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The social media reaction to Ronda Rousey’s loss at UFC 207 last a few weeks ago came so feverishly, I’m surprised there wasn’t seismic activity from the number of people pounding on their keyboards.
As soon as Amanda Nunes stopped Rousey in the first round, practically melting her face with repeated blows, wrestling fans wondered what this meant for Rousey’s future with WWE?
First, though, would this be the last time she fights in the UFC?
If pressed for an answer, I think this fight was the last time we’ll see Rousey fight in the UFC. She looked defeated, even more so than she did after her loss to Holly Holm. She was empty, a shell of her former self.
That doesn’t mean she has no drawing value to WWE, but there’s only one way for her to make an entrance that makes sense.
Ronda Rousey has to be a heel.
In reality, she’s been a heel for a long time.
Assuming both parties are interested in doing business together, her back-to-back losses aren’t going to cripple her drawing power for WWE. When Brock Lesnar was making his WWE return in 2012, he was coming off back-to-back losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem, and in the fight prior to those, Shane Carwin nearly knocked him out in the first round before Lesnar came back in the second. Rousey looked more dominant in her short time at the top than Lesnar ever did in the UFC, and Lesnar was a beast.
Lesnar came back to WWE as a heel and, throughout his MMA career, he was also portrayed that way. I’m not sure that “portray” is even the right word. In many ways, Lesnar is just a heel. He’s rough around the edges, he doesn’t like the media, and he doesn’t care. He’s not a natural when it comes to PR. You don’t like him? Too bad.
Rousey is the same person in a lot of ways. To most MMA fans, Rousey has been a pampered princess. She did no media ahead of UFC 207 and skipped out on the post-fight cage interview and press conference, instead releasing a statement through her PR firm, just like a slimy heel looking to run away from her problems.
Fact is, she probably couldn’t talk right away. She was likely receiving some medical attention. But plenty of fighters have received some medical attention and made it to the press conference. She wasn’t there because she didn’t want to be. She didn’t want to face everyone. She ran away, like a heel would do.
There was even a rumor late last week that she was going to skip the ceremonial afternoon weigh-in, which only exists so the fans can get a glimpse of the fighters before they get locked in the cage, before ultimately deciding to attend.
What’s the message there? She doesn’t care about the fans, and she doesn’t care what they think about it.
Rousey’s self-confidence is admirable, but most fans took her mean-mugging as arrogance.
For Rousey to draw in new fans to WWE – presumably, MMA fans – she has to be portrayed as a heel. Wrestling fans who aren’t familiar with MMA will accept Rousey no matter what role she fills on television, but to draw in the MMA fan that has rallied against Rousey for more than a year, WWE has to give them the right to hate her.
Of course, there are several what-if scenarios. Will Rousey be okay with being portrayed as a heel? If her idol is Roddy Piper, she shouldn’t have a problem with it. But if she wants to be a role model for young women, teaching them to fight for themselves, there might be some reluctance.
The problem with Rousey is I think she’s tone-deaf to her public perception. That’s because she has surrounded herself with the wrong people, including her coach, Edmon Taverdyan. But I’m not sure that Rousey has enough self-awareness.
Releasing a statement through her PR firm? She didn’t expect that to get some heat?
Secondly, will Rousey’s movie career take off before WWE can even get a jump on using her? That’s possible, too.
Despite her loss, the time to strike for WWE is now.
Lesnar made his WWE debut only four months after his last UFC loss. If WWE were to speed up some booking and get Rousey involved for WrestleMania 33, the timetable would be about the same. I don’t think that will happen – I’m sure Rousey is going to go into seclusion for the next several months before selling an interview to the highest bidder.
If she needs time off to heal and make a movie, then by the time we get to WrestleMania 34, she’ll be more than one year removed from the end of her MMA career. In an social media era where everyone wants instant gratification, one year is a lifetime. Any stench from her loss last Friday would be long gone, especially if presented the right way by WWE with vignettes showing her dominance.
There are ways for WWE to make big money with Ronda Rousey. Heck, there are still ways for UFC to make big money with Rousey. The parallels between Rousey and Lesnar are there. Lesnar was exposed by his diverticulitis; some would argue he was exposed as a fighter before that. And Rousey was exposed as a fighter as well. Her lack of striking and defense got the better of her after the division finally caught up with her.
WWE offered Lesnar a place to work and make big money on a part-time schedule. WWE could offer Rousey the same.
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