Earlier this week, Last Word columnist Mark Modeski wrote a piece on why Women’s MMA will not work and will not find a home in the UFC. I must say that I disagree. Not only is there a place for women in the UFC, but I think that it will happen sooner, rather than later.
Ronda Rousey, Strikeforce’s Women’s Bantamweight Champion, is the biggest thing to hit the female sector of the sport in recent years. She is the face that the Women’s game has been long been looking for. She has everything going for her – she is charismatic, very well spoken and gives a great interview, can cut promos, has a legit athletic background and an Olympic medal in Judo, she is dominant in the cage, and she is gorgeous (sorry, her looks shouldn’t matter, but as of now they still do). Rousey was even featured on the cover of ESPN the Magazine. Yes, many may say that Gina Carano had the same appeal, but let’s be honest, she was not the dominant fighter that Rousey is, nor was she ever as comfortable as Rousey is in front of the microphone. At 6-0 with 6 first-round submission victories, the girl can fight and is much more than just a pretty face.
Now Mark has said that people don’t care about Women’s MMA. I also beg to differ here. Rousey is gaining some significant name value. In fact her March 2012 fight with Miesha Tate was the highest rated Strikeforce Event in 2012, doing nearly 10% more viewers than the average Strikeforce card.
Well, today, the Numbers for Kaufman vs Rousey are in, and they are astounding as Saturday’s fight was even bigger than Rousey vs Tate. Lets take a quick look at the facts:
- The card drew an average of 529,000 viewers on Showtime.
- The ratings peaked for the Kaufman/Rousey main event with 676,000 viewers taking in that fight.
- Compare this to the average Strikeforce card in 2012 (averaging 425,000 viewers before Saturday) and we see Rousey is responsible for an over 50% increase in viewership.
- This fight was the 6th highest rated Strikeforce on Showtime event of all time, and the highest since UFC took over the company.
- Perhaps even more astounding is who was watching. In the all important Male 18-49 demographic that UFC craves, this is the 2nd most watched fight in Strikeforce on Showtime’s history trailing only the Fedor vs Silva mega fight.
This should be no surprise based on the buzz in the MMA media, on ESPN, and from people like Dave Meltzer, its clear that Rousey is becoming the biggest draw in the UFC controlled version of Strikeforce. Amazingly Rousey is doing bigger numbers than the Heavyweight Grand Prix, or Nate Diaz.
Dana White has long been against women’s MMA but all indications are that his stance on it is softening. The fact is, Dana himself has booked Rousey as the main event of her last two Strikeforce shows. White is above all things a business man first, he sees the numbers and the buzz that Rousey is generating, and is looking to capitalize. This is nothing new in professional sports. White was even ringside for the fight on Saturday night, something he hasn’t always done for Strikeforce events, as he clearly wanted to see Rousey in action.
The fact is that Mark is partially right – one year ago no one cared about Women’s MMA. But what a difference a year makes. In the last few weeks I’ve heard a lot of chatter about Rousey. She’s a game-changer, and her next fight could be the biggest fight in Women’s MMA history. A matchup with Cris “Cyborg” Santos would easily be the biggest fight in Women’s MMA to date, and would have legitimate mainstream appeal. The story is a promoter’s dream, and literally all the elements anyone would want. A dominant champion facing her biggest challenge to date, legitimate heat and hatred between the two fighters, a hero in Rousey (the gorgeous All-American Champion, and Olympian) vs. the villian, Santos (a Brazillian, not so easy on the eyes, and a women who was busted for PEDs, which resulted in suspension until December). The story line practically writes itself.
Mark has also argued that the Women’s division is Rousey and nothing else. Again, I disagree. In addition to Rousey, the UFC could promote Miesha Tate and Julie Kedzie, who had a great fight on Saturday’s undercard. They could also promote Santos, and Gina Carano is still around for another potential superfight with Rousey. You also have Invicta FC, who put on a heck of a pay-per-view last month with an all-women’s card, and a number of exciting fights. Quite simply the UFC certainly has the money to raid Invicta or buy out the promotion entirely and build a division if it wanted to. Would a women’s division have any less name value than the flyweights? Quick, think to yourself, who is fighting for the UFC flyweight championship? Or some of the other low profile UFC divisions?
Now I’m not saying that the women’s game will ever be as big as the men’s. Or even that they can headline a UFC ppv, but we all know that Strikeforce will eventually die. And with so many UFC events to promote, and so much airtime to fill, doesn’t another division make sense? Could Rousey be the co-main event on a UFC Card? Why not. Could other women work their way up the ranks and fight on undercards and pre-shows? Again, I say, “why not”?
There is no better time for women’s MMA than right now. They have a dominant personality to lead the division. Two potential superfights in matches against Santos and Carano, a number of up-and-coming talents who just need to be properly packaged and marketed, and some real media and fan buzz in the industry. The time is right for UFC to capitalize, and what better way than a December or January fight of Rousey-Santos in a PPV co-main event slot?
Feel free to add your comments below.