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Bryan Caraway believes The Ultimate Fighter 'exposed' Ronda Rousey, causing her to lose fans

Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

It could all be wild conjecture, but there is a sense among some in the mixed martial arts community that season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter, coached by rivals Miesha Tate and UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, changed things.

What those 'things' are isn't star power, which is highly correlated with exposure. It's also not necessarily the general agreement Rousey deserves to be the favorite in their rematch at UFC 18 next month. No one's popularity or position has diminished or shifted.

Instead, many would argue there's been some shift (how much is entirely debatable) in the likability of Tate and Rousey. Tate, once regarded as a jealous and less successful villain, is no longer viewed as such, at least not by as many UFC fans. Rousey, the outspoken champion who could do no wrong, isn't having everything she does or says applauded by everyone anymore.

In fact, a recent fan voting contest to determine who would share the cover with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones on the upcoming UFC EA Sports video game saw Tate advance past the champion, something almost unthinkable a year ago.

The question, then, is did the show cause Tate to gain fans or did Rousey lose them or both?

"I absolutely do," Bryan Caraway, the boyfriend and coach of Tate, told Ariel Helwani on Monday's MMA Hour when asked if he believed Rousey lost fans due to the show. "I think the world's getting a little bit of balance back. The UFC P.R. machine is incredibly strong. Ronda was the all-American blonde girl, Olympian, medalist, and was beating everybody in the first round so they said, ‘This is gold, we're going to take her and mold her into whatever we want her to be.'

"As far as her personality," Caraway continued, "she has the credentials and physical appearance to market well. The UFC did a great job on that and I think The Ultimate Fighter shed just a little bit of light on the type of person that she really is."

If Caraway is right - and that's a big if - what happened? The UFC bantamweight argues Rousey exhibited belligerence, questionable attitude, sensitivity and poor sportsmanship, things he says he and Tate knew existed, but fans had yet to witness. Once the viewing public got a chance to view that behavior for themselves, Caraway claims, things began to change.

"I do think that it exposed her and I think the balance has shifted a little bit and Miesha's gained a lot more fan following base," Caraway contended.

Still, he doesn't think everything has shifted. No matter what else may happen, he is quick to acknowledge Rousey is the more popular fighter with a much greater fan following.

"I definitely don't think Miesha is the fan favorite," Caraway conceded. "Ronda still has 350,000 [Twitter] followers, or whatever it is, and there are a lot of people who don't follow the sport that close enough that they just see 'Oh, she's an Olympian!' and 'Oh, she's a cute girl that's a world champion.' They just see the little list of credentials and accomplishments that she's done and they think, 'Oh, this girl's done so much and she's amazing!', but they don't know anything about her personally.

Yet, Caraway also believes Tate turned something of a corner. Rousey may still be the fan favorite generally, Caraway admits, but the show's coverage has been hugely positive for Tate. More than that, Caraway believes women's MMA in the UFC isn't so one-sided towards Rousey. As he sees it, the universe is just a little more even.

"On a personal level, I definitely think for the fans that follow MMA," Caraway said. "It definitely brought a little balance to women's MMA and gained followers for Miesha."

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