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« | Home | »

How the general sports media sees Ronda Rousey as UFC’s version of Danica Patrick

By Zach Arnold | February 18, 2013

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On December 17th, 2012, I wrote the following article: Dana White’s no-lose bet with Ronda Rousey as UFC main eventer in Anaheim. If you recall around the time, Ronda Rousey was making waves with her comments about sex & testosterone. It was cheap bait for the likes of TMZ to capitalize on and it made her a search engine sensation. My article at the time said that the Anaheim event on 2/23 would do fine because there will be a flood of media coverage the likes which we’ve never seen for a UFC event. And if the experiment fails, Dana White can turn around and say, “Hey, see, I was right, women’s MMA doesn’t have a market in the States.”

Over the last two months, there has been an unprecedented media barrage over Ronda Rousey as a sex symbol and being the first UFC women’s champion. It’s the kind of media coverage that you often saw in Japan during the PRIDE boom but it’s not something that UFC fans are accustomed to seeing necessarily for fighters. Yes, Georges St. Pierre and Carlos Condit had a high-profile ad campaign on TNT and elsewhere, but nothing can match the sheer volume of material being produced by general sports writers on Rousey’s upcoming match against Liz Carmouche.

Dave Meltzer comments over the weekend that the reason the media has been so willing to push Rousey in articles is because it’s good for their bottom line, too. He said this even while claiming that UFC will be fortunate (and successful) if they get 300,000 PPV buys for the show.

Rousey did a live interview shot at 2:30 PM EST on Sportscenter with anchor Jay Crawford. Before the interview, Crawford gave away the media viewpoint on Rousey by segueing from Danica Patrick’s NASCAR pole finish (first) over the weekend.

Then it hit me. We’re witnessing Rousey go the Danica Patrick route in terms of appealing to the masses and low-information MMA fans. The kind of soap opera we’re seeing with Danica Patrick is what we’re seeing now with Rousey. The difference, of course, is that Rousey is far more accomplished in her sport than Danica is in her sport. However, it’s the same playbook. Ronda talks sex symbolism and sex before fights and testosterone… and Danica Patrick spends years and years doing endless Go Daddy sexploitation commercials that the Darren Rovells and Michelle Beadles of the world applaud for because, hey, you can’t take yourself too seriously and you need that crossover marketing going on.

I will be fascinated to see how well Rousey’s fight draws on PPV given the absolute media saturation going on. I can’t recall a UFC fight getting so many ad barker plays on Comcast and satellite dish ad time segments as I can for this fight. At least you can’t say that UFC didn’t go all-in on Rousey and that there isn’t a complicit media to help them along with the marketing push. I would be interested to see how UFC fans compare the way Rousey is being marketed versus the way Gary Shaw marketed Gina Carano and Kimbo Slice.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 47 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

47 Responses to “How the general sports media sees Ronda Rousey as UFC’s version of Danica Patrick”

  1. Joe Broni says:

    This PPV will do 500K easy. The REAL money fight will happen when Dana offers Gina Carano enough dough to come in and challenge Rousey.

  2. Chris says:

    I think this card can do 300-350k, I think being the second PPV in a month will hurt buys.

    With that said if this card does great, lets say 400k which would be a huge success for the UFC fans will say its because of Hendo/Machida, if it bombs its on Ronda and wmma sucks and cant draw.

    Either way Ronda will get no credit and all blame from fans.

    I do agree atleast they are trying, they are pushing it and see how it does. Its not the biggest wmma fight, a Cyborg or Tate rematch would have drawn better imo. Card is solid but not fantastic.

  3. The Judge says:

    but I think you hit the nail on the head as far as the differences between the two: DP is just another racer/fighter, who gets an undeserving share of attention, because of her gender and sex appeal. RR, on the other hand, is the unquestioned leader in her sport, who gets even more exposure and appeal because of her sexuality. I don’t want the media to focus on a medium-average representative of the sport, because of his charisma and ability to run his mouth (Chael Sonnen). On the other hand, when the sport’s top competitor has those same factors going for him and gets an even bigger share of coverage as the result, even from the mainstream, (Mohammed Ali) I really don’t have a problem with it.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    It is a total disaster if Ronda loses. If she wins….

