Editor’s note: Earlier Managing Editor Scott Sawitz wrote a column on Ronda Rousey’s potential move out of the sport, and into film, as part of his “Monday Morning Critic” column on Inside Pulse Movies. In keeping with the first two parts of Daniel Sohn’s look at Rousey’s retirement, here’s a take on what her future could hold in film (and why it may be harder than everyone thinks).
You can read the full column here.
One of the big stories this week in the MMA world was the non-story of Ronda Rousey’s “retirement,” talk which came out of the usual lines of reason: Rousey is going to be in two films by the end of the year, in training camp overseas while doing so, as Fast & Furious 7 and The Expendables 3 are both going to be shooting this fall for a summer 2014 release. The talk always comes about for an attractive WMMA fighter because of how Gina Carano left fighting for movies, teasing a return but never doing anything substantial about it.
And of course all the usual speculation came out and Rousey discussing how she could be out in two years, and then walking it back to saying she wants to “accomplish all her goals first” before leaving for motherhood, et al. it’s a walk back, of course, because no athlete talks about retirement until it’s time to leave career wise. Athletes as a whole walk away after their peak, not before, and Rousey isn’t walking away from MMA for a career as the latest tough gal de jour until being an actress is more lucrative than being a fighter.
And right now being a fighter will pay her a ton more than being an actress … as well as maintain and probably increase her Q-rating, et al. So far she’s known by the MMA community and not much more beyond that. The one thing a lot of hardened MMA fans tend to forget is that MMA is a niche sport, a growing niche sport, but a niche one nonetheless. Trying to transition from that into something that isn’t physically related, like becoming a pro wrestler, is more difficult because the popularity of MMA isn’t quite pro football, basketball, et al.
The fact that Carano has managed to find a career in film, despite having no actual talent despite being insanely attractive, is fairly remarkable. She managed to find some fame from American Gladiators, et al, but was always the ‘hot chick who does MMA” before Steven Soderbergh put her into Haywire. She turned out to be such an awful actress they dubbed over her lines with someone else’s, of course, and she looked just as awful as the rest of the Fast & Furious cast in the latest sequel to that film.
The key to all this is trying to understand Rousey’s scenario. Zuffa and Dana White want Rousey fighting regularly because she’s their ticket to expanding the fan base. There’s only so far that getting famous via sports will take her in something that isn’t football, basketball and baseball. The big three aren’t going away; Zuffa’s deal with Fox is something that Roger Goodell and the NFL would call “a nice start” and don’t expect that to change anytime soon. The money for a pro fighter is substantial, of course, but a high level actress can command more for less work.
It’s why Carano left when she did .. And it’s why Rousey is looking at the prospect of acting more sooner than later. The money in MMA wasn’t worth the hassle for Carano, who probably makes about the same cash with no where near the work ethic needed to be a top line fighter. Being an ancillary character in an action film franchise dominated by other, more established actors is infinitely easier than being the best at anything; it doesn’t take nearly as much work and effort to have a handful of scenes as opposed to having to carry a whole film.
Rousey’s in a better spot than Carano was when she left MMA, of course, therein lies the problem.
Rousey can make more money fighting than she can as an actress over the next two years. Nothing she can do as an actress will make for her in a single moment what fights against Miesha Tate, Cris Cyborg and others will do for her financially. She can make more for a single fight than she will for a single film when all is said and done.
Hollywood may be progressive politically but they’re top heavy when it comes to earning power. Only a rare handful make in the seven figures or more for a film; once you get beyond the third or fourth lead in a film (which is where Rousey would be at best) the pay scale isn’t so wonderful. As much as Hollywood loves talking about equality, et al, the people at the top get the lion share of the revenue.
When Dana White talks about how Rousey will make more fighting than she could acting he’s absolutely right; a $200 million blockbuster isn’t going to give her a big salary with nothing proven in that area, especially considering the flops of this past summer. When Hollywood starts losing money with proven draws like Johnny Depp, who doesn’t come cheap, you can be sure that they won’t be investing heavy in new talent that doesn’t have at least one significant role in a big film.
The crazy thing is right now is the absolute perfect time for her to leave to become an actress and not look back. Hollywood is still insanely sexist in how it views women and the roles for women over 35 get fewer as the years go by. There’s a reason why actresses like Kate Beckinsale, among others, have taken throwaway roles as wives and girlfriends on a consistent basis: the number of roles for women decrease as they age.
As a fight fan I hope she stays until there’s nothing left for her to conquer. As a film fan … that question can be a bit more loaded.