Whatever happens, the UFC should use the time that Rousey is gone to bring some clarity to the situation. If Zingano and Davis can be ready before then, it’d be a kick to see them fight again, maybe even against each other.
If not, then let’s at least keep the 135-pound top 10 in visible spots on UFC broadcasts. The whole weight class shouldn’t go dormant just because its biggest drawing card is AWOL.
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