    If the PPV does good numbers, then the UFC has a decent PPV draw.

    If the PPV bombs, they will put her on FOX and draw some solid ratings from people unwilling to buy her PPV’s but still want to see her fight.

    So as long as Ronda wins, the UFC comes out okay in this situation.

    Speaking of female fighters…. The Miesha Tate fight got pulled from the Sweden card over concerns over a female fight in that market. I didn’t really think about it…. The females can’t fight in every country right now. It does slightly limit the division.

    Personally…. I have not been a big fan of the female divisions. Ronda/Tate has been the only female fight that I watched where I said to myself: “Now that looks like a high enough level of competition to at least watch.” The rest is usually not very good.

    Long long term…. If this works out, I could end up seeing the UFC with 9 Men Divisions and 3 Female Divisions. Fans like title fights and they make it easier to sell cards…

    • Kalle says:

      Speaking of Sweden the local Swedish promotions have featured female bouts without so much as a raised eyebrow from the general public for a couple of years now.

      I can understand the sentiment behind pulling the women off the show, the Swedish political climate can easily turn hostile towards the UFC, and MMA in general, and the UFC needs to step carefully to avoid provoking a backlash but they’re worrying about a non-issue and I can’t help but wonder if they’re getting horribly wrong-headed advice from somewhere.

      I’d be a lot more worried about a doping scandal to be honest. A TRT exemption story in the Swedish press would be a PR nightmare and could easily be used to pressure politicians into restricting the sport.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    And this is not comparable to Gary Shaw’s EliteXC…. Shaw took fighters and tried to find opponents they could beat.

    Zuffa is taking the Bantamweight World Champion and giving her a HUGE push.

    One thing that I have not seen talked about but is a big issue…. Dana White’s obvious working relationship with Invicta will likely keep Showtime away from them. Showtime already got burnt by Zuffa purchasing Strikeforce. I can’t see Showtime putting a female league on their network when Zuffa is potentially exchanging fighters with them.

    • nottheface says:

      They’re playing it somewhat safe for her debut – they booked here against Liz Carmouche and not Sarah McMann or Tate (who both said they’d take it) or bring in Marloes or book Cyborg at 140 lbs.

      Still not sure it wouldn’t have been better to put her on FOX at first and take advantage of all the interest the media spartks in casual fans.

      and did anyone see the NYTimes article talking about how Viacom put up $50 mil for Bellator. Coker has got to be furious with SVSE for not waiting another year.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I would be shocked if it really sold for $50 Million. They got ripped off if they actually spent that much. And whatever the real price was, I’m sure the majority of it was through stock options instead of cash. That is typically how these things work.

        Bellator’s troubles (beyond low ratings) will really start to brew once a few more of their champions contracts come up. Right now they have the lowest payroll they will ever have. It is at an optimal level. That is going to end. They will either have to pay through the nose to match the UFC’s offers (who’s contracts will likely be slightly changed to force a true match without a work-around)…. or lose the talent.

        From the article about Bellator:

        “They agree, for one thing, that Bellator has to discover its own fighters. “We don’t want to be picking up rejects from the U.F.C., because there’s a reason they’re leaving,” Mr. Kay says later. “Either they weren’t a fan favorite or they weren’t making money. You have to build your own talent up.””

        This is when you will get a real sense of Viacom’s commitment to MMA. They are not going to want to spend Millions per year to be a feeder system to the UFC. And it is going to be really hard to justify fighters making $500,000+ per fight when the shows are averaging 750,000 viewers and not bringing a substantial gate.

        • UFC Huddle says:

          “This is when you will get a real sense of Viacom’s commitment to MMA. They are not going to want to spend Millions per year to be a feeder system to the UFC. And it is going to be really hard to justify fighters making $500,000+ per fight when the shows are averaging 750,000 viewers and not bringing a substantial gate.”

