The Ronda Responsibility
If Ronda Rousey losing her invincibility at UFC 193 to the foot of Holly Holm was the dramatic twist in her epic, getting pummeled in 48 seconds by Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 was seemingly the end of her meteoric MMA tale.
All that is apparently left is to eulogize her historic career. Presenting an accurate account of her time in the sport is a responsibility that the MMA media contingency must take particular care in crafting.
If the past 13 months are any indication, anyone directly involved in the Rousey-verse will be of little use to those who can largely craft her legacy in archived form.
While Rousey’s infamous media blackout between UFC 193 and UFC 207 is an important piece of her overall career arc, it is only a portion of her story.
If Rousey’s contentious but contrived feud with the MMA media corps overly influences how she is remembered, it will be a disservice to an iconic fighter and a dynamic press contingency.
It is in the post-Rousey era where the MMA dedicated press can serve up the appropriate level of truth serum.
They do this by providing balance between the myth-making of the UFC, mainstream talk shows, and Rousey’s carefully selected sports media minions, while also reigning in the hyperbolic overreactions of Twitter trolls, casual observers, and a boxing-centric sports media.
Rousey’s career plunged in a manner that was unprecedented and troubling, but two national disasters do not undo an entire career.
Likely, history will treat Rousey well.
In most sports, athletes are required to wait for a requisite number of years after their retirement before consideration for entry into a hall of fame.
A number of years away from active competition can cleanse an athlete of their late career sins.
Michael Jordan’s time with the Washington Wizards, Brett Favre’s retirement indecision, and Ken Griffey Jr.’s decade of baseball futility have become footnotes to these legendary careers.
However, Rousey’s place in history exists in a very unique space.
Rousey is a rare athlete who possesses stardom aligned with Hollywood, but only has that fame from her dominance in a sport that is not fully embraced by mainstream culture.
With all the obvious reasons that Rousey should be celebrated, her troubling moments should also not be simply overlooked.
Rousey’s decline is about more than the common refrain of an athlete who competed as a shell of her former self.
The story of her career plunge is one of ridiculous hype, preferential treatment, hubris, petulance, and unwilling evolution.
Not to mention that her last year in the sport also out put focus on her boyfriend, mother, trainer, and talent agency.
The career of Rousey is not a congruent narrative; it is complex and deserves the proper context and nuance.
Despite the lack of respect that the MMA media has been shown by Rousey and the UFC over the years, it is solely up to them to filter out the extreme mythos that both sides of the Rousey coin can produce.
Rousey and the public both deserve a balanced representation of such a dynamic career.
Assessing Jim Rome as a UFC play-by-play announcer
(Disclosure: I write this as an admitted fan of Jim Rome and his radio show. So while I do feel as though I can provide perspective into his attributes, I do consider myself an overall admirer of his work.)
With much less fanfare that Ronda Rousey’s apparent exodus from the UFC, at UFC 207 also came the end of long time play-by-play announcer Mike Goldberg
The departure of Goldberg has fanned the flames of speculation with regards to his replacement. Veteran sports talk radio host Jim Rome has surfaced as a potential successor.
Chael Sonnen, who is a frequent guest and caller on the Jim Rome Show, first started the speculation on his podcast, while MMA reporter Jeremy Botter has confirmed that talks between the two parties are ongoing.
While the pairing does seem odd, it should be noted that Rome was an early advocate of MMA, frequently having fighters and promoters on his radio and television shows. In fact, Rome was one of the first media pundits outside of the MMA bubble to recognize the potential star power of Ronda Rousey.
Where Rome does not seem to fit would be in a play-by-play role. While he has done some boxing broadcasts in the past, Rome has built his reputation on being an opinionated and controversial host, with a freeform style.
The structure of UFC broadcast may actually restrict his talents. Someone like Rome could easily go the rout of a Dennis Miller or Tony Kornheiser on Monday Night Football, where entertaining personalities were clearly out of place.
Despite his shortcomings, Rome can be an asset to the UFC if used to promote the importance of rivalries between fighters. Rome is exceptionally talented at creating hype between feuding entities, be it competitive rivals, a coach and player, or even callers to his talk show.
The hiring of Rome would be the “big splash” type of acquisition that WME-IMG would love to make; but if he fails to make a good first impression with the primary UFC fanbase, that same contingency will never accept him.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: MEDIA & BUSINESS: 2016 the year UFC’s media and business grew up, plus Nunes-Rousey media blackout fallout
(Robert Vallejos writes a new Specialist column for MMATorch titled “Media & Business” focused on, you guessed it, the media coverage of MMA and the business side of MMA. He is fascinated by the presentation, business decisions, media strategy, and press coverage of both UFC and MMA as a whole, and will bring that curiosity to explore and delve into that side of MMA to his weekly Specialist column here at MMATorch. He explains his approach: “As a sport in its relative infancy, MMA does not receive the same level of scrutiny and informed analysis from the sports media as other more established entities. This is why it is vital for independent outlets such MMATorch to grow, while featuring a variety of voices. Unlike mainstream outlets, MMATorch is not beholden to any organization. Therefore I believe it is essential for individuals such as myself to explain not only the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’ of MMA.”)