Strikeforce and Zuffa have had a weird relationship ever since the latter purchased the former. Announced via internet video, and then seemingly ended with a story on gossip website TMZ, Zuffa has been half committed to Strikeforce for most of its time owning it. First plucking out any number of talented fighters, and then not doing much to keep the promotion alive, Strikeforce has been the unwanted stepchild of MMA for quite some time. Now, with the company being folded after a January show, the big news is that Ronda Rousey is going to be the first woman to compete under the UFC banner. That’s an amazing thing and the UFC is doing right by women’s MMA by bringing in its biggest star to the biggest stage in the business. But the UFC shouldn’t be getting WMMA just yet.
Strikeforce’s dissolution should mean the UFC getting into the Ronda Rousey business, not women’s MMA.
Rousey is a star in the making, someone who has drawn more eyeballs than many of her male counterparts, and the UFC needs to be in the business of having her in the Octagon. She’s going to potentially be the first woman to fight on Fox and might even be saved to make her debut underneath one of the bigger PPV cards as well. How can you tell she’s starting to become a star? I call it the “mother” test, as in my mother.
She was up late one night while I was watching a Strikeforce card and wondered who was fighting. She’s not an MMA fan but she indulges the “odd” things my brother and I have watched over the years. For my brother it was “Curb your Enthusiasm,” for me it was combat sports. So when I said it was a woman’s fight in the main event she stayed to watch, if only for the curiosity factor. After Rousey nearly broke Meisha Tate’s arm she wanted to see her again. She watched Rousey take down Sarah Kaufman and she enjoyed it as well. And my senior citizen mother isn’t the only woman who wants to see her fight, either. Rousey represents the fighter that could bring in an entirely new audience of people into becoming fans of the sport.
Rousey is the sort of breakthrough fighter that’ll help expand the sport into a new audience. Right now she’s on the verge of becoming a megastar in the sport that Gina Carano could’ve only hoped to become before she lost to Cris “Cyborg” Santos. Rousey has been on more late night talk shows than most of the other high profile men’s fighters and has a natural smoothness to her that many fighters don’t. With good looks and Olympic athletic credentials Rousey’s a born star in the nascent age of women’s MMA. But here’s the thing.
Women’s MMA isn’t ready for the big time.
Invicta FC is a good start for women’s MMA as a whole but the gulf between Rousey and the rest of the entirety of women’s MMA is substantial at this point. She’s the one great fighter in a sea of competitors that are a good decade or so behind their male counterparts. Right now women’s MMA is in the same spot the sport itself was at the turn of the century; you don’t necessarily have to be a well rounded or experienced fighter to be successful. You can still get by with first rate abilities in one specific area if you’re a good enough athlete. It’s the one thing underlying WMMA right now; Rousey is dominating in part because she’s at such a high level athletically that the entire division isn’t able to cope.
It’s not that there isn’t a place in the future for women full time in the UFC. That time will be soon, as well, but right now there aren’t enough high quality women’s fighters to make up their own season of an “Ultimate Fighter” show. There are maybe less than a dozen full-time women’s fighters who’d be good enough to make a season of that show worthwhile and even then you’d be encompassing the entire group of elite fighters in WMMA. Women’s MMA is a lot like the weight classes underneath 155; eventually there’ll be a place for a women’s champion like there is for the flyweight division. It’s not now, though.
The UFC needs to be in the business of WMMA in the future. But right now … right now it needs to be in the Ronda Rousey business. And brother, business is about to be a booming.