Saturday, Feb. 22 marks the second time in as many months women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will enter the octagon to defend her title.
In entering the octagon this time around, Rousey faces Sara McMann – a fighter who, by most accounts, is the toughest opponent Rousey will have faced in her young career. Yet, most analysts are giving McMann about as much of a chance as they’ve given Rousey’s previous UFC opponents: slim-to-none.
But with all of the success that Rousey’s had thus far, and all of the marketing the promotion’s put into the superstar, many, including the UFC, are left to wonder what happens if McMann, or any future opponents, dethrones the champion.
Women’s MMA, as far as the majority of fans are concerned, is centered around Rousey and her charismatic approach with the media. She’s had success inside of the octagon and on the silver screen. Considering how much more profitable and safer the latter tends to be, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rousey follow in Gina Carano’s footsteps by hanging up the gloves after one loss and focus on acting.
Since embracing women’s MMA, it’s hard to argue that the UFC’s plans weren’t ultimately contingent on Rousey’s success. All of the imagined success nearly disappeared as former title contender Liz Carmouche took Rousey’s back at UFC 157. The fear reappeared when people questioned whether Rousey would be able to put her emotions aside and be professional in her fight with rival Miesha Tate.
Neither of the title contenders were what women’s MMA needed as a champion.
McMAnn, for all of her Olympic success and fighting abilities, is not either.
The UFC, already having recently lost hallmark superstars Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva for the foreseeable future, cannot afford to lose its biggest, most marketable star.