PORT ARTHUR —
"Rowdy" Ronda Rousey will be MMA's Rosie the Riveter as she metaphorically
proclaims, "We can do it!" to the UFC.
The Strikeforce Women's MMA champion was
brought into the UFC when the promotion folded last month. In fact,
Strikeforce's entire women's MMA division was assimilated by the UFC, a division
the MMA power never had before. The UFC named Rousey the UFC Women's
Next Saturday Ronda Rousey will defend her title at UFC 157 in the
first women's fight ever in the UFC. She'll be fighting in the main event of
the evening, a rarity for women's MMA, against lesser known underdog, Liz
It's clear that Ronda Rousey is the main draw of the event. She has become the
face of women's MMA, taking the baton from Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos and Gina
Carano before her. The 2008 Olympic Judo bronze medalist transitioned her
skills well to mixed martial arts and she worked her way up the Strikeforce
ladder to become champion last year.
Her Olympic credibility and capturing of the title made her a focal point of the
sport. And, of course, her striking good looks made her a hot commodity for the
media and Madison Avenue. Rousey graced the cover of ESPN the Magazine's 2012
Body issue and is reaping the benefits of her fame through several product
Perhaps Rousey's biggest endorsement will in effect be for the UFC and mixed
martial arts itself, as she ushers in a new era for women.
The popularity of women's MMA will grow, but how much remains to be seen. The
UFC cannot just ride the Ronda Rousey train; she is going to need compelling
competitors. Liz Carmouche is not quite there. She has only had a little bit
of visibility in Strikeforce going 2-2.
The UFC will need to build up female
fighters in bouts to be held in the coming months and years to help sustain the
division. Another key to the long-term success of the women's division could lie in two
women mentioned earlier – Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos and Gina Carano.
Gina Carano hit a popularity high in 2008 as she fought on CBS national
television in Elite XC and later Strikeforce. Hollywood wooed her away from the
sport after her last bout in 2009. A comeback could be monumental.
"Cyborg" Santos was the long time Strikeforce 145-pound featherweight champion
who Ronda Rousey has actually called out. Unfortunately, Cyborg is too big to
make it down to Rousey's 135-pound bantamweight division and Rousey declined
moving up in weight. Cyborg signed with a different organization this week so a
Rousey-Cyborg bout is off the table in the foreseeable future.
For now, women's MMA will ride the shoulders of Ronda Rousey. That is, unless
Liz Carmouche does the improbable and shakes up the division.
David Estrada Jr. is a Mixed Martial Arts columnist for the Port Arthur News. He can be e-mailed at
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