          I would say the $50 million Viacom spent to buy Bellator shows their commitment.

        • UFC Huddle says:

          We really won’t know what it’s going to look like for Bellator long-term until the end of 2013. They will start airing their reality programming in the summer and cross promoting weekly shows with it much like the UFC did with TUF and UFC Unleashed. By the end of 2013 we should have 6 or 7 months of data to see what kind of results are produced all of their programming on Spike. Right now they are still in the beginning stages of building that brand to a larger audience.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          If their live events featuring their “champions” are averaging 760,000 fans…. the reality show will do even worse.

          SpikeTV planned to replay Bellator on Friday and Saturday and the ratings were so low they canned it after a week or two. One of them got below 400,000. And their “preview” shows…. one of them also got below 400,000.

          Plus the worst part of it all is that it isn’t even getting the key demographic that makes the UFC so valuable. 2 of the 5 weeks, Bellator did not break the Top 100 in that key demographic…. not for the week…. but just for the day.

          So I would say already the picture has been mostly painted. It is just a waiting game for things to continue as they are and Viacom getting bored with the UFC Replacement not working.

      • frankp316 says:

        Both McMann and Tate said they would take the fight AFTER it was booked. Tate was never offered a specific fight. Sean Shelby asked her if she wanted to fight in Feb. and she said no. No opponent was mentioned. McMann claims the fight was never offered but it was offered to her manager Monte Cox and he turned it down. Now she wants to split hairs. Obviously we now know that UFC was never going to do Cyborg at 140. White said maybe in two years. And Cyborg changed her mind about dropping to 135 several times. So she and her idiot manager are flakes. I don’t think Coenen wants to fight at 135 anymore and there is still bad blood between Zuffa and Golden Glory. McMann was who the UFC really wanted for this fight.

  6. Muscle Hamster says:

    Danica just won the pole @ Daytona!

  7. Jonathan says:

    Just like with Carano, if she loses, the walls will come tumbling down.

  8. frankp316 says:

    As a NASCAR and MMA fan, I have said for the past year that the main parallels between Ronda and Danica is both have the ability to get unprecedented mainstream media coverage which turns into casual eyeballs. The big difference is that Danica is relatively new to NASCAR. In Indycar, her only win was in Japan so no one here watched the race. Winning the Daytona 500 pole is historic but ultimately meaningless because if she wrecks in Thursday’s qualifying races, she goes to the back of the field. At least it drew attention away from her love life. Danica is in the process of divorcing her husband Paul Hespanthall. And last week all the reporters wanted to talk about was her relationship with fellow competitor Ricky Stenhouse Jr. They are competing for NASCAR Rookie Of The Year. So though Danica is a mainstream media darling, she has a long way to go to be a credible driver in NASCAR. If things go as expected with Ronda, she has the potential to be the biggest star in the UFC by the end of this year. Could Ronda lose? Anything is possible. But will she lose? If you look at her potential competition objectively, probably not. Liz Carmouche is saying the same things today that Sarah Kaufman said last summer. And we all know how that fight turned out.

  9. Steve4192 says:

    Zach,

    I am SHOCKED we haven’t seen your take on Dana’s change of heart regarding TRT. I figured you would be all over that story.

    As far as Rousey goes, I think the UFC is making a mistake putting her on PPV. They would be better served featuring her on a more demographically diverse FOX show. I suppose they wanted to get a read on whether she has any potential as a PPV draw, but it seems like a lost opportunity to me. Ronda is a perfect fit for network shows.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      Go back through the archives and you’ll see what Dana’s spouting on TRT isn’t anything new.

      Which is kind of the lost point on everyone here — Lorenzo wants the PR benefit of coming across as anti-testosterone and yet they continue to push fighters in main event slots on shows who are using testosterone.

      If they were serious about the issue, they would simply stop booking the users. But they’re not going to do that, so any anti-testosterone stance they take is lip service designed purely to get people off their back.

