There is no faster rising star in the MMA world than Ronda Rousey.
From the second she tapped out Miesha Tate with an armbar in March, Rousey has been everywhere from ESPN Magazine to Conan, and as time ticks down to her title fight against Sarah Kaufman this weekend, the hype is hitting unbearable levels.
There’s no denying that Rousey has looked unbelievable in every single one of her professional fights, and she has the potential to be the greatest female fighter of all time.
But even if she does become the “Queen” of MMA, how far will that title actually take her? As badly as a lot of fans want to see it, probably not the UFC Octagon.
This isn’t Rousey’s fault. She’s done everything in her power to make WMMA more popular than it’s ever been, and by all accounts it has been working.
Her face is everywhere, people are legitimately excited to see her headline an otherwise lackluster Strikeforce card on Saturday night, and if you don’t think “Rowdy’s” popularity had anything to do with the incredible success Invicta has had this year, you’re gravely mistaken.
Women’s MMA needed an ambassador, and Rousey has filled that role better than anyone, whether the rest of the high-profile women’s fighters want to admit it or not.
But it still won’t be enough to earn her a fight inside MMA’s biggest promotion, at least for the time being.
A few weeks ago, UFC President Dana White was asked a simple question that was completely overblown by the media: “If a female fighter was to fight in the UFC in the next five years, who would it be?”
It seems like a simple question, and White gave the simple answer, naming Rousey.
This was followed by roughly ten million questions about a possible fight between Rousey and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos making its way to the Octagon.
I love the idea of women fighting in the UFC as much as the rest of the hardcore Invicta fans I work with here at The MMA Corner, but let’s be honest, this isn’t happening anytime soon.
Rousey is a star, and a win this weekend is only going to help her become a bigger one, but the lack of depth in the women’s divisions is going to keep her outside of the UFC for a long time.
Other than Rousey and possibly Miesha Tate, can the casual MMA fan name more than one 135-pound female fighter? Not likely.
Few promotions in the world sell their product as well as the UFC, but even the UFC has to be skeptical about its ability to convince fans to spend $60 on Rousey fighting an endless line of faceless challengers over the next few years.
Even a one-off fight against Cyborg, where the UFC rushes in and takes over Strikeforce like it did the WEC prior to the Aldo-Faber pay-per-view event, isn’t likely to do enough buys to make it worth it.
Rousey is an incredible athlete and her gift for trash talk has helped WMMA reach unprecedented heights over the last few months, but until she finds a challenger that can present a challenge both inside the cage and at the pre-fight press conferences, her popularity is going to hit its peak soon.
Much like Anderson Silva needed a Chael Sonnen to take his legacy to the next level, Rousey needs an opponent that fans will view as a legitimate threat before she can gain the popularity needed to step inside the UFC and actually be a PPV draw.
Ronda Rousey is ready to fight inside the Octagon. She just needs someone to fight.
Photo: Ronda Rousey (Esther Lin/All Elbows)