Ronda Rousey, being elite, arrogant and the first.

I thought I would let the dust settle, let everyone get it out of their system so I can try and have a rational, serious and sensible debate about the ‘greatest female MMA fighter of all time’ the woman who ‘brought women’s MMA to the world’, Ronda Rousey.

Much like all sport, this is a game of 2 halves. The first being the struggle and upward trajectory of the hardest working, most charismatic and self-effacing athlete in sport ,into the second, being the defeat of someone who has believed the hype, devoured the hype and demanded more things than Kim Kardashian at a photo shoot of her (fake) arse.

Ronda followed in her fearsome mothers footsteps into Judo. Becoming an Olympic medallist in 2008. I have washed away a huge amount of success in 1 sentence there, but in short, she has been an elite athlete all of her life. She has been guided by another elite athlete, her mother.  With the medal in her pocket, Ronda became lost. Working three jobs in bars and letting her training slide in favour of a few beers and whatever else, all to support her and her dog.

Ronda decided to take the jump into MMA and began training. Making her debut in 2010 began her arm bar journey into televisions around the world. Her charisma, her skill along with being the right person, in the right promotion at the right time meant she was made the figurehead of female MMA. She took the baton from Gina Carrano who started the journey and made it her own.  She was pushed hard and it was working. Ronda remained calm and appeared genuine in every appearance she made. The women who was working in the bar remained in place even as she had the world at her feet. The performances continued too, leading to a Strikeforce title fight against the (at the time) joker to her batman, Meisha Tate. Tate’s elbow was dislocated by the trademark Rousey arm bar and the title changed hands.

Again she remained the same woman who worked in the bar, very little had changed outside of the bank balance.

And then we get into the second half of the game. Strikeforce folded and the UFC brought in female MMA for the first time in history. Rousey was the right face at the right time. She was GIVEN the UFC bantamweight title. Let me repeat that, she was GIVEN the title. No eliminator / title fight between the top ranked women, it was handed to her like a free sample of sausages in Tesco. She also faced her first decent piece of adversity in the cage during her fight with Liz Carmouche. She suffered a dislocated jaw, but showed heart to come back and win via the dreaded arm bar. But she suffered her first damage in a fight. Was the armour weakening?

The Tate rematch was up next after injuries to the scheduled opponent. This was where Ronda appeared to change. During the filming of the ultimate fighter, she appeared to be a spoilt brat, unsporting and disrespectful fighter. The complete opposite of her career to this point. That was when the people began turning on her. It had nothing to do with losing; it had everything to do with her. The team around her became Hollywood agents, stylists and publicists. She was hearing ‘you are fantastic’ on a daily basis and her behaviour was changing.

But she kept winning.

Awards, money, film offers and endorsements where piling up. At the same speed as the behaviour was changing.

Cutting through some time, we got to Holly Holm. An elite boxer / kick boxer who had been training for Ronda forever. Ronda was her now usual disrespectful, obnoxious and arrogant self all the way through the promotion. She came into the fight not looking herself. She attempted to box an elite boxer. Again, let me repeat, the Olympic judoka thought she could outbox a multiple time world champion boxer. This was the pinnacle of the arrogance from Rona and her team. Her coach Edmund had convinced her that she was elite. He had convinced her that she was so far ahead of the rest. Ronda’s own mother was against this, she didn’t travel to watch the fight, she knew.

And as we all know, mothers know best.

Holm absolutely demolished Rousey. It was not a fight. This was Tyson losing to Douglas. The intimidation was gone.

After this she had run ins with Tate (again), and the tiny Paige van Szant (who dared to congratulate Holm via twitter).  Rousey then began the ‘they are turning on me’ nonsense when the backlash was being felt by her. She was so oblivious and arrogant (again) to not be able to see that it is her own behaviour that had people disliking her. It was all on her. But her entourage would never say that to her. She did zero promotion for her last fight against the fearsome Amanda Nunes. She was allowed this because she is managed by the new owners of the UFC. It backfired and millions of people were delighted.

In business terms, the backlash has worked for her. Millions of people bought the fight. Some to see her win, most to see her lost but they all paid money! 1.1 million PPV purchases were made. She is still money.

At the end of the day, there is no denying that without Rousey, an entire sport would be vastly different. She is a 1 in a billion (not million) athlete who could be a dynasty. Instead she is becoming the kind of person who she would not serve in 1 of the 3 bars she worked in while trying to survive.

That is the key; she is becoming (outwardly) the thing she would have reviled during her barwoman days.

@nkeegan for debate and discussion.


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