January 6, 2017

UFC 207: The Recent Ronda Rousey Revisionism Is Wrong

By Adam Martin

It's become very trendy lately to criticize Ronda Rousey, and in some ways, it's deserved. After all, the former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion refused to do media interviews ahead of her UFC 207 title fight against champion Amanda Nunes. That came 13 months after Rousey was knocked out by Holly Holm at UFC 193 and disappeared from the face of the earth. In between she started dating Travis Browne, who had been accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife (Browne was later cleared by UFC's private investigators, for what it's worth). There were a lot of reasons to start rooting against her. So she shouldn't be immune to criticism, especially as this is someone who used to taunt her opponents, like Miesha Tate, who Rousey refused to shake hands with following her win at UFC 168.

At the same time though, some of these criticisms just don't make sense.

The most trendy criticism of Rousey, which has become popular among the talking heads at outlets such as FOX and ESPN, is that Rousey's career was a falsely-created myth, that she was built up by the media as this unbeatable superstar, and that her whole career was a sham. Many of them are saying she was never good, that she got lucky, and that timing for her was good, as she was the best women's bantamweight at a time when the rest of the division was still developing. She was taking advantage of weak competition, and now that the competition has caught up to her -- and in the case of Holm and Nunes, eclipsed her -- she's proven to be a phony.

Everyone saying things like this are absolutely clueless and have no idea what they're talking about. Here are the facts: Rousey was an Olympian in judo and her ground skills translated well to MMA, where she went 12-0 in her first 12 fights, finishing all of her opponents along the way, including fighters such as Tate, Liz Carmouche, Sara McMann, Alexis Davis, Sarah Kaufman, and Cat Zingano. Rousey not only was beating the best women's bantamweights in the world, these fights weren't even close. Yes, it's true the hype got out of control after she knocked out Bethe Correia and some clowns wondered if she could go to boxing and fight Floyd Mayweather (seriously, what a joke) but the fact remains she did look unstoppable and was clearly the best women's bantamweight on the planet. Not to mention she was one of the biggest stars the UFC ever created, and the fighter solely responsible for the explosion of women's MMA in the UFC. (Although those overlooking the impact of Gina Carano in Elite XC are wrong.) To say Rousey was a fake is to state a complete and utter lie, because for four years, Rousey was the best fighter in her weight class, and that's impressive.

It's true that for whatever reason her career came to a screeching halt when Holm knocked her out. Maybe she focused too much on her standup and neglected her ground game, her bread-and-butter, especially after the KO of Correia. Maybe she started to believe her own hype too much. Maybe getting involved in Hollywood and making movies while at the height of her career was a mistake. Maybe she just stopped evolving and the other fighters just got good. Or maybe Holm was just a bad matchup for her and that loss was entirely responsible for her downfall. Maybe she's mentally fragile and losing once crushed her forever. Maybe it's a combination of all of these things. We don't know, but after losing back-to-back fights to Holm and Nunes, getting brutally knocked out both times, it's clear she is no longer the fighter she once was and is on a severe downswing.

But that shouldn't mean we should ignore what she did before her last two fights, and pretend she was never the best women's bantamweight on the planet. The fact of the matter is, at her peak, Rousey was a dominant champion and she made her fights look easy. Looking back now after her losses and saying she was always overrated, always a myth, and that she was never good, it's a smack in the face to all the other women she fought, and to Rousey herself, who worked hard to get to where she was. It's a joke, and it's not right.

Rousey should not be immune to criticism. She should be criticized for refusing to do media. She should be criticized for her terrible performances in her last two fights. She should be criticized for sticking with her coach Edmond Tarverdyan. She should be criticized for not evolving as a mixed martial artist. But she should never be forgotten as the best 135-pound women's fighter in the world, a title she held for four years. You can never take it away from her, so don't bother trying to change the history books. It's amazing so many are trying to.

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