Ronda Rousey and the Effect of an Unbiased Media

Ronda Rousey’s media absence may be due to the fact that she can no longer control the majority of what is published about her.

Ronda Rousey will attempt to reclaim the women’s bantamweight title this Friday at UFC 207. Rousey instituted a media blackout shortly after her staredown with Nunes. And Nunes has not done much press for the event herself (perhaps to even the amount of preparation between her and Rousey). There’s a Rousey promo that gets aired every now and then but there’s nothing out there for Nunes. There will be no fight week interviews or even an open workout appearance.

However, Rousey’s recent actions may provide some clarity on the real reason behind the media blackout. Rousey appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show on November 1 and Conan O’Brien on December 7. Both interviews were used to catch up with the casual audience and do some light promoting for the fight. And ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne released an article on December 15.

What all three have in common is that they’re all controlled environments. Yes, even the interview with a member of ESPN’s writing staff was very controlled and had a specific motive. If you look at Shelburne’s past work concerning Rousey, you’d swear she was her publicist.

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The biggest problem with Shelburne’s most recent Ronda Rousey promotion piece is the lack of accuracy when talking about how much time she had to train for the title defense against Holm.

“The change in schedule meant Rousey and Tarverdyan had just 44 days for camp. It meant no cabin. But Rousey still said yes because saying no felt like admitting she couldn’t do it.”

Her fight with Holm was originally scheduled for UFC 195 and was announced on August 21, 2015. Then it was rescheduled for UFC 193 on August 28, 2015. This gave Rousey about 11 weeks to prepare for her title defense, which was set for November 15, 2015.

A writer uses their words to frame a narrative. And trying to make it sound like Rousey only had 44 days to prepare for a fight is insulting the fans. Now if things outside of fighting only allowed her to train for 44 days, that’s still her fault. She’s a fighter first and celebrity second. If she doesn’t excel at fighting, those other opportunities dry up.

Another example Rousey’s media control came up back in February of this year. Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated sat down with several members of the MMA media and talked about several issues. Luke Thomas posted one of the questions that was asked and his answer on his Facebook page.

Richard Deitsch: Who do you consider the media-unfriendly athletes in your sport and why?

Luke Thomas: Ronda Rousey might be an unlikely choice, but she comes to mind. In fairness to her, she still fulfills an enormous amount of media obligations both in and out of camp. She should frankly be commended for that, but she applies a different standard of what she’ll tolerate in terms of questions when dealing with indigenous MMA media. The dedicated MMA fan base thinks as highly of Rousey as the rest of the wider world, but traditional sports outlets talk about her as if it’s real-time hagiography. They pick up on none of her contradictions, problematic statements or other areas of curiosity. She’s under no obligation to speak to MMA media or answer our queries, but if all you know about Rousey is from what you read from non-native MMA outlets, there’s a case to be made you’re getting a manicured version of reality.

It’s quite evident that Rousey’s main problem with the MMA media is that they treat her like everyone else. She’s no longer special due to losing the title. No one’s holding their tongue out of fear of losing access anymore. One might even say she’s afraid of her own vulnerability. WME became professionally invested in several MMA fighters prior to purchasing the UFC. So allowing her to be as comfortable as possible makes sense in the short term. But it doesn’t address the long-term ramifications of the most high profile fighter on the roster too scared to talk to the media.

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