The idea of Gina Carano returning from Hollywood to take on Ronda Rousey for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship is no longer in the realm of fantasy.
Instead, it is reality in progress. UFC President Dana White has made no secret of his desire to bring Carano into the UFC for a big-money fight against his golden goose. Carano has not competed since a 2009 loss to Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. After that loss, she turned her attention to Hollywood and the film industry.
Her inactivity doesn’t matter, however. Not when there is money to be made. And even though Carano is undoubtedly undeserving of a title shot from a pure sports perspective, the allure of raking in cash will be too much for White and the Zuffa brass to ignore. White is somehow selling the idea of Carano deserving a title shot because of all she did for women’s MMA, but that is a ludicrous claim.
Rousey vs. Carano, if it comes to fruition, is a fight made for money and nothing else.
One UFC star isn’t a fan of the idea of Carano getting an immediate title shot, and she doesn’t mind saying so. Miesha Tate, who has twice faced and lost to Rousey, appeared on Monday’s edition of MMAjunkie Radio and offered her thoughts on the prospect of Carano being placed immediately into the title picture:
I really feel that it’s just kind of a joke. It really is. Gina was a great fighter, and she’s a beautiful woman. Ronda is a great fighter, and she’s an attractive girl. But to say that Gina should be able to come in after five years of nothing and take on arguably the best female fighter ever? Come on.
Women’s MMA has been working to legitimize ourselves for so long, and we finally broke the ice, we’re finally in the UFC, and we’re getting some credibility. Don’t take that away by putting a fight together that is based entirely on looks and has little to nothing to do with skill set.
There are precedents for the UFC electing to book a big-money fight, regardless of how deserving the challenger may or may not be. Chael Sonnen was handed a title fight against Jon Jones in his first bout in the UFC’s light heavyweight division despite coming off a loss to Anderson Silva in his most recent bout. Brock Lesnar was booked to face Randy Couture for the heavyweight championship despite his 1-1 record in the UFC. And most recently, Tate herself was given a title shot against Rousey after coming off a loss to Cat Zingano.
Each of these fights became a reality because they offered the UFC a chance to pull big numbers on pay-per-view. Despite fans who would love to see deserving contenders get the shots they have earned, we must remember that this is the prize-fighting business. The UFC may present itself as a sports organization, but in reality, they are an entertainment company. The allure of making big money will always overrule the idea of giving lesser-known contenders the fights they have earned.
But still, Tate is absolutely correct. There is simply no way to justify the idea of Carano returning to fighting after five years in Hollywood and immediately getting a title shot. Especially not with a loss in her last fight. It can’t be justified from a sports perspective, anyway.
But make no mistake about it: Rousey vs. Carano is one of the biggest fights the UFC can potentially book. If Rousey beats Alexis Davis at UFC 175 in July and then defends her title against Carano on the UFC’s year-end show in December, it will be a massive fight. Gigantic. I firmly believe it is a fight that will approach or surpass 1 million pay-per-view buys. Carano still holds mainstream appeal, and Rousey is one of the UFC’s biggest mainstream stars. Both fighters are beautiful and have charisma.
I have friends who do not watch MMA on a regular basis, and they are absolutely thrilled at the idea of watching Carano fight Rousey. I suspect many of you know people who feel the same way. And that’s why this fight is inevitable.
That doesn’t make it any less of a joke, of course. And while I’d like to see White come clean and admit that he’s considering Rousey vs. Carano because it will make him money by the truckloads, I understand that he can’t use that as a selling point to the public. His job is to sell you on buying the fight, not to tell you that you should buy the fight because everyone else will.
Rousey vs. Carano will happen at some point. After it does, and after Rousey dispatches Carano like she has so many others, my hope is that other deserving contenders will get their turn in the spotlight, despite their lack of popularity or mainstream appeal. Cat Zingano should be given her opportunity. Bethe Correia is emerging as a potential contender with her campaign against Rousey’s friends. Sarah Kaufman is close to earning a rematch with Rousey, and Holly Holm will eventually sign with the UFC. Julianna Pena will eventually return from injury.
Rousey vs. Carano will shine a bright light on women’s mixed martial arts. There is no question that it will be a massive title fight. But long-term health for the division will only come by building up fighters who have earned title shots and by creating new stars who can take the turns they have earned against Rousey.