Lost in the furor of UFC 205, Ronda Rousey made a rare official UFC appearance when she had an “impromptu” stare down with future opponent and current Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes at the UFC 205 ceremonial weigh-ins. Given Rousey’s massive stardom, her appearance barley registered on the MMA Richter scale.
Rousey’s strategy of scarcity seems to have backfired on her. By only speaking to mainstream non-MMA media outlets since her sole defeat over a year ago, Rousey has abandoned the base that fueled her rise to superstardom. In fact, the only newsworthy item out of Rousey’s appearance was her sudden departure and refusal to speak to Joe Rogan after the scrum. Media aversion has become par for the course with Rousey over the last year.
While Rousey takes solace behind the iron curtain of UFC P.R. and daytime interviews, she is afforded an unofficial spokesman in the form of UFC President Dana White.
Back in October, White rationalized that Rousey’s biggest issue in her absence was that she felt betrayed by the media. The venom toward Rousey was real, but her anger would appear to be misguided.
It was not the likes of MMAJunkie.com, MMAFighting.com, Sherdog.com, BloodyElbow.com, and MMATorch.com that built Rousey up only to tear her down. It was, in fact, the mainstream media outlets whom she now exclusively caters to that made hyperbole out of her rise, then took delight in her fall.
Now as a result of Rousey’s prolonged silence, White is forced to be the constant Rousey apologist. For example, regarding her recent rejection of Joe Rogan, White explained that the error was on the UFC not Rousey. White also made sure to note that Rousey is not being elusive. “Ronda’s been talking,” he said. “She was on ‘Ellen.’ She’s doing Kimmel. She’s doing all the talk shows.”
Of course, White also mentioned that it is undetermined if Rousey will speak to any MMA-media. “Is she going to talk to you (MMA media) guys? I don’t know.”
This strategy seems logical; many more eyes are on daytime and late night talk shows than any MMA outlet, but if she no longer has any interest in MMA, what is the benefit of those interviews? Despite recently stoking retirement rumors, Rousey no longer appears to have the same post-UFC career prospects that she once did. Recently, The New York Post (a non-MMA outlet) ran a story highlighting how Rousey’s outside endeavors have crumbled over the past year.
Like it or not, Rousey’s greatest ability is to dominate in the Octagon. She may try to run from it, but Rousey will always be synonymous with her MMA roots. If Rousey is forced to rely on MMA for much of her future career earnings, she needs to embrace the culture of the sport that created her, including the MMA press corps.
Athletes may begrudge speaking to an adversarial sports media, but stars much bigger than Rousey do so in order to maintain a conduit between themselves and the fan base that keeps their sport churning. The mainstream media is fickle. They will eventually move past Rousey, while the MMA-media will maintain Rousey’s relevance for the next ten years.
It is entirely possible that in the very near future, Rousey will have no use for any media. As is her prerogative, Rousey could feasibly retire, embrace family life, live off of already earned income, and reside in comfortable anonymity. However, if she chooses to maintain the public spotlight that has afforded her so many opportunities, it would be wise to maintain some relationship with the media and in-turn the fans that helped create her.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S MEDIA & BUSINESS COLUMN: Why McGregor’s success is good for him and the UFC, but nobody else – plus UFC 205 media coverage and farewell Miesha
(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.”)