COMMENTARY | The term "professional" is an important adjective to describe how athletes at the highest levels are meant to behave within their craft. Not only does it designate that these individuals are being paid, sometimes high sums, for their performances - but they should also behave in that way when representing their sport. This is what makes it so difficult to watch Ronda Rousey as she deals with one major aspect of being a face in the world of mixed martial arts.
In two short years Rousey has done more than her fair share to continue the development of women's mixed martial arts. She's taken up the mantel of the premier fighter and personality that the group has needed in order to be brought into the main stage of MMA. Remember, there was a time when UFC President Dana White himself said that women will never compete in the Octagon due to a lack of depth. He attributes her success to one of the factors that changed his mind on the matter.
Rousey's abilities in the cage and attractiveness outside has presented her with a wealth of opportunities. She was featured on the cover of ESPN's The Body Issue along with being cast in the next edition of the hit movie franchise The Fast and the Furious. Other fighters are beginning to benefit from her rise as well. Her next opponent Meisha Tate was also featured in ESPN's magazine and this past season of the Ultimate Fighter reality show brought women into the competition for the first time. UFC 157 was one of the more successful events this year. All of that can be attributed to Rousey and what her presence means for the sport.
Unfortunately for her, that also means she will be held under the microscope much more intently than other fighters. Being a coach on this past season of TUF has hurt Rousey's appeal in the eyes of fans. Many have criticized her for being a sore sport while using general derogatory names to describe her actions on the show. Every scowl and flicking the bird hasn't endeared her to fans the same way it has with other fighters such as her close friends, Nick and Nate Diaz. The effects have been clear to watch as Tate even defeated Rousey in a contest to crown the next face of the UFC's video game set for release in 2014. While Tate didn't win the whole competition, she would have never defeated Rousey earlier this year and experts are point towards the way they were both presented during this season of the show as a factor in who the fans are supporting.
That dramatization may eventually backfire for the world of women's mixed martial arts. During an interview on Saturday Ronda made some very interesting comments about the way she was presented during the show. Her response of "I don't have to worry about leaving that Gina Carano void when I'm gone," should raise an alarm to not only fans of the sport but the UFC as well. Her disdain for talking during the post fight recap led UFC reporter Jon Anik to basically shun her from the panel to focus on others in attendance.
Gina Carano was the first name to garner mainstream coverage for female fighters back in 2009 whe n she headlined a show against Cristiane Justino for the first time in women's MMA history. After losing that bout in one sided fashion she left the world of active combat to join the big screen. Ironically she was in the last installment of the Fast and Furious franchise. Since the MMA media has flirted with the idea of her returning but she's no closer to doing so.
At 26 years of age Rousey is already talking about leaving the sport and that should raise red flags for the promotion that has taken such a liking to her. A few months back she was criticized for comments she made when asked about leaving the world of MMA so the conversation has already began. It's clear from her mannerisms and disdain in talking about the show that the Ultimate Fighter was a negative experience for her. Lucrative opportunities would easily come her way; perhaps with paychecks that are worth more than those available in mixed martial arts.
While Ronda has spent the past few years in the sports spotlight, that doesn't mean she's truly comfortable with being there. Even leading up to her UFC 157 matchup with Liz Carmouche she never seemed pleased to complete media commitments. It would seem that she would be much more happier laying low until it was time for her to compete. Still, if she continues the undefeated run that she's on the commitments will only increase over time which may not be a positive factor in her sticking around the sport.
One thing for sure is that Rousey has a competitive fire of a true champion; that is what helped her become an Olympic champion and reach the pinnacle of her sport today. However, being there hasn't enthralled Ronda in the same way it may have other champions. If she continues this streak there is a chance that the fight world may lose one of the most impressive athletes to enter the cage. It would be very unfortunate to see one of the most polarizing personalities to ever enter mixed martial arts leave not because she was defeated in the cage, but because she couldn't deal with the obligations that come outside of it.
Raphael Garcia lives in Washington, DC and has worked as a sports journalist since 2006. His work has contributed to outlets that include multiple newspapers, websites and ESPN.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Ronda Rousey
- mixed martial arts