By James Oddy
Boxing’s been supposedly out for the count countless times from its inception. It has always proved a resilient competitor with a cast iron chin however, and always manages to rally. UFC and MMA were supposed to land the knockout blow, but, domestically the sport goes from strength to strength and the Mayweather – Pacman fight was the most lucrative of all time.
They aren’t what you’d expect. They aren’t a tattooed behemoth. They aren’t male. Instead, it’s a 5’7 woman form California. Yet, Ronda Rousey has become the crossover star not just off UFC/MMA, but all combat sports.
Whereas Texas boxer Anne Wolfe toiled in relative obscurity, and Nicola Adams and Katie Taylor have garnered a slightly but not substantial following, Rousey has exploded onto the popular consciousness.
She has made the rounds on the American chat show scene, appeared at Wrestlemania, and has a burgeoning acting career.
She’s articulate and, as evidenced by the modelling and actions, has a look that appeals to many. But her popularity is no tokenisms. The girl can fight. An Olympian at Judo who can also more than handle her own in the stand-up game, she is a ferocious competitor who wears her heart on her sleeve. Her submission ‘arm-bar’ has become a deadly and effective weapon and has fans on the edge of their seats, like they were for a Mike Tyson fight, knowing that a split second can change, and likely end, a fight.
The future of Rousey and, indeed, UFC, may reside in who opposes her. The most famous fighters, no matter what sport, are usually defined by their rivalries and the heights it causes them to reach. Ali-Fazier, Gatti-Ward, Zale-Graziano, all of the men involved were elevated due to their legendary rivalries. The UFC has plenty of talented and capable women who can give Rousey hell, but none have seemed to branch over into the mainstream with anywhere near the success. Were one of them to defeat Rousy, it may derail her popularity without elevating her adversary.
Rousey’s main achievement, no matter what level she reaches ultimately, may be causing fans to sit up and take notice of female athletes, and that they have the willpower, competitive spirit and toughness to match their male counterparts.