Ronda Rousey is not to women’s MMA what Muhammad Ali was to boxing, nor what Jordan was to basketball, nor what Pele was to soccer, nor what King, Everett, and Navratilova were to women’s tennis.

Not by a long shot.

In truth…she is infinitely so much more, in so many respects.

Now, before you scream and yell, and inundate my TL and comments section with venom, let me explain myself.  I am not insisting that there is equitable balance in what she has achieved thus far in her career versus what those notable sports icons achieved in theirs…not even close.  Those names that I mentioned sit in the rarified air of athletes who have transcended their respective sports on a global level.

Rousey, on the other hand, has only had 11 professional fights, and because of the relative infancy of women’s MMA in the mainstream, has had, and still has, a very limited pool of quality opponents.  This lack of true peers has consequently resulted in a dearth of the types of marquee matchups that help to define sports legends.  Ali had a list of opponents that helped to verify his greatness.  His battles with the likes of Frazier, Foreman, and Liston, transcended boxing.

Jordan did battle with fellow hall of famers like Ewing, Magic, Bird, Malone, and even the Bad Boy Pistons, who were built in large part specifically to stop his dominance.  Who has Rousey faced to help her to cement her greatness?  Meisha Tate? A good fighter to be sure, but she has yet to show that she is a legitimate threat to Rousey. Cat Zingano? Undefeated coming into her fight with Rousey, and yet the fight was over in 14 seconds…14 seconds.  That’s even faster than the quick knockouts that Tyson used to dole out with regularity.  So in light of her lack of true peers in the sport, how can I have the audacity to compare her to the aforementioned legends? Because she has done something that none of those individuals did in their illustrious careers, although to be fair, they never had the opportunity to do so.

Ronda Rousey has almost single-handedly given legitimacy to a sport, namely women’s professional MMA,  thrust it into the public consciousness, and set the groundwork for whatever it is to become in the future.  Dana White made it quite clear that there would never, ever be women in the UFC.  He was unequivocal in his statement.  He has also been just as unequivocal in what changed his mind.  Rousey.  Her talent, persistence, charisma and raw force of will, have genuinely, and for all intents and purposes, single-handedly, put women’s MMA on the map.  And although you can look to a woman like Babe Didrikson as a dominant female athlete who essentially founded a professional league for women (the LPGA), a woman gaining marquee status in a combat sport is a whole different animal.

Mark my words, what Rousey is doing right now is resonating farther and wider than most people realize.  Her impact on young women across the globe will be felt for generations to come.  How many young girls are being inspired by this young, attractive, and articulate female fighter, who is not just thriving in, but conquering, what has generally been considered the exclusive realm of men since it’s inception.  And I am not just talking about girls who decide to head out to the local gym to learn how to grapple and strike, I am talking about young girls in all manner of sports and various fields who are being inspired by Rousey’s unapologetic march into what was always considered a man’s world.

Now at this point, I have to mention that yes, I understand that women’s MMA has been around for years.  Yes, I understand that there have been other women who have found success in the sport, and found varying levels of fame beyond hardcore MMA fans.  Gina Carano made it into the movies. Cristiane Cyborg is vaguely familiar to many sports fans who are not rabid followers of MMA.  But go back and search the archives for mainstream articles about women’s MMA pre-Rousey vs. post-Rousey, or advertising campaigns for products other than MMA related products featuring female fighters.  The contrast is startling.  Without her, there is certainly no all-female season of TUF. To top it all off, Ronda Rousey was just named the most dominant athlete in the world, and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Now yes, yes, I know that some will say that Carlos Huerta graced the cover of SI as well, but he never ascended to the pinnacle of the MMA world, and the article that accompanied the Huerta cover was largely about the rise of MMA and the UFC in general.  This recognition of Rousey was based on her utter and complete dominance in her sport.   And you want to measure name recognition?  Well, she’s only doing movies with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, The Rock, and the rest of the crews in both “The Expendables,” and “Fast and Furious,” movie franchises, as well as putting in time on-screen with the guys from, “Entourage.”  She’s featured on national t.v. commercials and advertising campaigns, and is quickly establishing her own Rousey-centric empire through a seemingly relentless effort to maximize her return on her exploits inside the cage.

