UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey caused quite the stir on Sunday evening, making an in-ring appearance alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson at Wrestlemania 31. Rousey, a professed pro wrestling fan, has been ringside at several WWE events in the past. However, her actual involvement in an in-ring storyline caught the attention of both social media and traditional news outlets.
After the event, Rousey even hinted at future projects with WWE, as she tweeted: “The night: Historic. The moment: Electric. The Rock, Ronda & the WWE Universe: Magic. We’re just gettin’ started…”
Ronda’s Wrestlemania appearance was just the latest example of the champ’s ability/desire to expand her brand.
After movie roles in the Expendables and Fast & The Furious franchises (and the upcoming Entourage film), Rousey’s exposure has never been higher. That has been one of the luxuries of being untouchable inside the Octagon.
None of the other fighters in the UFC’s 135 pound women’s division are within shouting distance of Rousey’s skills. Ronda is five years ahead of the entire weight class, as is evidenced by the fact that her last three title defenses have lasted a combined 96 seconds.
Cat Zingano, believed by most to possess the skills necessary to (at the very least) give Rousey a challenging fight, lasted only 14 seconds with the champ; tied for the fastest submission in UFC history.
Rousey is smart enough to know that Mike Tyson-like effect of her dominating victories is sure to wear thin with viewers.
Fight fans, particularly casual ones, will eventually see Rousey’s dominance as having less to do with her superior skills, and more to do with the inferiority of the talent in women’s fighting. These same fans will, sooner or later, resist the temptation to fork over $60 for a fight that lasts less time than the fighter introductions.
So, Rousey continues to break down doors. Talk show appearances, movie roles, awards shows, magazine shoots, and potentially, even a foray into pro wrestling are all in the cards for Ronda. The 135 pound talent gap allows Rousey a modicum of freedom that the other fighters cannot afford. While the rest of the division must train day-and-night just to pull the betting odds below 20:1 (her next opponent, Bethe Correia currently sits at 15:1), Ronda can already lay the foundation for her life after fighting.
And, maybe that’s where her biggest/best challenges actually lie.
After all, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon did last 5 and ½ minutes in a ring with Ronda before getting locked in Rousey’s dreaded armbar.