Many MMA fans have waited a long time for the news announced earlier this week. Ronda Rousey, one of the sport’s biggest stars, is scheduled to return to the octagon Saturday, December 30th, at UFC 207 in Las Vegas.
Rousey will take on UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, in the pay per view main event, one which may not break records, but will likely be a successful one, due to the intrigue of seeing Ronda back-in-action, with the main storyline of “will she get her belt back”.
The perception that it is her belt is one I disagree with ... the belt obviously belongs to Nunes, who won it fair and square by defeating Miesha Tate. As we all know, Tate won it in epic fashion over Holly Holm, with Holm defeating Rousey with a vicious finish to wrap the belt around her waist.
The revolving circle will either continue at UFC 207, or Nunes will be the first woman to actually win the belt and defend it for the first time. I know it’s semantics, but Ronda never won the UFC title. Her Strikeforce bantamweight title became the UFC bantamweight title, and well … yada, yada, yada. I get it, but let’s move along.
Many have voiced their displeasure with the promotion automatically granting Rousey the title shot, something others have been working diligently to attain during Ronda’s absence. And while their opinions hold serious merit, it will not sway the long standing fact that the UFC is business before it is a sport.
If the UFC was a sport, then Julianna Pena would have likely been granted the title shot. Conor McGregor would have defended his featherweight title vs. Jose Aldo Jr. by and Khabib Nurmagomedov would be challenging Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title. But the UFC is not a sport and so, the financial bottom line will often take precedent over the “right thing to do”.
I for one may not agree with how all of these title shots and events take place stripping the sport of its rankings and integrity, but I also understand (and have no issue) with how the UFC operates.
As an entrepreneur myself, owning a few companies I am building, the goal is for them to generate revenue … as much revenue as possible while minimizing expenses. It’s the whole idea of “printing money”. Mind you, I chose to it differently than the fight game, but do so with the same intentions as other business’ and business owners. Earn profit so I can enjoy life at my pace while insuring my family is well taken care of.
Now examining what the UFC is doing with Rousey, my view is one I have shared at length during our FightFul podcasts. When it comes to matchmaking and the upper echelon of UFC fighters, which bouts will make the most money for the company. And for the most part, which ones will make more money in the immediate future, not necessarily in the long run.
Nunes vs. Pena would not make as much profit as Rousey vs. Nunes. Rousey in a contender bout vs. Pena would make more money than a full on title fight with Nunes and Pena. There is also the obvious risk that Rousey could lose to Pena, which could lower the stock value of Rousey.
Ronda is a hot commodity … she is a money-maker for the promotion and also for herself. As a brand, both the UFC and more important the fighter, should maximize the earning potential of both of their business’. It simply makes sense in my eyes.
I recently had a conversation with some of my industry peers, as well as MMA fans within my own personal circle and debated the merits of a few items when it comes to most of the fighters already named in this article. To break it down in an unfortunate superficial sense, let’s take a look at Rousey and Pena.
We talked about their MMA skills, their “looks”, their presence on camera, their main stream reach, how they present themselves, whether on tv, radio, online or via social media. It may not have been unanimous, but it was damn near close. We all concurred the were well skilled beautiful ladies, who could come across as “a lady” one day and “brash” the next one.
The difference though is something we all know (and it’s not a coined term by Dana White) is “the IT Factor” in North America and for The UFC. Ronda has it. Pena does not have it yet. Conor has it. Aldo never had it, nor does Khabib.
While this does not make any of it right, especially from a sporting perspective, it definitely does from a business perspective. Once a fighter can breakthrough from the others and become main stream, in a manner where they can capture the eye and attention of the public, things change for them; for their career and how their employer views them.
And that often turns into dollars, cents, sense and in this case, immediate title shots for Ronda Rousey. While Ronda’s skillset and track record alone can make the argument that she deserves the title shot, her “IT Factor” catapults her into the blue corner, opposite the champion any day of the week.
And we’ve just scratched the surface on this sport vs. business argument … it’s only going to get juicier as time goes on.