clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fightweets: Ronda Rousey, record crowds, and mounting pressure

Esther Lin photo

Are you sitting around this weekend, lamenting the fact your Halloween features little in the way of MMA?

Well, fret not, because our next schedule glut is just around the corner. November sweeps feature a UFC event every weekend, Bellator's next tentpole event, and a World Series of Fighting one-man tournament, among other events.

So enjoy your free time now while you can. And in the meantime, time for another edition of Fightweets.

Trouble in paradise?

@hunt5588 if Ronda fails to set the all time attendance record next month will it affect any future stadium show plans?

I picked this out of all this week's Ronda Rousey-related questions because to me, this best encapsulates just how big the Rousey phenomenon has become. We're still just two-and-a-half years removed from Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche in the first women's fight in UFC history, when all manner of anonymous trolls crawled out from under their rocks to proclaim women will never make it in MMA. The bar's been raised all the way from where we were at UFC 157 to floating the notion Rousey needs to set an all-time UFC attendance mark or else be considered a failure (which, admittedly, isn't exactly the question the question posed here, but you know you've heard that line as much as I have).

The leadup to UFC 190 was all about Rousey's grudge with Bethe Correia, which caught the general public's imagination like few MMA fights ever have. This time around, with a week left before Rousey's bantamweight title defense against Holly Holm at UFC 193, the chatter seems to much more about Rousey's ability to cope with the trappings of superstardom than the fight itself.

The past several weeks have seen all the classic signs of the cracks in the armor which appear whenever someone reaches a certain level of crossover celebrity: The loud protestations from Rousey's mother about the company she's keeping. Rousey hanging up on a conference call when she got a valid question she didn't like. Making comments about wanting to disappear from everything. If you actively court a certain level of celebrity, one which goes way, way outside the MMA bubble, these are the trappings that come with it, the tradeoff for all the fame and money.

Will this have any effect on whether or not UFC 193 in Melbourne breaks UFC 129's attendance record? That's hard to gauge from halfway around the world. All signs are that ticket sales have been strong, but there's little concrete to back it up at the moment. We'll just have to wait and see.

Oh, and as for your original question: I think it will be a case-by-case basis. You have to have the right situation with the right fighter in the right location to make a stadium show work. UFC 129, featuring Georges St-Pierre against Jake Shields in the first UFC event in Ontario, came a couple years after Dana White publicly second-guessed himself for not holding the first Montreal event in 2008 at Olympic Stadium instead of Bell Centre. If Conor McGregor beats Jose Aldo, yeah, he can probably headline Croke Park in Dublin, regardless how Rousey does in Australia. And who knows? Maybe one day the starts will align and we'll get that mythical Dallas outdoor card. But they're all individual cases.

Bellator's tape delay

@clyderansom: With Bellator ratings down, any chance they stop tape delay on West Coast? Appears to really hurt viewership.

I didn't realize just how annoying Bellator's West Coast tape delay situation was until last year, when I moved into a place which could only get cable and not DirecTV, after having satellite service for several years. DirecTV carries Spike TV's East Coast feed. Cable doesn't.

As frustrating as it is for West Coast fight fans, though, Viacom's explanation is pretty simple: More people out West watch the tape-delayed fights on a Friday night in prime time than would watch at 6 p.m., when people are still commuting home. The theory is similar to Olympic events on network television being shown in prime time on tape delay.

As much as it sucks for you and I, think for a moment about the way TV types will do anything and everything to gain even the slightest little edge in the ratings books. If going live on the West Coast would increase ratings over the current arrangement, they would have done it yesterday.

Since we're talking Bellator rankings, here's another thought: The shelf life of mismatches involving established Bellator fighters is reaching its expiration date. Showcase fights do serve a purpose, especially in a company like Bellator which is still retooling its identity. But you can only have your stars fight (dated pro wrestling reference alert) Baron Mikel Scicluna and The Unpredictable Johnny Rodz for so long before fans need to see competitive fights. So, time to wean off the one-sided fights for Michael Page, Michael Chandler, Paul Daley, Josh Thomson and the rest, start putting them in competitive bouts, and see how the ratings go from there. Then again, maybe that's the whole point of the upcoming Bellator 145, which features a pair of title fights and a noticeable absence of Kimbos.

Paige VanZant vs. Rose Namajunas

@RotoHack: Thoughts on Paige-Rose fight announcement?

I kinda love this fight. A like it a lot more than the original UFC Fight Night 80 main event of Paige vs. Joanne Calderwood. The idea's out there that the UFC is protecting PVZ, but this is a solid step up in competition without throwing VanZant to the wolves (or the Jedrjezczyks). Rose, like PVZ, is a high-upside fighter who is still very much a raw talent. Given the stylistic matchup here, the real possibility for an exciting fight which raises the profiles of both the winner and the loser, to me, outweighs the risks of derailing the PVZ hype train.

A NAC for nonsense

@hunt5588: In your opinion, did public outcry over Diaz lead to a lesser punishment for Palhares?

At this stage of the game, it seems like the Nevada Athletic Commission should simply install a a Price is Right-type wheel in their Las Vegas hearing room and have the fighters give it a spin to determine their suspension length. That would seem to make as much sense as their all-over-the-map decision making in recent months.

The latest NAC paddywack, of course, is Rousimar Palhares getting a two-year suspension for holding on to his leglock in his infamous WSOF 22 bout against Jake Shields. Which came after the NAC's infamous five-year suspension of Nick Diaz over weed. Which came after more or less giving Diaz's opponent at UFC 183, Anderson Silva, a slap on the wrist for egregious PED violations.

(One thing that didn't happen? No one on the board was held accountable for The Notorious M.A.Z. getting assigned to officiate the Palhares-Shields bout in the first place. But hey ...).

If we can look at Palhares' situation as an entity separate from the rest of the NAC's funhouse-mirror decisions, I think two years is about right. Lifetime bans are pretty harsh. Palhares clearly deserves to be punished. But he's also 35. He'll be 37 before he can apply to be reinstated. This should send the signal, once and for all, with his competitive window rapidly closing, that he needs to get his act together. If getting dropped by the UFC was strike one and the two-year suspension strike two, then if he still can't get it right at this point, the next infraction is strike three.

Of course, by so disproportionately punishing Diaz for a minor transgression they couldn't even prove, NAC set themselves up for exactly this sort of scenario: Palhares looks like someone getting off scot-free in comparison for something far more serious. This is the bed the NAC made, now they're going to have to lay in it. Hopefully the fact NAC is undergoing settlement talks with Diaz means they now privately understand they have to get their own act together, even though they'll never admit it in public.

Don't be scared, homie

@ArtoH: Looks like Nick Diaz could return in 2016. If so, who should he face? GSP?

I'm going to start with GSP's next opponent, actually. Since it sounds like GSP is itching to return, but also like he's looking more toward interesting challenges on a case-by-case basis than another run at the welterweight championship, I want to see GSP vs. Anderson Silva. I mean, why the hell not? Yes, obviously, this fight isn't anywhere near what it would have been in 2010, but you know what? Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva also came several years too late, and it still turned out to be one of the most fun fights I've covered in nearly a decade doing this.

As for Diaz ... I can't lie. Part of my brain still really wants to see the Diaz-Robbie Lawler rematch I've wanted to see since 2004. I know this would be the most blatant case of the UFC making a money fight over giving a title fight to a contender who has earned it, even compared to the already high bar they're set in this department. But sometimes things are so wrong that they're right.

Got a question for a future edition of Fightweets? Go to my Twitter page and leave me a tweet.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting