Women in the sport of MMA (mixed martial arts) has grown slowly, but now there is a consistent fan base. The UFC has promoted Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who has made an impressive series of wins defending her title in the UFC. Rousey in her first UFC fight had some trouble getting her back taken by Liz Carmouche, but eventually overwhelmed her way to an armbar victory. Her fight in a rematch with Miesha Tate was a literal slugfest, and in the first round I have to give it to Miesha, she did some homework against Ronda’s game. She escaped the armbar, defended guard, and actually got some back position against Ronda. Tate also seemed to mimic the choke Carmouche applied, although Ronda was able to escape. Ronda prevailed, but if anything it was a testing of a few positions that Miesha exploited. In Ronda’s last match against Sarah McMann, she showed an improvement in her strategy by defeating Sarah with a liver shot. Although I am not questioning the result, the referee should have let it go another 20 seconds to make sure. Ronda deserves credit. She improves each time, and is getting more seasoned. Sarah was doing well and landed some good right hands. Ironically, Ronda wrestled with Sara and tied her up on the fence. Perhaps Sarah was pacing for five rounds, but Ronda goes at 100mph, and when you are in a championship fight, you have to go the speed with the champ. I thought Sarah had a wrestling and striking strategy for Ronda, but the opposite happened. Good improvement and strategy by Ronda. So what is next for Ronda, or Women’s MMA? We have to view the bottom line–ticket sales:
UFC 170 ratings
From bloodyelbow.com, reports on the ticket sales were disappointing:
After the pre-fight press conference, White took part in a media scrum and said, “She’s (UFC 170 headliner Rousey) going to do a $2 million gate. She did $1.3 million in her last fight.” White added that, “not many” tickets remained available at that time for UFC 170.
A glance at Ticketmaster’s website on Saturday morning told a different story, as there were plenty of seats available the morning of the event:
Speaking at the post-fight scrum, a laughing White said, “When he just handed me the thing right now I said, ‘Are you f—ing kidding me, it’s 1.5 (million)?’
UFC 170 event drew an announced attendance of 10,217 and a live gate of $1,558,870.
UFC vs. Strikeforce women’s ratings
The 2009 Strikeforce Gina Carano vs. Cris Cyborg fight drew a strong attendance of 13,976, and also drew 576,000 viewers on Showtime, the highest-rated mixed martial arts program to ever air on Showtime Networks according to Showtime officials at that time. The company also generated $735,710 in sales from the attendance.
MMAJunkie reports that Strikeforce had impressive ratings when Fedor was their top draw, noting the previous ratings record was the Gina vs. Cyborg fight:
“…MMAPayout has learned that the gate for the event broke the $1 million dollar mark, last achieved by the Fedor vs Werdum event at the HP Pavilion. This is a nice trend being set by Strikeforce but it also shows how much of a draw Fedor is, having the last two million dollar gates and high attendance, and as you will read below, now owning the ratings record previously held by Gina Carano vs Cyborg Santos…which averaged 576,000 viewers (2.2 rating, note that this rating is only higher because Showtime had less subscribers 18 months ago) and peaked at 856,000 (2.91)…”
Gina was definitely a star in Strikeforce. Gina is congenial, attractive, energetic, a talented striker, and can woo an audience with her personality. Cris Cyborg is too, although Gina had a head start on her. Gina was the top female draw in MMA. Cyborg appealed to the audience in a different way. Ronda polarizes the MMA fans in a different way as well. So let’s look at the top three in Women’s MMA, and look at a possible future for matchups. Gina was appealing, and her million dollar smile caught the fans. After her 2009 loss to Cyborg, Gina went into Hollywood, and had a starring role. Rumor mill on bleacherrport stated Gina may be fighting Ronda in June 2014:
MMA journalist Dave Meltzer echoed Rogan’s comments in the Wrestling Observer (h/t BloodyElbow.coms biggest stars, as the two potential opponents:
“…Rousey has two potential opponents, both of which would draw huge for different reasons. The first is Gina Carano. Carano hasn’t fought in four-and-a-half years. There would be hell to pay in criticism for UFC if they were to make that fight, if Carano would even have interest in it. But it would draw far more, perhaps nearly double, of what anyone else available would do, and would easily be the biggest woman’s combat sports fight of modern times. There’s also a chance it would be a first round armbar and all the criticism coming in would be the same going out. But this is the kind of thinking out of the box that put UFC on the PPV map in 2006. The other is Cris Cyborg Justino which is a whole different round of criticism…”
If Gina fought again, her striking is good, she would need to work on her takedowns and grappling techniques, along with sweeps. If she fought Ronda, preventing and countering the armbar would be secondary. If this was 2009, her striking would be the game against Ronda. In my opinion, I think Gina is happy, and successful with her Hollywood career. After a four year layoff, I don’t see Gina jumping out of movies and potentially larger paychecks to go to the UFC. Not at this time anyway. Who else?
