Ronda Rousey Puts Women in the UFC: It's All Business
Disclaimer right up front - people who read my technology blog for the information on small business, statistics, programming and snarky comments may not be aware that I lead a double life. I also was the world judo champion, write a judo blog, and am the mother of four daughters. The third of those four daughters is Strikeforce World Champion Ronda Rousey.
Photo courtesy of Hans Gutnknecht
So, yes, this could be chalked up as a post on, "My mom thinks I'm cool", but being a statistician with 27 years running a business, I do bring another perspective to the table. Consider this, why would Dana White, after saying he did not believe there would be women in the UFC, suddenly change his mind? Just to be a nice guy?
From the few times I've met him, Dana does seem to be a nice enough guy, but much more than that, he has a track record as a savvy businessman. Look at the numbers - the top two fights on Showtime in 2012 in TV viewership were both headlined by Ronda. With the Sunday morning replay added in, 900,000 people watched the Rousey vs. Kaufman fight. The second most-viewed fight of 2012? That was the world title fight between Ronda and Miesha Tate. Between the ticket sales and the ad revenue, Ronda has been a money maker for the Strikeforce promotion.
When I started my first consulting business in 1985, I did two things, grant-writing and statistical analysis for program renewals. Being female and Hispanic, I had two strikes against me in the job market but I knew from day one that if you bring in the money, people generally don't care if you are some undefined gender from the planet Hulu. As far as I can see, conditions are the same today, which is why Ronda was just signed by the UFC. It's all about the Benjamins. (Yes, Ronda really is half-Hispanic. We are planning an extended family re-union in the Caribbean in 2014 where I expect the most common question to be not about the UFC but, "Girl, how did you get so white?")
Why Ronda? Well, having known her since she was born - truly, literally. I can tell you a few reasons. She's pretty. Much has been made of that. Probably overly much.
Photo courtesy of Hans Gutnknecht
She's also been training since she was 11 years old, been to two Olympics and won an Olympic medal. That means she is credible as an athlete, and not a flake. As a business owner, when I bring in anyone who I'm going to rely on to make money, I want to know that they will stick around for a while and they'll provide a good image to the public.
Ronda's squeaky clean, which certainly will help the UFC case trying to get legalized in New York, which again will bring in some money. With all of the failed drug tests, arrest warrants and DUIs, it can only help to have a fighter who has been passing random drug tests since she made her first junior world team at age 15 and, directly after winning her world title, drove across several states to Boston to babysit her new niece.
It's a money thing. She'll bring in the money and you don't have to worry about your investment dropping in value when your champion suddenly gets busted for steroids or domestic violence. As a statistician, I can tell you that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and her past behavior has been pretty stellar.
Rounding back to the money again, why is Ronda a draw? Because she's fun to watch. She has a "switch". You can look at her in those photos with the baby or working out with her friend and UFC fighter, Manny Gamburyan and think,
"What a sweetheart."
Then you see her walking into the cage, and she has that look.
A young judo player from Los Angeles said to me,
"Everyone talks about being scared of Ronda. I never understood that, I guess since I've known her since I was nine. I'd say, yeah, she's tough but there's nothing to be scared about. Then, I got big enough to be in her division at the nationals, and I bowed in on the mat and looked across at her and HOLY CHRIST! I got scared. She's like a different person when she fights."
That's what Dana White saw and it's why people tune in. Ronda has a pretty face. She has a back story. She has an Olympic background. More than any of that, the girl can fight!
The objection some people raise is about the depth of the division, how many other people are out there that will be a challenge to Ronda, or who can draw as many viewers.
That's not a question about having women in the UFC. That's a question about keeping women in the UFC. Those are two different questions. If I can sign a contract with a client and make a good profit on it, I do it. I worry about continuing that contract later on.
Not that you asked me, but do I think there will be enough depth to keep bringing in the viewers? Yes. Liz Carmouche is a U.S. marine and the highest profile gay fighter. Both of those facts will draw attention, in addition to the fact that she is on a winning streak. Sara McMann, another undefeated Olympian, is a natural match-up. A re-match with Miesha Tate is possible.
Eventually, I think Cris Santos will test clean, make the weight and fight Ronda. (Puh-lease don't give me that thing about how she can't make the weight either. "Women problems"? Her doctor said it's bad for her health? You know what else is bad for your health? Steroids! I competed and made weight for 14 years so I'm not too gullible on this one.)
Let me make my prediction right now - Santos will lose.
What does Ronda think about having all of this put on her shoulders? I asked that last week as she was rushing to put together a Sailor Moon costume and head out to a UFC party in Las Vegas. She shrugged and said,
"I think it's got to happen because everything you just said makes such perfect sense."
Hey, my kid thinks I'm cool.
AnnMaria De Mars, Ph.D., President
The Julia Group