This past Saturday at UFC 175, Ronda Rousey defended her women’s Bantamweight title against Alexis Davis. The fight lasted just 16 seconds. As the opening bell sounded, there was a standing exchange between Rousey and Davis that ended with a knee to the body and a picture perfect Judo throw by the champion.
Davis went flying and landed hard on her back. Rousey trapped the head and proceeded to land repeated heavy punches to Davis’s face until referee Yves Lavigne had seen enough.
Davis was so out of it that she began wrestling the referee for a while before getting her bearings back. She may have actually fought the ref longer than she fought Rousey. Just like that, the biggest star in Women's MMA had shown once again why she is where she is in the sport.
Davis was riding a five-fight win streak prior to being demolished by Rousey. Due to the sheer domination that was witnessed, people are once again asking themselves: Who is next for Rousey and who has a chance of winning?
No matter how many names are left, the one name the debate will always land on is Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. Cyborg ruled the female fight game in the years prior to Rousey bursting on the scene. The two may have been on a collision course had Cyborg not been popped for using steroids in 2011 after her own 16-second victory, over Hiroko Yamanaka.
Cyborg was suspended for a year and fined $2,500. In her absence came some of the most significant changes in WMMA. At the time, Strikeforce MMA had a lock on the female divisions and the UFC hadn’t yet introduced the distaff portion of the talent into their ranks. Rousey's rise would happen directly following Cyborg's suspension, along with Strikeforce's slow death at the hands of Zuffa.
Cyborg returned to competition in 2013 for Invicta FC, just two months after Rousey defeated Liz Carmouche in the first ever female UFC fight. Since then, Rousey and Cyborg’s names have not been very far from each other. Despite this fact, UFC president Dana White has not seemed very eager to discuss the possibility of signing Cyborg.
He has been quick to cite the fact that Cyborg is a weight-class higher than Rousey. Also, Cyborg's former-manager, Tito Ortiz, once stated on record that Cyborg would die if she tried to make the 135-pound weight limit.
Since that time, Cyborg has parted ways with Ortiz’s management duties and denied the statement’s validity. However, the UFC president has not let it be forgotten. Whether this is due to the well-documented feud between White and Ortiz or some other reason can only be speculated.
One glaring reality is that it may not be best for UFC business to have Cyborg come in and potentially defeat Rousey. First of all, Rousey is the sole reason for Dana White deciding to introduce a female division into the UFC.
He has said that Rousey is like his new Chuck Liddell. During the early years of Zuffa-owned UFC, Liddell was a marketable character, with his signature mohawk and fighter’s mentality, who was known for knocking guys out. He was the perfect fighter to hitch a star to and build a brand off of.
The same goes for Rousey. She has a true fighter’s attitude and the marketability that is needed to build a brand from a bud. She’s mean, she’s tough, and she hates to lose. She was the first American to ever medal in the Olympics for Judo. This indicates her athleticism and hard work, and garners a certain patriotism.
Rousey also has a sex appeal that Cyborg does not have. It is easy enough to see that sex appeal can be a major a factor in generating some of the popularity for WMMA, as evidenced by Gina Carano’s run in mixed martial arts. That's not to say it's all about looks, but it doesn't hurt to have the poster child be photogenic.
There is no question that if the best were fighting the best then the Rousey–Cyborg fight would have to happen.
On top of all of that, she has not been one to shy away from controversy in the media. Whether positive or negative, she has gotten people’s attention and rallied the general interest unapologetically.
From another angle though, Rousey also has an agreeable temperament in her relationship with White, while Cyborg and the UFC president have opined negatively about each other.
From White’s standpoint, Cyborg must seem like she’d be a nightmare to have as his champion. She doesn’t speak English and isn't the type of team player that White would want as a torch bearer.
Unfortunately for Cyborg, she hasn’t brown-nosed enough, and the UFC is still a show with an agenda that beats to a different rhythm than the raw heart of the sport. She may well be the best female fighter in the world, but she isn’t the type of person who is going to help represent the company and be an ambassador for the UFC in the manner that is desired by UFC executives.
One day, when WMMA has established itself in the mainstream and no longer needs to be carried on the shoulders of a rock star like Rousey, perhaps all the talent available will be given its due opportunity. Until then though, there is a very strict game plan that is being followed and, for good or ill, the UFC brass seems to know what they’re doing when it comes to building a successful business.
There is no question that if the best were fighting the best then the Rousey–Cyborg fight would have to happen. And perhaps eventually it will. But not before the powers that be are satisfied that the female divisions are here to stay, cemented in place, and not reliant on being carried by a single talented lady who has had to carry a significant weight on her own.
Ronda Rousey once made an analogy about herself and the Dark Knight movies. It is not such a wacky comparison to make. She really is the champion the UFC needs at this time. She’s the only one who could have done for WMMA what has been done, and her cross to bear is still hers to bear until the job is seen through.