By Raphael Garcia
The conversation as to whether mixed martial arts has reached mainstream status has all but ended with the emergence of athletes such as Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. As more and more people within the media talk about MMA and its stars, there’s a clear emergence of uninformed voices adding their ignorant commentary to the conversation. Even US President-elect Donald Trump is weighing in, taking shots at Rousey for her defeat at UFC 207 by the hands of Amanda Nunes.
The UFC 207 main event affirmed what many people already knew; Ronda Rousey has a massive issue with her striking. Holly Holm let the world know at UFC 193 and Nunes added her stamp before the close of 2016. In the 12 bouts prior to her recent losses, Rousey’s striking was used to fit her strategy: close the distance, engage the clinch, get the fight to the floor, and finish via armbar. Twelve women were unable to stop that process before Holm and Nunes reminded the world how important styles, strategy, and skill are to a successful venture in mixed martial arts.
However, Rousey’s defeat started a dangerous round of commentary throughout some venues of the sports media. Terms such as “overrated” and “media creation” were used to define Rousey in denigrating fashion. But those that have covered Rousey since her professional debut back in 2011 know this is far from the case. Not only do these terms damage Rousey’s legacy, but they also damage the legacies of the women she’s faced in combat. Painting her successes and failures with such a broad brush attacks the legitimacy of not only Rousey and her peers, but those that come after her.
It goes without saying that Rousey was given a level of coverage that helped create this situation. In one instance UFC commentator Joe Rogan called Rousey a “once in a lifetime athlete.” While Rousey’s performances were spectacular, that’s a massive term used for such athletes as Billie Jean King and Jackie Robinson – trailblazers in another sense. Rousey’s media blackout before UFC 207 created a void that allowed major outlets like ESPN to create glowing pieces about Rousey without putting her in position to answer the hard questions – further exacerbating the problem. With UFC 207 now over, the void that was filled with effusive praise is now being filled with individuals like Shannon Sharpe calling Rousey overrated – a statement that anyone in the know would not respect in any fashion.
Ronda Rousey is a special athlete. If UFC 207 is her last time stepping into the cage, she deserves a Hall of Fame spot for her contributions to the sport. The women on the UFC roster “owe” her for driving the UFC to include them at the table. She may not be liked for some of her personality traits, but she’s certainly not overrated. As with many great athletes; Rousey’s legacy isn’t black and white – more of a shade of gray.