The Rousey Effect: Predicting how far Women’s MMA can progress

Women’s MMA has been in the media seemingly far more than it ever has been as of late, and that is mainly due to the creation of a UFC Bantamweight Women’s Division and its ultra-popular champion, Ronda Rousey. While it was previously something that Dana White had said he would never venture into, now we find ourselves a mere nine days from the very first pay-per-view ever headlined by women at UFC 157.

In addition, the UFC has made more waves in the women’s game by adding more women to the roster, such as former Strikeforce champ Miesha Tate. One high-profile women’s fighter who seems to be headed the opposite direction in Cyborg Santos. Much has been made of Dana White‘s views of Cyborg recently, and her manager, Tito Ortiz, has been on record saying that Santos wants her release from Zuffa sooner than later.

That’s too bad, because obviously a bout between Rousey and Cyborg would be a huge blockbuster event in terms of increasing exposure for WMMA. The two sides have gone back and forth, talking trash all the while but never agreeing on a weight class for the bout to take place. It appears that the UFC Women’s division will have to go on without this bout, and they are taking steps to do just that. With the full support of Dana White and Zuffa behind it, WMMA could make a huge explosion this year and for some time to come. But will it?

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That’s a tough question to answer. On one hand, you do have a super popular champion who has been as dominant as she is beautiful, something that was missing from the sport when Gina Carano fought her last bout against Cyborg. And like it or not, beauty sells. It’s just the cold hard facts of this business. I know Cyborg was and is a great fighter, but she got busted for steroids, marring her reputation. Her insistence to not meet the UFC in the middle hasn’t gained her any popularity either, although it’s highly doubtful she ever would have served as the face of Women’s MMA. 

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That face is obviously Ronda Rouey, who has taken her side of the sport by storm in the last year, destroying all comers with first round armbars and making it look easy in the process. That could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. On one hand, Rousey’s dominance may gain her tons of more fans onto her already substantial fan base. But how long will people tune in to see more of the same thing? My guess would be pretty long if Rousey is the center of attention.

Rousey is also vocal and outspoken enough to get the fans fired up during the buildup of her fights. She talks the talk and backs it up. The fact that she convinced Dana White to create the division speaks for itself. White has never been known to be an easily persuaded man. Will the fans eventually cry out for more solid competition and some parity to the division. That could definitely happen. I think that the UFC will allocate enough resources to keep this thing running strong, evident by their recent bolsterings of the roster. Hopefully one or two of these fighters can give Rousey a run for her money.

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While this whole undertaking may no doubt be a gamble, so was the whole purchase of the UFC by Zuffa. A whole new fan base could be created very soon, starting at UFC 157 next Saturday. There is excitement and buzz building about the Women’s division. Will an absolutely dominant champion spoil the experiment before it gets off the ground? I would say that Rousey will stay atop the heap for some time, but people will still tune in. That will give the UFC some time to sort out some solid contenders, and by then, hopefully the Women’s Bantamweight will be full of suitable combatants for the queen. All told, the future has never been set up to shine for WMMA more than it is right now.