The Reluctance Of Ronda Rousey
As a result of the mainstream MMA landscape being utterly devoid of bonafide superstars — well, ones who are actively competing as opposed to counting their millions or awaiting the verdict of a USADA investigation — the MMA media has become intently focused on Ronda Rousey and her work with the WWE. For the most part, coverage was fairly generic, merely detailing the basic points of her appearances — standard fare for any blog looking to capitalise on name-searches and residual MMA fan interest.
I avoided the coverage, as I have not actively followed the current WWE product in well over a decade. I expected Ronda's stint in professional wrestling to be brief, culminating in a WrestleMania appearance, and that would be it — the former women's bantamweight champ would parlay her name into a quick payday and go back to her very private life. All signs pointed to that outcome, until a pair of interviews, by Mike Golic and later with Max Kellerman, on another ESPN program.
In both cases, the mention of Ronda's MMA career put her in a glib, combative mood and came off very awkwardly. In Golic's case, he asked Ronda when he realised she was done competing in MMA, to which she replied that she had never said that. Golic follows-up up with "so there is a possibility you could go back in time?" At which point, Ronda fixated on the 'in time' portion of what he said, stating "I do not have the ability to go back in time, no" — it was incredibly awkward and cringe-inducing.
Later that day, on another ESPN program, Ronda was asked if she felt the perception that it was "the earth stopped spinning on its axis" after she lost to Holly Holm, and if she knew why there was a negative fan backlash following that loss. Ronda had no reply save for silence and "ummm...." Max followed up by stating that there was talk in the MMA world that she was overrated. Ronda asked if that was Kellerman's sentiment, which he denied while lauding her achievements. It was a painful segment, ending with Ronda sarcastically thanking Kellerman for 'defending' her.
These interviews are perplexing, although not entirely surprising. Since the loss to Holly Holm, at UFC 193, Ronda has almost completely avoided addressing the outcome of the fight. In the build-up to her return bout, against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207, Rousey completely avoided promotional duties for the fight card, and receeded back into extreme privacy after losing that fight in similarly lopsided fashion. Contrast with virtually anyone else in the world of elite sports, Ronda Rousey's handling — or not handling, as it were — of her losses is very atypical, and somewhat concerning.
While it is completely understandable the taste of defeat is vile and acrid, but there is no avoiding it; at some point, you have to own the loss, the failure, the setback, and move on. It seems like Ronda has failed to do that, which makes for extremely awkward situations such as those documented above. Whether the losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes left deep, psychological scars, or this is all the result of extreme hubris, it makes for bad television and it's not raising her stock whatsoever. It has been noted that Ronda does not owe the MMA media anything, and that's a given, but to completely refuse to address the career that made her famous is absurd.
The only reason Ronda Rousey is in the WWE is because of her residual starpower, from when she dominated — and directly helped mainstream — women's mixed martial arts. It certainly isn't because of her acting career or prowess; it's not like she doesn't understand this — she is not an idiot. But until Ronda is willing to acknowledge the past, she's not really going to be able to move forward. The questions won't go away, so either she will have to retreat from the media again — which renders using her somewhat pointless — or those losses will finally have to be addressed in some manner.
That all being said, the sad reality is that the speculation that Ronda Rousey was overrated, or manufactured, probably won't go away regardless of what she does. Fans are absolutely terrible for tearing down their greats the moment they show any kind of weakness. MMA fans seem to be the worst for this, and have the shortest memories of any fanbase I can think of. Ronda Rousey went from everyone's safest bet to "overrated" and "manufactured" in the time it took Holly Holm to knock her out. Dominant champions are legends until they lose and then we all realise they were never good.... I guess...
This is another unfortunate problem for Ronda's overall legacy in the sport — she does herself a lot of disservice with this behaviour. The unwillingness to confront and accept both brutal losses not only provokes those who would discount her achievements but lends a vague credibility to their arguments. Anyone who knows their MMA history — and by 'history' I mean "can remember 5 years ago" — would know that there was a vast, vast gulf between Ronda Rousey and her peers for a very long time. Her peers caught up, which was inevitable; that's how things work.
The only thing that can hurt Ronda Rousey's legacy is the woman herself. It would be nice if she stopped doing it.
Published: March 29th, 2018.