This morning, TMZ.com reported that current Strikeforce Champion Ronda Rousey has signed an agreement to fight for the UFC, making her the first woman to agree to do so. The report states that she will defend her soon-to-be-newly-branded UFC championship in early 2013, but did not specify an opponent.
This is significant for the obvious reason that Rousey will be the first woman to compete in the UFC, despite UFC President Dana White’s former statements that a woman would never do so. Reportedly, White’s stance always revolved around the fact that there was not enough depth in the womens’ divisions in order to justify creating such divisions within the UFC. While Invicta FC and Strikeforce have worked to build this depth and provide exposure, it is hard to say that the situation now is so much better than it was a year ago.
Instead, it seems more likely that White realizes two things: (1) Rousey is a big draw that can generate a strong combination of television ratings and pay per view buys from casual viewers for the UFC, and (2) Strikeforce is a sinking ship so there is no sense in keeping her there.
It makes me curious if White would have made the same decision a few years ago during Gina Carano’s period of dominance and attention had Zuffa owned Strikeforce at the time.
What will be interesting now is what the UFC does with Rousey. While the biggest matchup it can make is a title defense against Cris Cyborg, such a match also leads to the potential that Cyborg will send Rousey out of the octagon the same way she beat Carano out of MMA. And if Rousey is handily defeated by Cyborg (or someone else), it will raise the question whether Dana continues with WMMA in the UFC, or if it is a phenomenon that is over just as fast as White can go back on his promise never to include it in the first place.