      • RST says:

        “If they were serious about the issue, they would simply stop booking the users.”

        Thats been itching the back of my mind

        But you spelled it out before I found the words

        (Thats why you’re the boss)

  10. 45 Huddle says:

    According to Loretta Hunt…. Bellator and Alvarez are trying to work out a deal. Not sure if it means they release him for a payoff or they increase his money so he doesn’t go to court.

    Dana White has blatantly given his hand away in the media about this one. He either wants to sign Eddie Alvarez or have Bellator pay what he would be making in the UFC.

    Either steal the talent or increase the competitions payroll…. This has been the UFC’s Standard Operating Procedure for basically every competitor in the past.

    • RST says:

      I’d say let Alverez go if he wants to go

      But then thats not the standard that danajoel have set

      • Steve4192 says:

        Huh?

        Alvarez wanted to go to the UFC. Rebney sued him to stop him from doing that. How the heck can you blame Dana for that?

        • edub says:

          He’s saying Rebney should let him go if he wants to go, but that’s not the precedent the UFC has set.

          Although, I’d argue it was set a long time before Zuffa.

  11. Michaelthebox says:

    “The difference, of course, is that Rousey is far more accomplished in her sport than Danica is in her sport.”

    Woah woah woah. What? Danica Patrick competes against men; Rousey only competes against women. Claiming that Rousey is more accomplished in her sport is fairly indefensible; she’s competing at a much lower standard of competition. If Rousey were an accomplished fighter fighting MEN, the noise in the media would be absolutely through the roof right now.

    • RST says:

      “she’s competing at a much lower standard of competition.”
      “she’s competing at a much lower standard of competition.”

      Practically hand picked

      Although I’m not sure there is really anything more to offer

      Japanese WMMA has been around for 10 years,
      and its only got 3-4 real players

      Its the randy roosy show like danajoel said

      Its just for twitter dude-bro’s

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The “competing against men” argument does not have any merit when what she does it push a petal and steer a car.

      For sports, men have a huge competitive advantage because of our body structures. That just doesn’t apply in racing.

      • Michaelthebox says:

        I’d say, at worst, racing is as athletic as golf. Probably much more so.

        You wanna point me to all those women successfully competing against male golfers?

  12. RST says:

    Except that Danica Patrick is 1000X hotter then randy roosy

  13. UFC Huddle says:

    “If their live events featuring their “champions” are averaging 760,000 fans…. the reality show will do even worse.”

    It’s a NEW brand being built stupid. You expect to hit numbers out of park right away?

  14. UFC Huddle says:

    I don’t think anyone expects Bellator to explode overnight. It’s going to be gradual build no different than the UFC was. I absolutely think over time the reality programming will increase the audience. The guys they brought in to do the show are the very best and have a track record of success in reality TV (further proof of Viacom’s commitment).

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The UFC was a ratings success from the first season on. Both in overall numbers and the desired demographic.

      Sure the UFC got more popular over time, but they did not faulter out of the gate like Bellator is doing…

      Stupid….

      • 45 Huddle says:

        And you do realize a guy like Mark Burnett…. Creator of Survivor, The Voice, Shark Tank, and others…. Just had a reality show cancelled that didn’t even last an entire year….

        A bad concept is a bad concept, no matter who they get behind it.

        This idea that just because SpikeTV is using some big named guy means success is a joke.

        Stupid…

      • Megatherium says:

        Wait a minute. Bellator’s reality show hasn’t even aired yet.

  15. 45 Huddle says:

    Now people talking up Bellator is a joke…. Want some really big news?

    Floyd Mayweather Jr signed a 6 fight deal with Showtime. He is leaving HBO.

    This is huge news.

    In terms of MMA…. I would say this might guarantee Showtime is not going back to MMA anytime soon. It makes perfect sense. Put as much of their sports budget towards one sport instead of spreading it thinner across 2 of them…

    • UFC Huddle says:

      “And you do realize a guy like Mark Burnett…. Creator of Survivor, The Voice, Shark Tank, and others…. Just had a reality show cancelled that didn’t even last an entire year….”

