Today, MMA Junkie came out with a story that characterizes the UFC’s decision to make Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche the main event of UFC 157 as a gamble. Even riskier, the article suggests, is the fact that Rousey has been given an eight-fight deal by the promotion, which is two-times the length of most deals agreed to (which is four!). To be fair, this seems like a position commonly held among pundits and other onlookers who love to opine on all things MMA. In my mind, all of these opinions are missing the mark.
Don’t get me wrong, the UFC is taking a gamble with respect to both decisions, but the extent of the gamble is about the same as someone picking a new restaurant in an unfamiliar city. If things go well, it will be a highly satisfying night and a new go-to will have been discovered. On the other hand, in the worst case scenario, the promotion will be out some pocket change, have an upset stomach for a night, and move on swearing never to go back.
First, having Rousey and Carmouche headlining the pay per view is not really much of a risk at all. For starters, there really wasn’t much of an alternative in terms of drawing power for the event. No matter what sport purists might try to tell you, no casual fan would be more willing to spend $50 or $60 on Barao-McDonald or Johnson-Dodson than they would on Ronda Rousey against just about anyone. Although you can point to Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida being more proven than WMMA, it must be kept in mind that this fight is going to serve as co-main event of the evening. No matter how stupid some MMA fans may be (and many are quite dim-witted), I think we need to give them more credit than to think that they would buy the pay per view if Hendo-Machida was headliner but not if it is the mere second draw on the card. If that was the case, then why would the undercard ever matter?
At the same time, it’s hard to see Rousey and Carmouche not delivering an exciting fight. While many have bellyached about how big of a favorite the champion is going into the fight, the challenger should not immediately be discounted. Carmouche was close to winning the Strikeforce Bantamweight Title from Marloes Coenen in a thrilling scrap and, if nothing else, is guaranteed to give all she has in order to make it an exciting fight.
Finally, all of the talk that the UFC is going all-in on WMMA and Ronda Rousey is likely also overstated, notwithstanding the fact that she has gotten an apparent eight-fight deal. It seems as though commentators have conveniently forgotten how loose the UFC contracts have proven to be when fighters are unsuccessful. There is little doubt in my mind that the UFC would be able to cut ties to WMMA on fairly short order in the extremely unlikely event that things don’t pan out.
So, no matter what the MMA journalists may try to put out there, the UFC is doing the equivalent of calling the big blind with pocket aces when it promotes Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche as the main event of UFC 157. (For you non-poker players, I’m saying it’s not a big risk!)