There has been a sneaking suspicion that The Ultimate Fighter season 18 has been a heavyweight PR vehicle for Miesha Tate, who has harnessed a growing legion of supporters as Ronda Rousey continues to stamp her feet and storm out of rooms.
Rousey’s bandwagon buckled when EA SPORTS revealed Tate received more votes than her in their head-to-head matchup. Would this have happened prior to TUF being aired? No.
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But you know what, the swing vote in MMA is a large one. And it depends on Octagon action, not reality television series tantrums.
Look at Jon Jones. He gets a strange rap from the UFC fan base. Jones told me not long after he became light heavyweight champion how he applies the "10-80-10 rule", and never departs from it.
His theory is this: 10 percent of fans will hate him no matter what; another 10 percent will follow him devotedly even if he went on a lay-and-pray streak and sent a series of arenas into slumber. The remaining 80 percent, he reckons, swim with the tide. Pretty wise theory.
And I’ll wager it holds true. Ever recall a fighter being booed into the Octagon, and then cheered out of it, or cheered as they come back and rescue a victory from the throes of defeat?
Those Coliseum moments which draw us all in, when a baying crowd turns, and the heel leaves as hero, are legion in MMA.
In many ways, that fan response, the antidote to xenophobia, shows why the aficionados of MMA are actually very special.
You wouldn’t get it in boxing, NFL or soccer, where tribal mores are stretched beyond reality into blind faith.
Thumbs up, thumps down is a 180-degree movement which can be done in a second.
There has been something a little abhorrent seeing Ronda in people’s faces week after week through 11 episodes of TUF. Though, on a personal level, Ronda getting into the face of Dennis Hallman was a standout moment for me. Rousey has no fear. And certainly not of any man.
There is the argument that Tate was able to act her way through the series and utilize it as a powerful PR vehicle.
The difference is that Tate has shown a propensity to play to the camera, aware of them being there. Rousey couldn’t give a damn whether the cameras are there or not.
Ask Mrs. Rousey: "Ronda holds a grudge to extreme. Thatâs good for her as a competitor, because she is highly motivated by spite. Miesha would be wise to never fight Ronda. Because Ronda holds a grudge, and once her mind is made up, she won’t change." And there lies the rub.
In late December, that cage door will slam shut. Rousey will then show the proverbial finger when winning a vote will not mean a thing.
Then, in Ronda’s words, it will be "Team Real/Mean" versus "Team Fake/Nice" and I don’t need to spell out what "Rowdy" is getting at . . .
Regardless of whether Ronda Rousey gets booed into the Octagon, watch who gets the thumbs up from the fight. And there — indeed — will be the real vote.
Fighting, and being champion, is about winning. It’s not a popularity contest.