I mean let’s face it, she is the current face of the UFC to most of America.  And to be honest, she is the perfect counter-point to some of the negative behavior by MMA fighters in the past couple of years.  While guys like Jon Jones, Warmachine and Mayhem Miller have been in the news for all the wrong reasons, Rousey just keeps winning, presenting herself as an upstanding ambassador for her sport, and flashing that million watt smile for the general public.  Yes she can be prickly when agitated.  Yes she came across as something of a pain to some viewers on The Ultimate Fighter when she was a coach.  But come on, aren’t we nitpicking when we foist those silly and relatively subjective invectives at her? When a male fighter does the same thing, he is just labeled as, “competitive,” while she is labeled as a, “bitch.”

So let’s face it, Ronda Rousey is the embodiment of the old maxim about Alpha male studs and celebrities (ex.Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), that says that, “women want to be with him, and men want to be him.”  Except that she has twisted it in that men want to be with her AND be her.  No?  You wouldn’t want to be in Ronda Rousey’s position? Irrespective of gender, she is a title holder in the UFC who is ending fights (that’s FIGHTS plural) in under 20 seconds.  A budding movie star who undoubtedly has a slew of offers on the table right now.  An object of desire to a huge number of individuals of the opposite sex.  A spokesperson for multiple lucrative ad campaigns that are netting her large sums of cash.  An athlete carrying the title of, The Most Dominant Athlete in the World. Oh and by the way, she’s not even 30 years old yet.  Um yeah, like it or not, her life is pretty awesome and is only getting better.

So, back to my original premise, Ronda Rousey is doing something that none of those other sports legends that I named achieved in their illustrious careers. She is not re-writing the book in the manner that some of those individuals did, she is authoring a brand new book in a language all her own.  Her exploits and career will be the foundation upon which her sport is built. Oh, and for those of you who are waiting for her to fall because everyone gets caught in MMA eventually?  Well, sorry to disappoint you, but because of her weight class and the overall women’s MMA game, neither of which really features raw, one-punch knockouts, there is a very good chance that if Rousey doesn’t continue to fight after time begins to erode her physical gifts (and with all her business ventures outside of the ring, I doubt she will), she may bow out undefeated.

Love her or hate her, you have to respect her, and my guess is that her influence on innumerable young women across the sports landscape will be felt for years to come.

About The Author

Brian Nakanishi
Staff Writer

Brian Ricardo Nakanishi lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but is originally from Miami, Florida, and has lived in various places across the United States and Japan. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Brian first became interested in MMA with the highly publicized Ortiz-Shamrock fights, and has been hooked ever since. A writer, actor and filmmaker, Brian loves enjoying the great outdoors in Colorado, travelling, football, filmmaking, and is still mourning the end of Breaking Bad.

  • poiqwepoi

    Brian,

    Perhaps WMMA is in it infancy. Perhaps other fighter’s are not as complete as she is whereas in men’s divisions there is more depth. Still the fact remains that she reached this level without the competition, which is not simple. Like in chess, strength grows while fighting with people who are stronger. She may have gotten a bit of that in judo but not in MMA. She’s like Mario Lemieux dropped back in 1920’s hockey.

    Her success is undeniable. She is the most dominant because no one comes up to her ankle. Even the people who had the opportunity to train with her, mostly men, understand how good she is.

    • Mairsx

      Without competition?
      Why dont you go and prove that with any of the other girls in the cage?

      There is enough of competition and other great female fighters there. But unlike mens MMA the women MMA leagues have been existing only for a few years. Its a simple fact that Ronda is just that good, not that there is no competition at all.

      • poiqwepoi

        If I stepped in the ring against any of the other girls , I would no doubt get my ass kicked and they would most probably finish me under 15 seconds. But I would be no of no help for them to improve. I wouldn’t be much competition for them.

        We agree that Ronda is that good. We disagree about how fantastic her domination is. For me, she is even more dominant than Gracie was at UFC 1. Like I she’s like Mario Lemieux in the NHL of a hundred years ago. Lemieux would be unstoppable. He would have no competition at all. Gracie found Shamrock at UFC 1. Who is Ronda’s Shamrock? Miesha is the closest so far not because she is close competition but because she hates her guts. I don’t think that Tate ever came close to scaring Rousey in a fight.

        • Mairsx

          I just want to make sure that its understood that Rousey dominance is not because her competition is not talented and skillful.

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  • Lio

    Pfff! This girl is overrated! Her fame is essentially due to her cute face and marketting. Of course, she won a few fights, which it helps, but it is not enough to make her the best of the best of all time and all categories. It is hilarious when I read that she can beat men. Journalists love to compare oranges and apples. I am pretty sure that you will always find a man who could be beaten by at least one woman on earth, except for the very strongest men. Having said this, I would like to date Rousey (and Carano too!).