Oh how times have changed. Four years ago, the idea of women fighting in the UFC was preposterous. In 2011, UFC President Dana White declared that women would never compete in the UFC. In the past, MMA bouts featuring women were viewed as nothing more than freak show exhibitions. However, in recent years names like Gino Carano, Christiane “Cyborg” Santos (now Christiane Justino Venancio), and Miesha Tate began to emerge as elite fighters, showing incredible skill and technique similar to their male counterparts. Women were given main event opportunities in the now defunct Strikeforce promotion and the success of those fights eventually got the attention of White and the UFC. However, there was one woman that was emerging as a superstar in the sport, and that woman was Ronda Rousey.
Ronda Rousey is a special athlete. She is a two time Olympian in Judo, winning a Bronze medal in the 2008 Olympic Games. When she shifted her focus to MMA Rousey became a dominant force, racking up ten straight first round submission victories both as an amateur and as a professional. She was given the chance to main event a Strikeforce card against bitter rival Miesha Tate in March 2012 and after the victory of Tate, she cemented herself as the face of Women’s MMA.
The UFC finally established a Women’s Bantamweight division on December 6, 2012, crowning Rousey as their inaugural champion. They had enough faith in Rousey as a potential superstar that they put the company’s first female fight in the main event of UFC 157. Rousey went into the Octagon and did what she does best, defeating Liz Carmouche via first round submission. She proved to be a shockingly big draw in her first outing, as UFC 157 had 450,000 PPV buys which was above average of what most UFC PPVs were doing at that time.
Fast forward to 2015 and Ronda Rousey is arguably the face of the promotion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. She has become a global star, making several TV appearances and obtaining several movie roles. She has won back to back ESPY Awards for Best Female Athlete and became the first MMA fighter to win the Best Fighter award. Her fights have done well on PPV both in the main event and headliner position, generate no worse than 340,000 buys per show in the last two years. She is becoming a rising star in all of professional sports and is part of what is becoming a huge renaissance for women’s athletics.
The timing of Rousey’s next fight could not have worked out better. The buzz for women’s sports is the biggest it has been in some time. The US Women’s National Soccer Team recently won the Women’s World Cup in a game seen by 25.4 million people, a record for US soccer viewership. Serena Williams is coming off her sixth Wimbledon championship and 21st major victory, cementing herself as one of the greatest tennis players of all-time. 14 year old Mo’Ne Davis continued her rise to fame by racking up an ESPY for Best Breakthrough Athlete and Rousey collected two ESPY awards of her own. The UFC can ride this momentum into the fight on Saturday and UFC 190 could potentially be Rousey’s most viewed PPV battle to date.
Ronda Rousey is set to main event her fourth PPV this Saturday, taking on undefeated Bethe Correia at UFC 190 in Correia’s home country of Brazil. Correia made this fight personal in the build-up, claiming she would embarrass Rousey to the point where she would want to kill herself. Rousey’s father committed suicide when she was younger, so Correia may have unwisely angered a fighter that didn’t need any added motivation to begin with. In recent weeks, Rousey made it be known she may intentionally drag out the fight in order to inflict more punishment on Correia for the comments. The interest in the fight has gone up tremendously in the wake of Correia’s initial comments and many now want to see if Rousey will live up to her threats.
Rousey is undoubtedly the toughest woman on the planet. She has completely changed the perception of women’s MMA and her success has both paved the way for future generations of female fighters and inspired female athletes all over the world. This past Saturday, Rousey entered the Octagon and the world dropped its collective jaw at the performance she put on — once again. Rousey has once again shown the world that female athletes are no joke and can continue to help them gain the respect and admiration they more than deserve.