The UFC has a Ronda Rousey problem on its hands
Jul 6, 2014 at 4:15a ET
It took Ronda Rousey a mere 16 seconds to rattle, toss and knockout Alexis Davis to defend her UFC title for the fourth consecutive time. An even more impressive statistic may be that Rousey has now won three fights in a row in the span of six months, marking a new level of excellence when it comes to championship fights in the UFC.
And that kind of activity is also a big reason why the UFC has a serious problem when it comes to dealing with Rousey's future.
First things first, Joe Rogan's question to Rousey after her win over Davis about fighting at UFC 176 was not only unfair -- it never should have happened. UFC president Dana White agreed with that statement after tearing into the producers who fed commentator Joe Rogan that question about fighting on August 2 in Los Angeles.
As prolific as Rousey's run has been and her willingness to step up and save the UFC's bacon whenever they've asked her to fill a card that needs her name and popularity to act as a draw, the promotion is running dangerously close to burning out an athlete whose half-life in the sport probably won't last that much longer anyways.
Rousey admitted before the fight with Davis that she's been burning the candle at both ends for the last few years ever since she got into MMA, and it's been a non-stop cycle of training camps, fights and very little in the way of time off. In the middle of her already hectic schedule, she's managed to film two major motion pictures and has a third being developed specifically for her to star.
Whether her fights last 16 seconds or 16 minutes, Rousey still goes through the rigors of a full training camp each and every time and she's had virtually no breaks since signing with the UFC two years ago due to title bouts and a season of The Ultimate Fighter stuck in the middle of everything else. The dependency on Rousey to step in and save the day speaks to a larger problem of the UFC's lacking star power especially when a main event crumbles a month out from an event and there are literally no other alternatives than to ask a champion to turn around and fight again less than four weeks later.
Rousey was honest when saying she needed a long break after this fight to rest her body and mind, not to mention a few weeks of appearances she has coming up in August to help promote her upcoming role in 'The Expendables 3'. It feels when she's asked about stepping up to fight in August or even December it's a baited question to hear Rousey respond that she'd even be willing to compete on 24-hours notice if the UFC needed her.
Following her win, Rousey was honest about her physical state after suffering a tear on her knuckle due to a cyst that had developed in her hand and the result was nine stitches needed to close the wound. She's also planning on having arthroscopic knee surgery that won't keep her out for more than a couple of weeks, but it's still necessary to handle after ignoring previous injuries during her Judo career.
"I was waiting for the press conference to tell everybody I was going to get knee surgery, but I guess I kind of got put on the spot, I have to make sure I'm medically cleared first. I have to make sure that I'm healthy. I'm down to fight anytime, I just want to make sure that I'm healthy," Rousey said. "That's one of the mistakes I made in Judo, I competed too much when I shouldn't have. They know I'm down to fight whenever I'm physically able and as soon as I'm physically able then I'll be back ready to go again."
The UFC needs her desperately, but the promotion needs to start looking at the long game with Rousey instead of the short burn that might force her to make a tough decision in much quicker fashion than what may have happened otherwise if she was fighting two times a year like most UFC champions.
The other major factor that haunts a Rousey-heavy schedule in the UFC is her utter annihilation of every contender in the women's bantamweight division leaving no real challengers standing in her wake of destruction. The faster Rousey wins, the less stacked the division looks as you peruse the rankings and notice that she's already crushed five out of the top 10 fighters. Add to that, Jessica Eye is coming off a loss, Amanda Nunes, Jessica Andrade and Bethe Correia are all on two-fight win streaks and the only name remaining is Cat Zingano, who has been off for 15 months after having major reconstructive knee surgery.
In reality the UFC should be begging for Rousey to take some time off to allow the division time to build itself some new contenders or start a fund to pay Mike Dolce a small fortune to find a way to get Cris 'Cyborg' Justino down to 135 pounds. If Rousey fights Zingano next and beats her like every other competitor over this run she's been on lately, it might be at least a year before another legitimate contender comes knocking on the champion's door.
Rousey's legitimacy as champion can only be touted if she's facing competition that's on her level. As much as White and the UFC hold Mike Tyson in such high esteem for being one of the most vicious heavyweight boxers to ever lace up the gloves, he's rarely placed in the same conversation as other great big men due to the fact that the fighters he was facing at the time were rarely up to snuff to stand in the ring with him. If Rousey keeps doing what she's been doing lately, the history books may not remember her the same way other champions like Jon Jones, B.J. Penn or Chuck Liddell are regarded.
Rousey wants those kinds of accolades when she finally leaves this sport, and to get there she's going to need fighters that will push her to new limits the way Alexander Gustafsson did to Jon Jones.
"I want to retire undefeated and be known as one of the greatest of all time. That takes a lot more work than what I've done so far."
Rousey is a special kind of fighter the sport of MMA desperately needs and should celebrate for years to come. In four fights she's arguably the biggest ticket seller in the industry or at worst in the top three, and the UFC needs to covet that kind of star power the way they did Georges St-Pierre for so many years. Hitching the UFC wagon to Rousey's star is a phenomenal plan for the future, but there have to be contenders to test her mettle and a schedule that makes her fights a special occasion and a must see television event because Ronda Rousey might just be the biggest draw this sport has ever known when it's all said and done.