Since hitting the professional MMA scene, no fighter has been as dominant, and perhaps polarizing, as UFC’s Women’s Bantamweight Champ, Ronda Rousey. There have been fighters in the past who were touted as “specialists”, leaning on a single technique when times were tough to get them past their opponents. Liddel’s Sprawl and Brawl, Tito’s GNP, and the amazing Judo of Fedor. However, none have had the devastating impact as the armbars doled out to the opponents of Ronda Rousey. In ten professional fights, she has never gone the distance, eight times stopping her opponent under 70 seconds, and finishing her first eight fights with her trademark armbar. The fact that she has finished her last two opponents with strikes should instill an added level of fear into her opponents. The fact that she is going to easily dominate her challengers has become an afterthought for the fans.
And there lies the problem for the UFC. Ronda loves to talk to the media, especially about her current and potential opponents. Her brash attitude is reminiscent of Ortiz and the Diaz brothers, and the fans have paid to tune in to see her dominate, or to hope to see her humbled. For a while this hope has sold PPVs and put bodies in the seats. However, it has become apparent to the fans that a Ronda Rousey title-defense will be a 60 second bully match. No intrigue, no surprises, and for the last few fights, even none of the expected Rousey trash talk to hype the fight. People WILL stop caring, and that means they will stop paying. UFC cannot afford to have one of their stars, someone they have spent a lot of time and money building up in the public eye, to be anything less than a guaranteed money-maker for them.
In order for a her fight to be relevant again, the UFC needs to find a worthy opponent, and this is the possible catch-22 that Dana, and the rest of the UFC brass, must weigh in on and decide. There appears to be only one challenger that will generate a buzz for a Ronda Rousey fight, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. The very woman Dana White claimed “committed professional suicide” when she decided to work with Tito Ortiz. The very fighter Dana White said is “a nightmare in every way, shape or form to bring in as a professional athlete in an organization like this” and “She said she couldn’t make the weight. She’s got steroid issues. She’s got a lot of issues. That’s a lot to take on”.Rousey has been built up, touted as a top ten pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but now has no one to fight that the fans will care about….other than Cris Justino.
In order to make a sellable fight happen for Dana’s favorite woman champ, he will need to do two things he hates doing, so he can arrange this match-up. First, he will need to go back on his previous statements, and eat a little bit of crow, in regards to Cris. This process has already begun. In typical Andrew Dice Clay-esque fashion, White stated, “This shit is going to fucking flip as soon as I sign her, about drug testing and all the other bullshit. It will be the biggest fucking topic. It will be the biggest fucking story for you guys to write on whether she’s — oh my fucking God. The script will flip immediately.” He knows the media storm will follow if he signs Cyborg, and despite his comments, he will love every second of the UFC coverage. Secondly, a fight with Justino brings about something the UFC has not had to deal with yet…a legitimate threat to Rousey’s belt. Dana and Co. will have to be prepared for a long title reign by Cris if this fight takes place. This means another fighter Dana has personally attacked, another fighter the UFC must be constantly worried about in regards to PEDs, and another UFC darling dethroned during a twelve month span that has already seen Silva and GSP potentially out of the UFC limelight for good.
The UFC needs Ronda Rousey to stay in front of cameras, and stay champ, but if she is fighting opponents no one cares about, the investment won’t pay off. A Cyborg match up brings the highest grossing fight in the history of Women’s MMA, but the results could be devastating to the UFC hype machine. It’s the fight that has to happen, but it might be the fight Dana can’t risk to make.