In a little less than two months, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will strap on her four-ounce gloves and enter the Octagon for the sixth time.
Rousey’s fight against challenger Bethe Correia at UFC 190 will mark her second straight headlining appearance, and fourth overall with her name atop the UFC marquee. The bout will also mark Rousey’s first contest outside of North America.
Ronda Rousey is going global, but what lies beyond the horizon for the recently dubbed “world’s most dangerous woman?” Is it possible that we might even see Rousey fighting on a free fight card on FOX?
There is no doubt that, by now, Ronda Rousey has become the UFC’s most bankable athlete. Her meteoric rise has been accompanied by mainstream star power that eclipses the likes of even Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and Jon Jones, with magazine publishers and Hollywood studios lining up to sign the 11-0 Olympian.
She’s a hot commodity in mixed martial arts, and beyond, so why not put Rousey in front of the UFC’s largest audience, which happens to be on network television?
It’s very easy, and shortsighted, to point out that Rousey has become a major draw on Pay Per View. Along with middleweight champion Chris Weidman and heavyweight king Cain Velasquez, Rousey is one of the few standouts on the UFC roster that can bring fans beyond the pay wall. But examining her current cultural relevance, and what it could do for the future and longevity of MMA, a Ronda Rousey fight at, say, UFC on FOX 17 in December, might be the best way to push her star further than any mixed martial artist in history.
And before you go saying that I’m a fool to think the UFC would allow their big ticket to fight on the free airwaves, remember this, 20 years ago, Mike Tyson did the very same thing, fighting Buster Mathis Jr. on FOX, and 43-million people tuned in.
Even before Rousey’s next bout, which is quickly shaping up to be a grudge match with Correia, two other top female bantamweights will square off on FOX. Miesha Tate and Jessica Eye will go at on the main card of UFC on FOX 16, in what very likely might serve as a number-one contender bout.
Sure, Tate has already lost to Rousey on two occasions (one being at UFC 168, the last Pay Per View event to break the million-buy threshold, supposedly) and may not be the likeliest of candidates to score a third crack at the champ. But imagine Eye, coming off a win on a FOX card, taking on Rousey? That easily becomes the most watched MMA fight in network history, giving a huge boost to advertising revenue, which becomes more and more lucrative now that the UFC has aligned itself with the network giant and sports apparel mega brand Reebok.
Rousey on network TV also instantly becomes appointment television for the masses, a family event for fathers and daughters, and young girls who excel in athletics: softball and basketball teams, gymnasts and young Judokas.
Then there’s the whole scenario with Cris Cyborg, the Invicta FC featherweight champ, who is already under contract with Zuffa and awaiting a fight with Rousey, should she make the 135-pound limit.
Wouldn’t increasing Rousey’s visibility prior to 2016 not be the best way for this long-awaited contest to build the estimated 2-million home Pay Per View audience that UFC President Dana White recently predicted?
Think about it, Tyson did his best PPV numbers after his December 1995 bout on FOX. The only two occasions when a Tyson fight topped the $100-million mark—his 1997 rematch with Evander Holyfield and 2002 contest against Lennox Lewis—came after “Iron” Mike stopped Mathis in the third round of their nationally broadcast affair. So, couldn’t a free Rousey fight do the same thing for MMA that Tyson did for boxing?
Obviously, a lot of this is hypothetical, but given featherweight contender Conor McGregor’s recent remarks about acting as his own promoter, isn’t it in the best interest of the UFC, and Ronda Rousey herself, to take the MMA show to the biggest stage possible? Certainly.
So there’s a little food for thought. In 2015, Ronda Rousey has a place on network television. She’s clearly conquered the Octagon, the silver screen has embraced her (don’t forget to check out Entourage this weekend), and she even has a bestseller out now. All that’s left before Rousey-Cyborg hits Pay Per View is a primetime slot, broadcast around country.
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