Viewpoint: Broadening Appeal

By Tristen Critchfield Apr 28, 2014
The UFC is attempting to maximize Ronda Rousey’s star power. | Photo: Dave Mandel/

Despite plenty of realistic opponents -- both under Ultimate Fighting Championship contract and otherwise -- looming on the horizon for UFC women’s bantamweight titleholder Ronda Rousey, one name has kept popping up in recent weeks, much to the chagrin of the combat sports purist.

No matter how ridiculous the idea of Rousey squaring off with boxing great Floyd Mayweather might be -- and make no mistake, it stretches the boundaries of reasonable discourse even in the anything-goes Embrace Debate era -- that has not prevented the hypothetical bout from becoming a hot topic of discussion among various sports talk pundits. Whether that means seriously debating who would win between the two champions or simply professing utter disdain for those who give the notion any passing thought, it appears the Rousey-Mayweather talk has gained plenty of momentum since the armbar queen playfully described how she would go about defeating the pound-for-pound boxing king in an MMA bout.

“I wouldn’t even stand up. I wouldn’t even be anywhere near him. I would just do like a little army crawl over there, and he would have to run away,” Rousey said during an appearance on the Los Angeles-based Power 106 FM in February. “I would just be skittering after him like the one dude in Bloodsport that was doing the whole monkey crawl fight system. I would do that. I would just bear crawl over there too low for him to hit me, and I’d tackle him down. I spend a lot of time [on the ground], and I doubt that he does.”

In fairness, Rousey did not broach the topic herself. She was asked a question, and she answered it -- and in a playful fashion at that. MMA-versus-boxing might be something of a rivalry in the minds of each respective sport’s loyalists, but Rousey did not appear to be trying to add fuel to that fire. Of course, the topic has escalated since then. Most recently, UFC President Dana White stated in no uncertain terms that Rousey would hurt Mayweather in an MMA bout. He was not smiling.

“I agree with [UFC commentator Joe Rogan]. She’d definitely beat him,” White said during an appearance on ESPN’s “Highly Questionable” with Dan Le Batard and Bomani Jones. “She’d beat him, and she’d hurt him bad. Have you ever seen Floyd Mayweather? He’s tiny. Trust me, there’d be no problem. I’ve seen her throw bigger men than Floyd Mayweather and hurt them bad. She’d hurt him.”

And just how long would it take for Rousey to do her usual dirty work?

“Not long. It’d be over very quick. As soon as she put her hands on him, it’d be over,” White said. “That’s what makes her such a special individual. There’s never been a woman in combat sports like her. She would take the fight, too. She would do it in a heartbeat.”

White has touted Rousey as the biggest star in the history of the promotion, so it is not surprising that he is firmly behind his fighter. Keeping the debate alive allows Rousey’s name to drift into circles beyond the usual passionate MMA fan base.

Mayweather, meanwhile, is the biggest draw in combat sports today -- period. There is nothing to gain from him adding his two cents to the matter. To hear anything but crickets from the “Money” camp on this issue would be foolish, especially considering Mayweather’s track record with domestic violence. Mayweather has greater concerns in his immediate future, namely a Saturday clash with hard-hitting Argentine Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas. Rousey also has a fight scheduled -- against Alexis Davis in July -- but apparently that is not worth talking about. Instead, everyone from Rogan to White to Jon Jones to Anthony Pettis has weighed in on the hypothetical Rousey-Mayweather matchup.

In the end, the UFC has nothing to lose by indulging the talking head universe with delusion of fantasy matchmaking grandeur. As long as people are talking about Rousey, there is hope that she can surpass the Chuck Liddells and George St. Pierres of the world to actually become MMA’s biggest star somewhere down the line. If that requires some unwitting aid from the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world today, then so be it. It does not matter who you think would win, if you are outraged by the indignity of it all or if you are one of the sadistic few that hopes such a pairing actually has legs.

What matters is that people are talking. There is a large gap to bridge between MMA’s so-called biggest star and boxing’s No. 1. Hate it or love it, this is one way of attempting to narrow that divide.


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