It's funny how quickly Ronda Rousey went from being the impatient line-jumper of women's MMA to its superstar messiah.
Remember where she was this time last year? Remember back when Miesha Tate was the Strikeforce women's 135-pound champ and UFC President Dana White seemed pretty certain that women would never fight inside the octagon? Back then the story was how Rousey, who'd logged only 138 seconds of cage time as a professional, had talked her way into a title fight that she didn't deserve, a fight that was "pretty ridiculous," according to former Strikeforce champ Sarah Kaufman.
Even Tate, who stood to gain a lot from the rivalry Rousey had intentionally drummed up with her, bristled at the way the trash-talking judoka had gone about grabbing such a share of the spotlight.
"I think that's why a lot of us have a problem with Ronda," Tate said just before her 2012 bout with Rousey. "I just don't think she sees the big picture. If she did, I don't believe she'd feel OK about how she's talked her way into a title fight. ... It's just very unjust, and she feels OK with it because, in my opinion, Ronda's a very selfish person. She's more concerned with what's good for Ronda than what's good for women's MMA."
The crazy part is, that was a legitimate and not at all uncommon viewpoint among female fighters just one year ago. Now look.
As you could probably tell by the screaming fans in the sold-out Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday night, it turns out that Rousey is actually pretty good for women's MMA. In fact, she might be the best thing to happen to it since cornrows and sports bras. If she hadn't come along, White would probably still be shaking his head at talk of a women's division. Without her, there's no way every media outlet from HBO to the L.A. Times would be taking time to explain exactly how an armbar works.
You could argue that these are just byproducts of Rousey's quest for glory and money rather than a positive change she brought about on purpose for the good of the sport. But you could also argue that it doesn't really matter. Rousey became a star, and now Liz Carmouche will be able to buy herself a kitchen table. Who cares if the cause and effect was intentional?
Probably not Carmouche, who showed up at the post-UFC 157 press conference looking happier than any fighter has ever been after a first-round submission loss. Maybe it was just her naturally sunny demeanor taking over, but Carmouche seemed more pleased with her losing effort than Lyoto Machida was with his winning one.
Even Tate, who admitted that she still can't watch the clip of her own armbar loss to Rousey without feeling her heart rate skyrocket, finally had to concede that there were some positives to having Rousey burst on the scene the way she did.
"As much as Ronda might not be the kind of person I want to go have coffee with, she's done a tremendous job building women's MMA to this point," Tate said. "She's made one hell of a champion."
The benefit to fighters like Tate is already becoming clear. She's got a UFC bout with Cat Zingano slated for April, and according to White it would "make sense" that the winner might be next in line for a shot at Rousey's title. Just getting the chance to fight in the UFC at all is a dream come true for Tate, who said she couldn't help but be motivated by her front-row seat for Rousey's coming-out party on Saturday night.
"The UFC debut means the world to me," Tate said. "I have to win that fight. I know what it sets up because I see it right here."
Would any of this have happened without Rousey? Doubtful. Her peers may not have liked the way she went about drumming up attention for herself, but they have every reason to like the end result.