      That’s your concrete data that it will fail???

  16. UFC Huddle says:

    Sounds like is a personal issue for you since you have been wrong all this time.

    Meanwhile your favorite promotion is running a gimmick PPV in hopes of drawing new eyeballs.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I will stop feeding the troll….

    • Chris says:

      How is that different than Bellator using mma/wrestling gimmick with King Mo to draw new eyeballs?

      • UFC Huddle says:

        Mo was a fighter first who wanted to do pro wrestling. I think you are confusing that with what the UFC did with Brock Lesnar (taking a pro wrestler and putting him in real fights).

        • UFC Huddle says:

          I doubt Bellator would’ve signed Mo without the TNA co-promotion deal. In this instance I think they did it because they wanted his talent on their roster more than a ratings grab.

  17. [...] Zach Arnold amongst the skeptics who consider Rousey an MMA novelty act ala Kimbo Slice or Gina [...]

  18. 45 Huddle says:

    Holy Sh!t…. Anybody see the list of fighters released by the UFC??

    Jon Fitch, Jacob Volkmann, Vladimir Matyushenko, Terry Etim, & Paul Sass are the big ones that are in the wow to shocking realm….

    Some of it is to make room for the Strikeforce fighters.

    Some of it is to cut boring fighters who aren’t draws and who aren’t going to be making a title run in their future.

    And I think some of it is to goat Bellator into signing a few of these guys to increase their payroll… Personally, I don’t see Bellator biting. They have said many times that they don’t want to get UFC castoffs…. But some of these guys would be hard to say no to. Especially guys like Volkmann, Fitch, Sass, & Etim.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I should add….

      Jon Fitch might be a fighter pay issue. He is making over $100,000 per win…. doesn’t draw a single seat…. And is 1-2-1 in his last four fights. Happens in big sports all of the time. Sometimes guys higher contracts get in the way of who they are able to play for.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        From MMA Junkie:

        “Sources close to the UFC told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) the UFC plans to release as many as 100 fighters in 2013, a byproduct of the recent start of the women’s division as well as taking on the contracts of fighters from Strikeforce following the closing of that promotion.”

        While Fitch being cut is probably the only one that shouldn’t have happened…. I think these cuts are overall a good thing. I have said in the past that there is no room for these guys who have gotten 5 to 10 fights and it is obvious they have no future at the top tier.

        Right now the UFC has over Lightweights and Welterweights each. Do we really need anything over 50 fighters in any division? Probably not. I would rather see those spots go to the Bantamweight and Flyweight Divisions.

        Still, Fitch shouldn’t have been canned…. but he is certainly making too much for what he is currently worth…. So I can see why it happened.

        I bet he will be back for $40k/$40k within a year.

  19. RST says:

    Fitch, Prado, Russow, Volkmann, Mills, Heiron, Etim, Santiago, Grispi, Sass

    Sure these aren’t the Jon Jonesasiz of the world,
    but those are all B,B+ very capable guys

    With NAME RECOGNITION

    Thats a gift horse in the mouth for Bellator IMO

    • 45 Huddle says:

      From the NYT article about Viacom’s stance on this subject…

      “They agree, for one thing, that Bellator has to discover its own fighters. “We don’t want to be picking up rejects from the U.F.C., because there’s a reason they’re leaving,” Mr. Kay says later. “Either they weren’t a fan favorite or they weren’t making money. You have to build your own talent up.””

      They can’t give Fitch an immediate title shot because he just lost his last fight (and was dominated).

      I can’t see Fitch agreeing to entering a tournament at his age. Perhaps at Middleweight so he doesn’t have to cut as much weight.

      And what if he dominates and wins their title. They look instantly like the B League.

      Plus he is used tobeing paid $135,000 per win….

      If they are going to pick up fighters that are UFC outcasts, they better make sure they have a lot of fan appeal to counteract the “B League: status that will come with them winning. A guy like Quinton Jackson comes to mind.

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