mma / Columns

UFC 207: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lioness

January 3, 2017 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Ronda Rousey

First off, an apology to UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes.

Amanda, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the lack of attention that was paid to you in the lead up to your UFC 207 main event against former champion and former top draw, Ronda Rousey.

It was quite impressive how, in a year that Ronda spent away from the sport in the aftermath of her UFC 193 knockout loss to Holly Holm, the fight that caused the Rousey Empire to crumble, she still remained on the tip of everyone’s tongues, from the fans to the news sites to that guy on Fox Sports 1 who knows nothing about the sport and is only commenting on it because his producer told him to.

Despite her unwillingness to talk to the MMA media, the same media who helped create and foster her legend and the same media who she felt had turned their back on her as she plummeted back to Earth, she still became the subject of countless stories and headlines, mostly surrounding the one question that everyone wanted to know about Ronda’s MMA future:

Mainly, did she even have one?

Well, it turns out she did but, after that future finally revealed itself at UFC 207 on Friday night, we’re now left wondering if it was really worth it, especially when it was so hard for many of us to see things playing out any other way than it did.

I should probably stop here to apologize to Amanda again as, in my point of mentioning how neglected she was before the fight, I’m committing the same sin as every other media source (or “media source”) by making the story after the fight all about Ronda.

I’ve become what Joe Rogan railed about on Twitter with the Ronda-centric advertising. I’m a monster…

To be fair, though, Dana White was at least honest when asked about how much the 207 advertising favored the returning former champion while failing to feature the current champion at all, saying Ronda was the one bringing in the numbers.

In a sport that relies on getting the casual viewer to take as much of an interest in the show as the hardcore fan, the way to reel them in was with Rousey since she’s the one they know, since she’s the one who put in the work to build herself up and become the superstar she’s been for the last three years.

I do believe, though, that the lack of promotion for Nunes is as much a failing of the UFC promotional machine as much as it is anything else, as the UFC has historically only been willing to support fighters willing to carry the majority of the promotional load themselves. Personalities are what sell and UFC won’t spend the dollars on fighters that don’t have one or choose not to show it so they can focus on their main job: fighting.

Seriously, Dana, isn’t that the reason you’re called a “promoter,” because you’re supposed to be promoting your fighters? Saying that Amanda didn’t need the promotion because everyone would know her after she beat Ronda is lazy and could have potential serious financial consequences, especially if Ronda doesn’t fight again and you’re left with a champion that people know for the win and not much else because you deemed her not worth that kind of attention.

Good thinking, boss. Ari must be so pleased with you right now.

I am so sorry, Amanda.

What I’m not sorry for, though, was the fight itself. As embarrassing as seeing Holly Holm kick Ronda’s head off in the second round was (for Ronda), that showdown at least started off as a fight before turning into a Three Stooges bit.

Aside from a brief attempt to clinch the champion, Ronda never seemed to be in the 48 second thrashing that was Friday night’s main event, serving as nothing more than a warm place for Amanda to keep her fists. Ronda was just a heavy bag that Amanda landed bombs on repeatedly before the referee granted The Rowdy One mercy and ended the fight.

It was a fight that was as devastating for her fans as it was thrilling and exciting and slightly cathartic for everyone else.

It was a fight that felt good for those of us who knew it was a sham from the start, for those who recognized that Ronda wasn’t coming back because she wanted to but because she felt she had to because she was never going to have peace in her life again when she was constantly being bombarded by questions about her next fight even though she clearly was showing no interest in wanting to fight again.

It was hardly a unique point to make, but one of the comments that was made in the lead up to the fight came from former champion and UFC analyst Miesha Tate saying that if Ronda really wanted to fight, she would have returned already. She wouldn’t have waited over a year to come back and that is absolutely true.

I mean, Conor McGregor lost to Nate Diaz at UFC 196 and was immediately back in the gym preparing to exact revenge. Both Holm and Tate, the women who benefitted from Rousey’s fall before suffering their own setbacks, dusted themselves off and got back in the cage again as soon as they could.

Ronda? She couldn’t be bothered to even talk about fighting again until the end of the year was looming and UFC was desperate for a big main event for their New Year’s show.

Because, for all her faults, Ronda has always been loyal to the UFC and has always been willing to help them out. Of course, she did it this time with the condition that she wouldn’t have to talk to a single MMA media outlet before the fight, another indication she did not want to be here.

I can understand that she felt bitter towards the MMA media for “turning on her” after UFC 193 but that’s such a childish complaint to have. The media’s job is not to be friends with or baby the athletes they cover for a living (or at least they’re not supposed to…).

Also, if her point against talking to the media was the negative tone the narrative took after her first professional loss, what made her think it would be any more positive and supportive this time around if she was completely unwilling to participate in that narrative so she could try and control it?

At least after the Holm loss we could run with the explanation that she’s a developing fighter and it was the first time she had faced an elite striker.

We can’t play that same song this time. Ronda knew exactly what she was getting into, facing a Muay Thai specialist who may not be as technical as Holly but is a lot more vicious and powerful. Amanda Nunes is one of the few women in MMA with knockout power in her hands and the confidence to know that, as soon as one of her punches lands, she’s going to win the fight and do so in brutal fashion.

Ronda knew what she was getting herself into. She may not have known until last July that Amanda was going to be the one to beat but she still spent a year away from the Octagon, a time that could have been spent working on her striking and learning how to take a punch.

She could have spent the time away working with a new coach, learning to become a more complete fighter and getting back the confidence and competitive spirit that made her such a force to be reckoned with.

Instead, she spent the time making movies and doing high profile media appearances and doing everything other than preparing for a dangerous woman who had been fantasizing about taking Ronda’s head off for years and was going to be ready to do just that.

And she did do just that. And the story is no longer about when Ronda is going to fight again. It’s about why did she come back to fight again in the first place.

The story is no longer whether Ronda should continue her MMA career. It’s about what she plans to do now that her MMA career is over, since there’s no way she’s going to attempt another comeback after that decimation.

The saddest thing about all of it, though, is the fact that Amanda Nunes headlined two of the biggest UFC events of the year, knocking off two of the biggest names in women’s MMA to become champion and stay champion, and we’re still neglecting to give her the attention she deserves. The story is still about everyone other than her.

I’m sorry, Amanda. Maybe 2017 is the year that finally changes and you get the recognition you deserve.

Or maybe it’s the year Cris Cyborg finally makes the cut to 135. All I know is UFC will do little to help her out since, by beating Ronda, we should know who Amanda is now, right?

So, how about that Paige VanZant?

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.