Ronda Rousey is the UFC equivalent to a sports dynasty.
Like the Boston Celtics, who won 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons from 1957 through 1969, the UFC women’s bantamweight champion has an aura of invincibility, and with good reason, given her 12-0-0 record and the fact that most of her fights end in under 1 minute by TKO.
When one team or individual dominates a sport in a fashion rarely seen before them, the question of “Is this success good for the sport?” often comes up. In this instance, Rousey’s dominance absolutely is good for mixed martial arts.
For starters, the UFC needs superstars, whether it be men or women fighters whom casual fans will want to buy pay-per-views to watch while also following them outside the octagon.
Rousey’s popularity has given her the opportunity to promote UFC in several different venues, including on late night television, on national sports networks such as ESPN, in commercials and even in the recent “Entourage” movie. All that is valuable publicity for the sport.
Just look at golf. Tiger Woods won 14 major championships from 1997 through 2008, and the number of people who believed his run of success hurt the sport was minuscule at best. Golf became must-watch TV during many of Woods’ tournaments, and the ratings reflected that.
Until this year, when Jordan Spieth emerged as a potential heir to Tiger’s dominance, TV ratings and overall interest in golf had waned because Woods hasn’t been successful or consistently healthy since winning the 2008 U.S. Open.
The thing about Woods’ sensational stretch of success was he did have worthy challengers. Guys such as Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and others pushed Woods and sometimes beat him in majors.
Rousey, at least right now, lacks those types of challengers. She’s heavily favored, and deservedly so, in every fight, and none of them really have been close. Nine of her 12 fights lasted less than one minute, and Saturday’s UFC 193 meeting with Holly Holm in Melbourne, Australia, could be more of the same.
Rousey’s success is great for the UFC, make no mistake about it. But at some point, the competition will need to push her for the sport to reach its highest level.
Watching “Rowdy” kick the crap out of her opponents is fun, and it will be for a while longer, but it’ll become a little boring unless real competitors step up and make these fights more interesting. If not, Rousey might decide to take her talent and popularity elsewhere.
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