Ronda Rousey's meteoric rise in popularity is fueled by her biggest weapon: personality (Yahoo! Sports)


  • Share on Tumblr
  • submit to reddit

A year ago, Ronda Rousey was a largely anonymous ex-Olympic bronze medalist who was trying to find her way as a professional in mixed martial arts.

As the 2012 London Games open, though, Rousey's profile has shot higher than that of all but a very elite cadre of athletes inside the Olympic Village.

Since winning the Strikeforce bantamweight title in March with a stunning display against Miesha Tate, Rousey has rocketed to stardom.

She appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue." She testified before the New York legislature for the legalization of MMA in the state and then appeared before the California state assembly to testify against an MMA bill.

She is blunt in interviews and says what others think but wouldn't dare to say. She garnered major attention when she trashed Olympic hero Michael Phelps as arrogant, as well as when she urged the 2012 athletes not to forget to pack condoms.

She also didn't hide her disdain for pseudo-celebrity Kim Kardashian.

"You know what? I would beat the crap out of Kim Kardashian, actually," Rousey told the Times. "I don't want some girl whose entire fame is based on [appearing in] a sex video to be selling Skechers to my 13-year-old little sister."

[Related: Ronda Rousey calls out Michael Phelps for behavior at Beijing Olympics]

On the other end of the celebrity meter, Rousey ran Carmen Electra through a workout, worked a corner in a UFC fight and along the way became a more recognizable figure in MMA than just about anyone this side of Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Georges St. Pierre.

The secret formula which has made Rousey a pop culture icon in such a brief period of time is partly due to her good looks, partly due to her tremendous athletic ability, but most of all due to her very large personality.

She defends her title for the first time Aug. 18 against the estimable former champion Sarah Kaufman at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego in the main event of a Showtime-televised card in what essentially will play out as all Ronda, all the time.

Showtime cameras have been trailing Rousey and the network plans to feature her in an All-Access show on Aug. 8. Though Kaufman's resume is elite and she's beaten a who's who of the best female fighters in the world, attention figures to be split about 99-1 in Rousey's favor.

That may irritate a few who are angered that Rousey's presence overshadows everything else in women's MMA, but it also misses a significant point: The attention paid to Rousey can only help create and increase interest in the sport. As President Kennedy said in 1963, "A rising tide lifts all boats."

Rousey insists that all she's doing is being herself. She's attracting a lot of attention because of her ability – she's 5-0, with five first-round finishes, four of which were in less than a minute – and because of her quick wit. She's always good for a great sound byte.

[Related: Fan's take: Was training session with Carmen Electra a good idea?]

That shouldn't be construed, however, as Rousey forgetting why she became famous in the first place. She understands that she won't be the so-called "It Girl" for too long if she doesn't keep up her part in the cage.

As a result, she's done what she's asked to do and, wisely, taken advantage of opportunities presented to her to increase her exposure and build her personal brand. What she hasn't done, she swears, is cut corners athletically.

"I still have a lot more work to do and I have had a lot of different kind of media opportunities come up," Rousey said. "I keep the same group of people around me when I'm home. I try not to think about everything that's happened, though. It's not like I wake up in the morning and say, 'Good morning, world. I'm a star!' That just doesn't happen.

"I am just trying to do the best I can with what I have and take advantage of the opportunities to come my way. If I do a good job, more opportunities will come up. But in no way am I sitting around thinking I'm so awesome and that my job is done. I have so much more I want to do and so much I want to accomplish."

The biggest name athletes make the bulk of their money outside of competition. Tennis star Roger Federer makes $54.3 million, according to Forbes, but the bulk of it is not prize money but rather in endorsements and sponsorships.

Rousey's omnipresence has to appeal to sponsors, so she dutifully fulfills as many requests as she can.

It's had a side effect that might benefit her as a fighter, though her record would show she hardly needs the boost. And having won a championship in just her fifth fight added to her belief in herself.

"I have so much confidence from having had all these experiences," Rousey said. "It doesn't affect me in the cage the way it would somebody who wasn't used to it. I don't get tired as quickly. I'm able to keep a more level head, those kinds of things.

"Being comfortable in that environment is something you can't teach. You have to go through it and because of what I've been through, my comfort level has been increasing every day."

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Jason Cole: Peyton Manning makes rockstar Broncos debut but his arm remains mystery
Jeff Passan: Cole Hamels' $144 million deal is the type he'd never give a player
Marc J. Spears: Ten NBA games you won't want to miss next season

view original article >>

Related News

  • 29 days ago
  • 32 views

From Yahoo Sports: She may be the UFC's biggest star, but there is one area where the women's bantamweight champ doesn't stack up. read news >>

  • 26 days ago
  • 32 views

From Yahoo Sports: Ronda Rousey made quick work of Alexis Davis while Chris Weidman had his hands full with Lyoto Machida. read news >>

  • 25 days ago
  • 29 views

From Yahoo Sports: Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino might be the only fighter capable of giving Ronda Rousey a challenge. read news >>

  • 29 days ago
  • 32 views

UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, being a former Olympian, says most drug infraction penalties resemble an unpaid vacation more than punishment and should be much more severe. read news >>

  • 29 days ago
  • 37 views

Ronda Rousey is the biggest star in the known universe. This may not be the most truthful statement ever written. But it feels that way, here in one of the many rooms that make up the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Rousey, clad in a gray Marilyn Monroe shirt, black leather jacket, designer Chuck Taylors and a gold Octagon necklace, is holding court on a small stage constructed specifically for her. To Rousey’s left is UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. He is discussing his title defense again read news >>

  • 27 days ago
  • 30 views

Not only is Ronda Rousey the biggest star in women's MMA, but it can also be argued that she is the biggest star in MMA as a whole. With that in mind, a victory over Alexis Davis at UFC 175 is paramount in terms of continuing the growth of her division. Rousey is a perfect 9-0, and she will put the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship on the line Saturday night. Rousey is a heavy favorite due largely to her devastating armbar, but Davis poses an interesting challenge with her jiu-jitsu backgrou read news >>

  • 27 days ago
  • 17 views

Ronda Rousey is set to defend her UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship for the fourth time since joining UFC. The opponent is Alexis Davis, who's won five straight fights but hasn't received much attention leading up to the marquee bout. The general consensus is that Davis doesn't serve as much of a threat to the undefeated reigning champion. The oddsmakers agree, as they have installed the challenger as a major underdog (+800 via Odds Shark) ahead of UFC 175. If nothing else, the lack of respe read news >>

  • 26 days ago
  • 21 views

Ronda Rousey, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's biggest star, sent her fame soaring to unprecedented heights with a 16-second knockout win over Alexis Davis at UFC 175. It wasn't just the speed, though there was plenty of that. It was Rousey's efficiency, the way she effortlessly transitioned from striking to grappling. The champion stormed out of the gate with strikes; she caught one punch to the face during the first exchange. From there, everything happened far too quickly for Davis to com read news >>

  • 24 days ago
  • 42 views

Bloodyelbow.com’s Karim Zidan analyzes Dana White’s comments regarding women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey and her status as a “game changer” for women in sports, and argues that this shows a significant lack of knowledge of women's involvement in professional sports. Since emerging on the MMA scene in 2011, few have been able to deny Ronda Rousey's astounding achievements. In less than three years as a professional, she has broken through the ceiling on women's MMA and has spearheaded their read news >>