Call me crazy, but I’m starting to think maybe Ronda Rousey’s longtime coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, doesn’t have her best interests at heart.
What could make me even entertain such a thought, you ask? How about his comments on Monday’s edition of “The MMA Hour” in which he opined that Rousey (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) had at least one big fight left in her – against UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg.
If that sounds like a terrible idea to you, congratulations, you have a working brain. Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) would be a bad style match-up for Rousey under the best of circumstances, which these are not.
Rousey hasn’t fought since her 48-second TKO loss to Amanda Nunes last December. She looked stiff and awkward in that fight, like someone who’d been more focused on future career opportunities than present ones. She got beat up badly and then disappeared into the world of acting, reality TV and WWE cameos, all three of which typically afford even fewer chances to do serious MMA training.
Cyborg, meanwhile, has only gotten scarier. She’s bigger and stronger than Rousey. She’s a much better striker. She’s more composed and experienced inside the cage. If she has any glaring weaknesses, whether on the mat or elsewhere, we’ve yet to see them.
Unless Tarverdyan is planning to sleep a sedative into Cyborg’s water bottle, it’s unclear how Rousey could conceivably beat her, especially now. So why would he say such a thing? I have a few theories.
The coach’s financial troubles are well documented. He doesn’t have a vast stable of fighters to replace the income he’ll likely lose out on if Rousey abandons MMA for good. If she’s fighting and he’s coaching her, he gets paid. If she’s glowering at pro wrestlers and battling network stars, he doesn’t. Rousey vs. Cyborg would be a monster fight on pay-per-view, so maybe (just maybe) Tarverdyan is thinking more about his own bank account than his fighter’s health.
These days are two types of Edmond Tarverdyan stories in MMA media: those having something to do with Rousey and those having something to do with one of his screw-ups. He’d probably rather not re-litigate his bankruptcy case or talk about his bizarre in-cage spat with Fabricio Werdum if he doesn’t have to, so why not spout some nonsense about Rousey and let the internet take it from there? And look, it’s worked. Here we are, talking about him, albeit maybe not how he’d like us to.
I don’t know if this is the least plausible or just the most troubling possibility. There are very few good reasons for Rousey to even consider a fight with Cyborg right now. She has paying work outside of MMA, at least for the moment, and easier potential opponents inside it in the event she did want to fight again. And, just to be clear, there are no serious indications Rousey does want to fight. She had one foot out the door even before the Nunes fight. If she were to come back after an extended hiatus, she could probably make almost as much money fighting a fellow celebrity and former MMA star like Gina Carano, who’d be much less likely to punch a deep hole in her face.
Like the poet says, “there is game without talons.” Hopefully there are other people in Rousey’s inner circle with sense enough to realize it. And hopefully Rousey herself is capable of seeing that her coach might be looking out more for himself than for her.
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