MMA Commentary

How Ronda Rousey Talked Her Way Into a Title Fight and Left Sarah Kaufman Behind

Ronda Rousey

Rousey fights Miesha Tate for Strikeforce belt, but Kaufman should be next

I don’t want to take anything away from “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. I think she’s a fantastic judoka, an excellent mixed martial artist, and a hell of a personality for women’s MMA.

All that said, I don’t think she deserves the title shot against Miesha Tate. At least not quite yet.

Here’s the good news for Rousey: What I think makes very little difference in the world of MMA. Rousey is now officially set to take on Tate for the Strikeforce women’s 135-pound title March 3. I’m sure it’s going to be a great, highly contested bout and one that should, ultimately, be a very good thing for women’s MMA.

The question, however, that flashed across many MMA fans’ minds when Strikeforce officially announced the Rousey-Tate matchup was, “What happened to Sarah Kaufman?”

The former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion seemed to be (to just about everyone) the next in line for a shot at Tate’s hardware. That is, until Ronda Rousey started talking. And talking. And talking.

All that talking Rousey did eventually paid off by building up the fight with Tate so much that Strikeforce had little choice but to make it a reality for March. Regardless of whether or not Rousey deserves the shot now or if Kaufman was supposed to be next in line, Rousey vs. Tate is the fight fans want to see. From their bitter Twitter war about the role of attractiveness in women’s MMA to their spirited debate on MMA Fighting’s MMA Hour show, the two have made it nearly impossible for fight fans to ignore their verbal sparring.

Even I admit to wanting to see Rousey and Tate square off more than I would have anticipated the Kaufman-Tate fight. I think it will actually be a more exciting fight, and one that could go either way. That still doesn’t mean I think it’s fair.

Only four fights into her mixed martial arts career, Rousey has been more than impressive while rattling off four consecutive first-round submission wins, all by armbar, and snapping featherweight contender Julia Budd’s arm along the way. Not to mention, she has an insanely impressive judo background, including a bronze medal for the United States from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. She’s obviously a very tough opponent for Tate, or for anyone in women’s MMA for that matter.

What’s troubling about the whole situation, though, is that Rousey has never even fought at 135 pounds. She’s had all of her wins at 145 pounds, and no one even knows if she can actually make 135. I’m sure cutting 10 additional pounds for a title fight is no easy task, and even tougher if you’re a female.

As the MMA world just saw this past weekend with Anthony Johnson, cutting weight is a very serious issue that can dismantle even the best of event intentions. Do I ultimately think Rousey will make the weight? Yes, I do. She’s a professional and I don’t think she’d have taken the fight if she couldn’t make it. Plus, she’s been talking about moving down to 135 for ages, and most of the women fighters in the world might be thinking the same thing with Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos now on the shelf – she was practically the only fighter keeping the 145-pound division alive – for the next year.

No matter how it all plays out, I think the biggest loser in this whole scenario is Kaufman. She’s a hell of a fighter who, in my opinion, rightfully earned the title shot at Tate that she’s now been ousted from in favor of the rising star.

She’ll learn some painful lessons in this, though. She’ll learn that she has to open her mouth and become as much of a personality as some of the other female fighters. Gina Carano, Rousey and Tate didn’t get as popular as they are based on their fighting skill and looks alone – they know how to market themselves really well in an MMA world dominated by men and male fans. She’ll learn that it certainly doesn’t hurt to play up your feminine qualities, even if that shouldn’t be the criteria for getting ahead in the sport. And, come March 3 in Columbus, Ohio, after Rousey and Tate are done with what could be a very explosive scrap, she’ll learn who’s waist is holding the bantamweight belt – and very likely who her next opponent will be.

And it’ll be about damned time.

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