Will Ronda Rousey’s Star Power Make Fans Forget UFC 193?

Former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is set to make her Octagon return against reigning-champ Amanda Nunes at UFC 207. While great for the division and fans, Rousey’s next contest creates more questions than it answers.

On November 15, 2015, in Melbourne, Australia, more than 56,000 screaming fans cheered for UFC 193’s main event between Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. Famously, “Rowdy” had starched every opponent she’d faced to this point with ease. As a massive, ten-to-one (or greater) favorite, virtually no one expected her to lose; many were simply predicting when she would dispatch Holm.

“The Preacher’s Daughter”, a multi-time boxing world champion and Jackson-Wink product, had other plans. She continually used her range and movement to pepper Rousey with punishing strikes, until the second round, when she connected with an absolutely vicious head kick that put “Rousey” out cold. It was shocking that Rousey lost, and given the bravado of her promotional efforts, the dominance of her title reign, and the sheer aesthetic quality of the clean kick that ended the bout, it was abundantly clear that she wouldn’t live the loss down anytime soon.

And so, the actress, model, and businesswoman sides of Rousey took the next year to enjoy a well-earned break and advance other areas of her professional life. Now, Rowdy is ready to return, at UFC 207 on December 30 of this year. She will meet Amanda Nunes, the reigning bantamweight champion, in an effort to reclaim the belt that was formerly her own.

In booking this match, the UFC is assuming that casual and hardcore fans alike will be so enamored with Rousey’s return that they overlook her prior defeat. To be sure, it was always a fairly monumental event when Ronda competed, but even so, this is a big assumption; it’s possible that most fans have more encompassing memories than the company brass realize.

Even if Rousey defeats Nunes and becomes champion, the Holly Holm loss will stick with her indefinitely. More pressingly, if Ronda is once again champion, rebooking Holm in a title match will be difficult. The thirty-five-year-old competitor has been fighting—in the ring or the cage—for nearly fifteen years, and in the UFC, she’s lost her last two bouts in clear-cut fashion to Miesha Tate and Valentina Shevchenko. MMA is unpredictable, but in the near future, it’s difficult to see Holm getting another crack at the championship.

But what if she does?  UFC 204 was main-evented by a rematch between Dan Henderson and middleweight champion Michael Bisping. Henderson famously KO’d Bisping at UFC 100, and in the last fight of his professional career, Dan battled for the crown while on a one-fight winning streak (the win, a knockout of Hector Lombard, was admittedly impressive).

If Holm is able to pull-out a noteworthy triumph, she may just be able to rematch Rousey, even if the latter fighter holds the belt.

These are a lot of “what-ifs”, but as was mentioned initially, Nunes-Rousey truly creates more questions than it answers. We can know one thing for certain, though: until Ronda Rousey rematches Holly Holm, anything she does inside the Octagon will garner less interest than it did prior to her defeat—or will be viewed with skepticism. The reach of Rousey’s star power will be tested and stretched to its limits if she regains the belt, and is once again marketed as a dominant world champion, when she has yet to avenge her only loss. The entire situation could have been avoided if Rousey-Holm 2 (an incredibly marketable fight) was booked.

The opportunity to make the contest happen may not arise again.

 

Max King