By Zach Arnold | February 18, 2013
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.