Ronda Rousey savaged Miesha Tate’s arm in their first fight. The betting public sees her as an 8-to-1 favorite at UFC 168 on Saturday. It’s not going to be enough to simply get a submission win in the rematch. Ronda Rousey’s biggest backers, and critics, want to see more out of her. They want to see her totally destroy Miesha Tate in violent fashion.
And Ronda Rousey is partially to blame to raising expectations so high for destruction that anything short of broken bones will be viewed as a disappointment. When you are a super-strong Type A personality that manufactures chips on your shoulder as proficiently as Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, fans don’t want to see ordinary accomplishments. They want complete annihilation.
You want to be known as an arm collector? Fine. Go break some more limbs. You want to be the queen of MMA? Go out and beat up everyone. Not only that, but you have to do it with bountiful sex appeal and a smile, too. And make sure your personality isn’t offensive or bluntly grating to young girls who are impressionable.
Balancing public relations while being a bad ass
Now you can understand why Ronda Rousey was so frustrated by her experience on The Ultimate Fighter. She came off as a miserable, self-centered, growth-stunted, Type A jerk who really loves hard or really hates hard. Her world is all about polarization, or so the video editors want you think. But unlike the Michael Jordans and Kobe Bryants of the world who have cadres of PR specialists at their disposable, Ronda Rousey’s inner circle is close knit. Their response to outsiders asking if Ronda on TUF is the real Ronda?
“That’s just Ronda being Ronda.”
Ronda made no secret of how desirous she is of physically punishing her rival. She only feels Miesha Tate is getting a second chance because she’s a hot piece of ass. Perhaps Ronda forgot about her comments about pre-fight sex with Jim Rome. It’s these kinds of contradictions, juxtaposed for mass consumption, that made Rousey a fascinating character in MMA. There’s a reason the UFC is all-in with her. She has star power. Everyone has an opinion about her, good or bad. In the fight business, the world thing a fan can say about you is that they have no opinion either way on you. Politics are black and white in a business where everyone is trying to make each other black and blue.
“Just to let you know, I’m going to f****** destroy you again.”
Tell us how you really feel about Miesha, Ronda.
“I don’t feel sorry for breaking her arm in half. Girl had it coming.”
So you plan on breaking her other arm or tearing an ACL?
“I’m going to break this girl.”
Apparently both mentally and physically. In a recent Southern California media scrum, Rousey claimed that many male & female fighters have offered to help her with training because they hate Tate & boyfriend Bryan Caraway so much. Listening to Rousey’s version of the truth, Tate & Caraway have supposedly burned every fight camp they’ve ever been a part of and that nobody likes them. Certainly, plenty of fighters like Tara LaRosa despise Tate. However, the gap between those inside the business and those outside the business about Miesha Tate’s likeability is wide and part of that is due in part to the way Ronda Rousey was portrayed on Ultimate Fighter.
Living in a black-and-white world
Part of what makes Ronda Rousey so successful is her ability to demonize her opponents, internally or externally. Anything Miesha Tate did on TUF was labeled as “b**** behavior.” The great athletes in sports internalize pressure and steel their resolve by blowing up the littlest of remarks into huge controversies. Motivation is never a problem for a champion like Ronda Rousey. Rousey admits that one mental tactic she uses for fight preparation is elevating her opponents, in her mind, when it comes to game planning & high-level skill. Always expect an opponent to be on their A-game with no mistakes. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Fear is always the best motivator.
Ronda Rousey needs polarizing rivals to have long-term appeal. I’m not sure Cat Zingano or Sara McMann fit that bill, but they’re her likely challengers after Miesha Tate at UFC 168. The one rival out there who could move the needle in a feud with Rousey is a fighter who won’t fight at 135 pounds, Cris Cyborg. 145 is difficult enough for Cyborg to make weight. But a catch-weight fight at 140 pounds is certainly plausible and there would be great history symmetry at play. Cyborg was the one who dethroned Gina Carano and Rousey views herself as the successor to Carano for high-profile women’s MMA fighters. The UFC has always been risk averse with fighters who fail drug tests but they are taking a chance backing Josh Barnett in 2013 and they may find it palatable to do the same with Cyborg in 2014 if it means a major box office fight with Rousey.
Conflict is what motivates Ronda Rousey and polarization is what makes her so marketable & fascinating. With Georges St. Pierre out of the picture & Anderson Silva on the last legs of his MMA career, pressure continues to mount on Ronda Rousey to be the face of UFC and to draw a high amount of PPV buys. The great irony is that Ronda losing to Tate would create a trilogy match that would be a box-office bonanza. But Ronda Rousey can’t allow that to happen and the UFC doesn’t think that it will happen, either. The expectations bar has been set so high at UFC 168 that anything other than broken limbs or unconsciousness is an unacceptable outcome.