UFC’s Ronda Rousey was knocked out in 48 seconds by Amanda Nunes in a failed attempt to reclaim the bantamweight title at UFC 207. Rousey was paid three million dollars for the fight, showing how large of a draw she was for being merely a contender to the belt. It is interesting to dissect the details behind her appeal as a professional athlete, seeing as how she has dropped her last two fights.
The obvious points to Rousey’s dominance at the bantamweight division over a slew of bouts, knocking multiple opponents out under a minute. It seemed that Ronda Rousey was the future of MMA and the catalyst to an increasingly popular women’s division in the sport. Her downfall has been as fast as her rise, provoking questions of how skilled she really was or how much the UFC demographic just fell in love with an attractive champion.
The hypothetical bout between Floyd Mayweather and Rousey was even bandied about. Such a nonsensical event would have created plenty of attention and money, which is the main driver behind most productions, but the actuality of this match would have most likely been painful to watch. Given Rousey’s recent results, hindsight allows us to see how ridiculous such a thing would be.
While we watched Ronda Rousey destroy opponents over and over, there was something infatuating about her as a rising star. She is a beautiful athlete excelling at the top of her profession. The MMA demographic is largely male bringing about a consolidated sensibility to how the sport is viewed. Rousey’s celebrity isn’t merely about her skill, but also her looks. It is important to point out that these things don’t need to be mutually exclusive. The package itself contains a lot of variables.
The thought of beauty playing a part in UFC celebrity isn’t specific to Ronda Rousey. Gina Carano burst on the scene as an MMA fighter and turned into a Hollywood celebrity, most notably for her role as Angel Dust in 2016’s Deadpool. Attractiveness and success in the UFC can clearly lead to a meteoric rise.
The thread of sexism in society is not just encased in the American social structure. It is a worldwide problem that has been prevalent as far back as we can remember. In more recent times, there have been extremely public events that shine the light on men’s propensity to objectify women. New Year’s Eve of 2015 saw hundreds of women groped in Koln, Germany. The 2012 gang rape in Delhi also made international news. These are obviously very specific and extreme instances of the struggle women face, but it is very infrequent that men go through anything similar. For a wider perspective, one out of six women in the United States suffer through attempted or completed rape.
It is no coincidence that the popularity of women in MMA surged when attractive women started to dominate the league. Those who follow the UFC may easily rattle off names outside Rousey, Carano, Holm, or Tate, but to even the casual viewer most others in the division don’t even register. Androcentrism has created a society in which objectifying women is not only acceptable, but ingrained into our very being from the moment we are socialized into our respective communities.
Amanda Nunes may well go on to be a star. Much of this text is conjecture; however, the past has provided ample evidence that it takes a mainstream white beauty like Rousey or Carano to truly drive the women’s division of the UFC. This is not a take on Nunes’ physical appearance but more of what the general public gravitates towards. If Nunes can get over the hump in terms of popularity, it can be discussed whether she is transcendent as an athlete or if society has shifted from its unfavorable views towards women.
[Featured Image by John Locher/AP Images]