Last week’s build-up to UFC 171 was all about Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler fighting for the UFC welterweight title that Georges St. Pierre vacated in order to step away from the sport. But that all changed when UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey addressed rumors about a potential fight with the former face of women’s MMA, Gina Carano.

“For Gina, there would be exceptions that I would make for Gina that I wouldn’t for anyone else,” Rousey said, alluding to her willingness to move up in weight for Carano.

Rousey continued to stoke the flames by saying, “To fight her would be a real honor. It would be a real milestone for the sport.”

Just let that statement sink in… Really? Would a Rousey vs. Carano really be a milestone for women’s MMA? Simply put, the answer is no. In fact, this match-up would hurt the credibility of women’s MMA and the credibility of MMA as a whole.

Already the sport’s top promotion, the UFC is seen as an organization that does not truly reward deserving fighters with accolades and title shots. The UFC is known for giving title shots and big fights to only big-name fighters regardless of whether or not there is a more deserving lesser-known fighter who has been on a tear.

Just focusing on the UFC women’s bantamweight division, there are a couple of worthy challengers deserving of a shot at Rousey’s title.

The first name that comes to mind is Cat Zingano. Zingano is undefeated with seven of her eight victories coming by way of stoppage. Also, she was set to coach against Rousey on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter and then fight her for the title, but Zingano was forced to pull out due to a knee injury.

There’s also Alexis Davis, who is currently riding a five-fight winning streak with three of those wins coming inside of the Octagon.

Outside of the UFC at bantamweight, there’s Holly Holm. Holm is undefeated in MMA with five of her six wins coming by way of stoppage. Holm is a former multi-divisional women’s boxing champion who compiled a record of 33-2-3 inside the ring. Talks between the UFC and Holm have apparently soured, though, in recent days.

Any one of the names mentioned above would make more sense than a non-title fight against Carano, who has not fought since August of 2009 when she was annihilated by Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino for the Strikeforce women’s featherweight title.

Saying that a fight against Carano would be a “milestone” for the sport is an absolute joke. If Rousey is willing to move up in weight to fight Carano, then why not do the same for Cyborg? Honestly, Rousey vs. Cyborg is the fight real MMA fans want to see, and that match-up would be a true milestone for the sport’s women’s division.

This revelation by Rousey opens her up to a ton of speculation and criticism. Is she afraid of Cyborg? Is she only willing to take on challenges in the Octagon she knows she can win? I don’t subscribe to either opinion, but that door is wide open now.

From a purely business standpoint, I get why Rousey and the UFC would be interested in a Carano fight. It is a guaranteed money maker and would easily be the biggest pay-per-view headlined by a women’s bout in MMA history. But just because it is a money maker doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do for the sport as a whole.

Look at all the major professional sporting leagues in the United States. Who gets to vie for the championship every year is decided on the field/court. It’s not a perfect comparison to MMA, but think about it. Major League Baseball would love to have the Los Angeles Dodgers play the New York Yankees every year in the World Series because of its mass appeal. Don’t you think the NBA would love to have the Boston Celtics taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals?

The NFL, however, is really the best case study, because it is the one pro sports league where any given year a team can make a run to the Super Bowl. That parity is a big reason why the NFL has become the giant it is today.

Putting that into a MMA context, granting title shots and big fights to big-name fighters only is counterproductive to the sport’s long-term success, because you are rewarding fighters for something other than their in-cage accomplishments. This strategy works as a short-term solution to build the fan base and grow exposure, but there is a tipping point where continuing to do this hurts the legitimacy of the sport.

The last thing MMA and the UFC want to do is end up where boxing is today—a sport that has become so convoluted and so focused on the big paydays that it is no longer building young fighters into marquee fighters. The UFC has already seen some of that when Georges St-Pierre vacated his belt and Anderson Silva suffered that horrific injury. The promotion has spent so much time and effort into promoting those two fighters that up-and-comers have not gotten the exposure they need and deserve. So, when Silva and GSP were out of the picture, no one was there to pick up the slack.

It’s in the sport’s best interest to continually build up and develop young fighters in the eyes of the fans. Then, when guys like a Silva or a GSP go away, there is talent waiting in the wings, that fans are already familiar with, to jump into the spotlight.

Although Rousey vs. Carano would be a fun fight with mass appeal, throwing it at fans now, when there are fighters deserving of a title shot, just does not make any real sense.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.

  • AnonymousHero

    Rousey vs Carano would easily be the biggest & most watched match in UFC Women’s history to date GUARANTEED.

    • Filip

      true every damn word :) this Gina :) How can ‘t u love her :D

      • AnonymousHero

        :) I know right?!

  • Armbars & Kumuras

    Totally agree with the writer on this one Ronda said she would go up in weight for a retired actress to come back and fight but what about cyborg? Rouse scared of cyborg point blank period.

  • Icbs

    Completly disagree. Rousey shouldn’t jump up in weight for cyborg, none of the female fighters should. In fact since cyborg was the first female caught on steroids, the female fighters should have made an example of her and all refused to fight her. We all know the UFC doesn’t care about fighters cheating. You test positive, you serve your time and are welcomed back. The only way to make this sport safer for the fighters is if the fighters refuse to fight cheaters. As for gina, women would still be fighting 2 or 3 minute rounds at non sanctioned fights at bullshit venues, not on television, with promoters offering to pay them x amount of money to fight in a bikini. She single handedly pioneered the women’s division. And if she had been given the chance to fight all of the top tier fighters back then, she probably would’ve been the #1 ranked female mma fighter. So how can you write an entire article arguing that Rousey saying it’d be an honor to fight gina, somehow opens rousey up to criticism, but that she should fight cyborg?

  • SugaShayn

    Um… Wasn’t “Cyborg” caught roiding? Ronda is just being safe.