Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Rowdy Ronda Rousey Effect

So now that Rowdy Ronda Rousey has decisively won the Strikeforce Women's 135lb Championship, it's time to look at the potential long term influence that she could have on women's MMA. At a UFC press conference a couple of days ago, Dana White said he watched the fight and Ronda is a star. But he is still concerned about the depth of talent in women's MMA. This was on the heels of his announcement that he is no longer involved with Strikeforce. First, I think this has mostly to do with changes he wanted to make in the technical quality of the broadcasts. Zuffa employee Sean Shelby does the matchmaking. And the Strikeforce contract with Showtime ends in 2014. So it was a dramatic announcement that doesn't mean much. So White can talk about depth all he wants but the truth is the buck stops with him. Put your money where your mouth is. A female The Ultimate Fighter has been suggested before. Maybe now is the time to do that. Not that I expect it. As long as women aren't in the UFC, White is still a misogynist. But even he sees that Ronda has the potential to be the biggest star employed by Zuffa. He would be a fool to leave that on the table. The likely result of The Rowdy Ronda Rousey Effect will be the influx of Olympic caliber athletes. Up to now, most female fighters either got into MMA by accident or got into it because the boyfriend was a fighter. That's how Gina Carano got into kickboxing. And Sarah Kaufman was going to a dance class when she found a martial arts studio in the same building. There are exceptions but those two reasons are most common. Very few were doing martial arts at five years of age like Megumi Fujii. Of course we know about Olympic athletes like Sara McMann and Randi Miller in MMA. But we need more of them and that's why Ronda is important to women's MMA. That caliber of athlete can only raise the talent  and depth level. That's what we need. A few months ago I saw an article on USA Today about Ronda's former USA Judo teammate Kayla Harrison. She's even trained by Jim Pedro who also trained Ronda. That's the kind of athlete we need in women's MMA. For all the slagging of the WWE by dopey MMA fans, it's interesting that Gerry Brisco regularly scouts high school and college wrestling tournaments looking for talent for the WWE. Maybe Zuffa needs to start doing that. That's the kind of grass roots work that develops talent for years to come. Ronda has all the tools to be a star anyway but I know the raising of the talent level in women's MMA is important to her. But we also need a level of commitment from Zuffa and I don't know if that will happen. Dana White whining about the depth of women's MMA is pointless without promising a solution. Fork over some dough, buddy.

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