It’s to the point that even Ronda Rousey’s sneezes come teeming with subtext and moral judgments, at least in the eyes of the gawking public. She took a firm stance against skinny jeans a couple of weeks ago in a Maxim column and a whole swath of hipsters no longer thought of themselves as Giacometti’s muse. In that same piece, when she renounced the aid of lube in the bedroom, it was as if she renounced children, or Santa Claus, or John Hughes. Suddenly a subset of lube enthusiasts — activists? Revolutionaries? "Gritty kitty bitches?" — came flowing from the woodwork to let her know just how insensitive and wrong she is.
In other words, the Rousey hysteria has achieved a whole new level when her every thought takes on philosophical gravity for strangers. How did this happen? Because she bashed a few women to smithereens in a cage? It took her only something like three minutes of cage time to trump the masterworks of Schopenhauer outside of it. In this way, she is already ahead of Mike Tyson, who was the lazy man’s comparison of yesterday.
No, she is the fight game’s most scrutinized personality — and she’s on the verge of becoming one of sport’s biggest stars. Ever. And for the record, this is where all that greatness ends up — under a microscope, with one big eye flicking back and forth in search of life’s answers.
If it’s not her mom’s distaste for her coach, it’s her coach’s distaste for paying bills. Even her love life, which as a pop culture icon becomes the fodder of tabloids, is being sifted for hypocrisy. Columns are coming out now connecting the dots…from the Floyd Mayweather comments at the ESPYs (brilliant)…to the dating of That Dude Who Prompts Phone Calls To End (hmm)…to admitting to beating up a boyfriend in her own book, My Fight/Your Fight, which is brimming with anecdotes (still puzzling over the line where she says that beet borscht tastes like "angel bathwater," but in a good way — in a fantastic way).
It’s hard not to get carried away with everybody getting carried away. It was already like this heading into Rousey’s last title defense with Bethe Correia, back when Ronda uttered she wasn’t a "Do Nothing Bitch," a concept that galvanized a million DNB’s into action. The mania is only getting more out of hand. The thing that’s interesting as Rousey fights tonight in Melbourne as the single greatest woman in all of sports is that her position isn’t all that enviable, at least not to a quiet would-be successor like Holly Holm. Not in the full sense of what her station is.
In fact, it’s a nightmare.
Imagine the world Holm inherits should she go against all our foregone conclusions and beat Rousey? Wouldn’t that be opening up the gates of hell? Holm, who is soft-spoken, reserved person who happens to be a fighter, has never been in such a spotlight. She lives in Albuquerque, away from the hectic life of cover shoots and movies and 24/7 media surveillance. For her to trade places with Rousey — even for the time it takes to book a rematch — might be more than she could ever want. Or handle.
All it takes is Rousey to blow out a knee — or, you know, for Holm to actually beat her — for this to become a reality.
These are things to think about.
Then again, Buster Douglas didn’t exactly trade spots with Tyson back in the day. He beat him and stopped the music was all. He sobered everyone up by bringing a deity down to earth, reminding us that nobody is invincible. It was a reminder people didn’t necessarily want. He stopped the damn music is what he did, kicked the needle right off the record. All the pandemonium that was Mike Tyson, all the mystique, all the fear and fawning, all the fascination, all the magnitude of event — gone just like that with the flipping on of the lights.
Douglas just ruined things.
This is the conundrum that is being presented to Holm. Rousey is the reason Holm has a platform, and she’s the reason for Holm’s big pay day, and she’s the reason that the UFC is in Melbourne trying to break an attendance record. Rousey is the reason there’s national media writing think pieces and longforms and tabloid crap that extends to the niche sport itself, her master domain, which the civilized public still frets over. If it weren’t for her, there would be no Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the co-main, no such thing as Valerie Letourneau, no Rose or Paige next month.
She’s the floodgate. Through Ronda Rousey, everything became again possible, right at a moment when the sport needed a breakthrough star. She is the party in the UFC. She broke ground. She's not only first but she's one of a kind. Her success is critical.
And if you’re Holly Holm, it’s a hell of a thing to be tasked with: To win the fight is to stop the music. To cut off the best bedlam this sport has never known, and render Rousey’s words and actions less meaningful just by doing your job. That's a crazy ass set-up.
Then again, when you're dealing in this kind of gravity, best to let the cards fall where the may.