Alexis is 15-5 in competition, and just won a split decision over Jessica Eye on the undercard of the Rousey vs. Sarah UFC. Alexis is promising, but would have to wait for a title shot after Cat Zingano. Her boxing is good, and she can hold her own on the ground. In her fight with Sarah Kaufman, she gave and took some damage as Kaufman has good boxing too. Alexis does use the leg shot a little more than the others.
Zingano earned the shot with a TKO win against Miesha Tate in April, but a subsequent knee injury forced her into surgery. Then in January, her husband and coach, Mauricio Zingano, was found dead of an apparent suicide. Cat plans to fight, and may very well be Ronda’s next opponent, but the UFC wants PPV orders. More marketing for Cat will be needed. She has talent, and certainly the knee recovery due to a torn ACL will be monitored. Remember the UFC wants fans and PPV orders, not just match ups. Cat did have some grappling problems with Miesha Tate in a slugfest she won. She is the no. 1 competitor in women’s Bantamweight, and already has a following.
Zingano also stressed her desire to also fight Cris on Inside MMA on AXS TV:
“The thing is, I’m here to fight. Obviously I want to beat the best, and I want to beat everybody. But when it comes down to it, I want to fight ‘Cyborg.’ I want to fight everyone there is in that weight division. It’s about the fight. It’s not about who – it’s about getting out there and doing what I love. I think a fight between me and ‘Cyborg’ would be fun. I think a fight between me and Ronda would be fun.”
Miesha first met Ronda in Strikeforce, losing her title to Ronda. The rematch in the UFC was a good fight, and Ronda’s toughest one yet. Miesha had guts, and her intestinal fortitude is what carried her through round three. She had opportunities as I mentioned above. Is there a chance for a third fight with Ronda? I doubt it. Unless Miesha can come back and run over Cat (who she also lost to) and Alexis, the UFC may not give her another chance. Miesha is one of those great athletes that you have to give your heart out to. She came to fight, and she gave a show. Don’t count Miesha out though. Like Gina, Miesha has a personality that attracts the fans. What does Miesha think about Ronda, Gina and Cyborg?
Tate appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour and said she wasn’t sure Carano was a a good match-up for Rousey:
“I think that would be a lot for Gina to take on, having a five-year layoff, I don’t know, I think the fans would really get a kick out of it, so I understand the entertainment value. The fan in me would be a little curious to see it, but I don’t know if it would be a fair match-up, just because she’s been out of the loop for so long. And to even make 135 again, we’re talking about questionable. She struggled to make 145, who’s going to say five years later she’s going to want to fight Ronda Rousey at 135. It’s a little far-fetched.”
Tate also suggested a Ronda vs. Cyborg fight:
“Everyone wants to see that fight,” she said. “I think that Cyborg has proven time and time again that she is one of the baddest women on the planet. If she can be the Invicta FC champion at 135, I think she’s done enough. I think that it’s definitely a fair match-up, and I think everybody, including myself, would absolutely love to see it.”
Tate vs. Cat was one of the best Women’s MMA fights. Tate is scheduled April 19 to fight with Liz Carmouche at UFC on FOX 11.
Gina, Alexis, Cat and Miesha. Who else? Well, lets be realistic. The one fight every UFC fan will want to see mentioned by Dave Meltzer above is definitely Cris Cyborg.
Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino
Cris ‘Cyborg’ literally ran through every opponent with the exception of her one loss (by kneebar), although she was not as experienced as she is now. After stopping Gina in Strikeforce, Cris then won three more fights, defeating Marloes Coenen by TKO, Jan Finney by TKO, destroyed Hiroko Yamanaka by TKO. And this is where things fell apart. Cyborg ended up testing positive for banned substances:
The California State Athletic Commission suspended and fined Santos:
“..Santos’ December 16, 2011 drug test came back positive for stanozolol metabolites. CSAC learned of the test results December 23, 2011 and suspended Santos’s license, with the suspension applied retroactively to December 16, 2011. In accordance with Rule 368, the result of her last fight between Hiroko Yamanaka will be changed to a “No Decision”…”
Since then, Cyborg has cleaned up her act, passed tests and won two more fights. However, this cloud of the drug test is controversial to say the least. People will question the Gina fight, and others. What does Ronda say about Cyborg? Rousey explained to Joe Ferraro in an interview with Sportsnet:
“I mean, she’s obviously not willing to go through the effort to go for the fight, if you’re pumped full of steroids and the lightest you can get it 145 it’s obvious the lightest you can get without steroids is lighter. She refuses to do that and it’s just – I don’t know where this sense of entitlement comes from. She hasn’t had a recorded win in over three years; I mean there’s so many other women. I’m not – we’re not going to make exceptions and create divisions for someone who was a fraud and defamed the sport.”
