In a year when the Ultimate Fighting Championship was sold for over $4 billion dollars, UFC 207 will provide the conclusion this Friday at the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. A solid under card is scheduled to take place that will feature former champion TJ Dillashaw, but the main event will have a direct impact on the championship picture and possibly the direction of the organization next year.
Ronda Rousey was the biggest star in mixed martial arts and transitioned to the main stream when she released an autobiography, appeared in movies, was a frequent guest on TV shows, and did a segment with The Rock at Wrestlemania. She took the concept of women’s MMA, something that Gina Carano represented just long enough to use to get film roles, from a sparsely used feature on Strike Force under cards and brought it to the main event of the major league of the sport. “Rowdy” Ronda is beautiful enough, gritty enough, and authentic enough to endear herself to every demographic.
Female fans began to follow this fighting phenom as she used a combination of Olympic-level judo and wild punches to arm bar and KO her competition, often within two minutes of the opening bell. Ronda also shows her softer side outside of the cage and regularly uses her fame to contribute to charities, including when she donated $30,000 to a jiu-jit su school in Brazil after she defeated Bethe Correia. All of these traits have contributed to the mega popularity that she has today.
Still, the bright lights of the main stream media can be a distraction, especially for a combat sport athlete. The argument can certainly be made that a top level fighter shouldn’t try to balance a full-time acting career while in their prime as a fighter because it will simply distract from their preparation. When Rousey walked into the octagon in front of a record-setting crowd of more than 56,000 fans in Melbourne, Australia, she overlooked her opponent or wasn’t completely prepared. The former Women’s Bantamweight champion had run through the competition relatively easily in her previous bouts and played right into the game of Holly Holm, a multiple-time boxing champion in three different weight classes. Rousey tried to rush forward with a flurry of punches, assuming she would connect with one of the wild hooks that had conquered her prior opposition. Holm, showing her experience, countered and landed combinations on the Judo bronze medalist. After the first round, Ronda’s lip was bleeding and she looked puzzled as to what to do next. Less than a minute into the second round, Holly landed a punch that staggered Ronda and followed it up with a highlight reel head kick as Rousey collapsed to the canvas.
Post-fight, the shocking victory put some of the spotlight on then-champion Holm, but she dropped the title to veteran Miesha Tate in dramatic fashion via fifth round submission at UFC 196. Holly lost her next bout, and Tate wouldn’t be champion long either, as she lost via choke to Amanda Nunes in the main event of UFC 200 in July. Following her title defeat, Tate lost via decision at Madison Square Garden at UFC 205 and subsequently announced her retirement after a notable career.
So, the Bantamweight title picture became somewhat of a revolving door, but where’s Ronda Rousey?
It has been over a year since Rousey fought, much of that time she spent working on already scheduled film projects, but questions have remained about her future in the sport since her first professional loss. The extent that the toll of the defeat took on her wasn’t made public until she appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show earlier this year. An emotional Ronda explained that the KO was so devastating to her that she contemplated suicide after the fight. It’s well known that her dad committed suicide during her youth, and those with a family history are more at risk for taking their own life so it’s obviously a very serious subject. It should be noted that if fighting again poses ANY risk to her mental health then Ronda should retire because it would be tragic if she was harmed outside of the cage because of the pressures of fighting in the octagon. I would guess that UFC 207 bout wouldn’t be scheduled if Rousey was in any type of mental danger.
Regardless, questions about if Ronda’s head will be in the game this Friday will remain the main topic ahead of the contest. I have to say, if Rousey is mentally ready to return to combat sports is probably the key factor to this bout because as cliche as it sounds, the fight game is very much based on mental preparation. If Rousey hesitates inside the octagon, it will cost her the opportunity to reclaim the championship.
Further adding to the speculation, Ronda refused to do any media appearances during the week of the fight so is she completely focused or does she just want to avoid questions about the KO loss before she enters the octagon again? It’s somewhat ironic that Ronda was allowed to refuse media, but when Conor McGregor didn’t want to appear for a press conference, his fight at UFC 200 was cancelled. It’s also interesting that WME, the group that bought the company earlier this year, represents Rousey so it’s a wise business move for them to grant her some exceptions because they have a more direct vested interest in her career. It’s not a coincidence that the entire promotional effort for the pay-per-view is based around Ronda’s return, which isn’t exactly fair to the champion, but it’s a smart business move because Rousey is the bigger star. As far as marketing to the general public, the return itself is the draw, not necessarily the opponent.
For Amanda Nunes, she doesn’t have much to lose, despite being the champion. If she loses the belt, most fans are expecting a Rousey victory so it doesn’t do much to damage the Brazilian’s status. If Nunes defeats Rousey, it will propel her to another level in the sport so being under the radar could work to her advantage. At 13-4, Nunes isn’t the perfect fighter, but she’s well rounded and formidable competition so she shouldn’t be overlooked, even if she actually is overshadowed by Rousey’s return before the fight.
As for a winner, it’s tough to say because as mentioned, the result of the bout will depend on if Ronda is mentally ready to fight again and without any fight week interviews to gauge her preparation, to pick a winner is more of a guess than anything. If Ronda is mentally ready, she can win within two rounds, but if she’s not, Nunes could get the victory during the championship rounds. As a guess, I will pick Ronda Rousey to get the win because she probably would’ve retired if she didn’t want to fight again.
Until next week
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