“She almost destroyed women’s MMA,” Rousey said. “I mean think about it, the entire sport stagnated under her and she cared more about having an unfair advantage and winning fights then she did about the sport itself and it suffered under her.
“We don’t owe her anything. If she wants the only title that matters she needs to go in the only division that the UFC has. We’re not making exceptions for cheaters. She was exposed as a fraud and she needs to be the one to make the changes to clear her name.”
Foxsports supports a Ronda vs. Cyborg match:
“The UFC must book Rousey against Cris Cyborg before the end of 2014. It’s the only thing that makes sense. If the UFC is truly committed to women’s MMA, it absolutely has to put together the two best female fighters in the world.”
Cyborg responds to challenge Ronda
Cyborg released a statement to AXS TV’s Inside MMA in February and intends to capture the Invicta FC bantamweight championship and then challenge Rousey with the intent of defeating her twice before leaving the division.
Here is the main points on Cyborg’s statement:
“In reference to Ronda’s statement that I am looking for a payday so that I can retire, you’re right, I am looking for a payday to retire you like I did Gina Carano. But to show it’s not only about money, I challenge you to a fight – winner takes all. Or better yet let’s fight for FREE. ANYTIME! ANYWHERE! Ask your daddy Dana to make it happen. …first to win the Invicta belt, the second time to kick your ass and the third time to kick your ass again so that the world can see it wasn’t luck. You can even have me tested every week up to the fight. That way you will not have an excuse after I kick your ass.”
According to a March 6 post from FOX Sports, Cris “Cyborg” Santos is hoping Gina Carano returns to MMA for the simple reason that it would be good for women’s MMA as a whole:
“Cyborg” had nothing but kind things to say about Carano, a woman she defeated in 2009 in what is still considered to be the biggest women’s MMA fight of all-time.
Santos doesn’t seem interested in a rematch with Carano, but she would like to see her return to the fold at some point, perhaps even against UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey.
” I’m not selfish, I think she’s very good and she’s got good Muay Thai and she has a lot of fans follow her. She’s good for women’s MMA. I want her to come back. It’s good for all of those that like to watch her.”
She says she has great respect for Carano, but not for Rousey. Santos doesn’t appear to be a fan of Rousey’s brashness.
“She never stops talking about me,” Cyborg stated about Rousey. “I said that and I respect Gina (Carano), Gina’s a very nice girl, a very respectful girl, she’s a very good fighter but (Ronda) spoke a lot of stuff about me. I love fighting, if I fight her I will keep fighting, I’m not a fake fighter, and if I fight her maybe she’ll stop fighting and not want to fight anymore. I know one thing I have inside my heart, I’m a true fighter. If I fight her, I don’t know, maybe she won’t fight anymore.”
How does this happen? First, the UFC needs to bite, and I think they are interested. They don’t want to let Cyborg jump in, but at the same time, they know they have a potential million dollar viewers. Gina, Cyborg and Ronda are the three biggest names in women’s MMA. Gina vs. Ronda would be a good draw, Ronda vs. Cyborg would be even better, as those two are already stirring up disdain for each other. Another point I think that is vital, is Cyborg needs to address the drug test issue to reassure the fans. Cris stated on a facebook post, that it was an issue with a supplement:
“My only mistake is not verifying the diet aid with my doctor beforehand, and understanding that it was not approved for use in the ring. Unfortunately in the end I suffer the consequences and must accept the responsibility for my actions.
I will do everything I can to show my fans that I can still compete at the professional level without the use of any prohibited substances, and ask God’s forgiveness for my mistake.”
Cris needs to keep all testing public, and to redeem herself. She seems like a good person. Fans would like to see she and Rowsey fight. She stated earlier an apology, but when Dana White made a remark about testing on Yahoo, she jumped on to use his argument against him. Cyborg” vents to Evelyn Rodrigues (via Combate):
“..And, finally, fought three times since, and was tested in two of the last three fights. Can test me today, tomorrow or whenever they want. I’m with a clear conscience. I cannot be judged for the rest of my life for a mistake I made two years ago. I do not want to remember my whole career by the only mistake I made.”
I think that is fair. And as long as Cris is clean, keeps winning and cuts to 135, she has a good chance. The drug suspension was two years ago. Remember in the UFC Josh Barnett, Chael Sonnon, Tim Sylvia, Ken Shamrock and Sean Sherk all tested positive for steroids. Chael was even given a later light heavyweight title fight with Jon Jones and of course a rematch with Anderson Silva. If the UFC gives fighters a second chance and title fights despite failed tests, surely they can give Cyborg a chance, as long as she stays with the rules. Ronda has been an athlete, she has been drug tested and has kept her part as champion and a person who entertains the crowd. She trains, studies, and comes to put on a show. All the credit to Ronda, and Cris can open the doors, and renewing her fan’s trust like she has for the last two years.
Absorb and think,
Professor William Vandry
P.S. Godspeed to Women in MMA!