UFC 135-pound women’s champion Ronda Rousey alleged a double-standard inherent within a Breitbart Sports question about whether male fans accept women fighting. Rousey, who appears in Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit issue and this summer’s Entourage movie, inveighed: “You are what we need to change about this culture.”
“Lighter divisions are a turnoff to some people,” Rousey spiritedly responded. “But you don’t ask them about that. Like, ‘Oh, well, people just want to see heavyweights da-da-da-da-da.’”
The Olympic bronze medalist, to her credit, didn’t tap out on the question. She answered with passion. But the queen of the UFC also wanted to decree what got asked in addition to providing the answers. Like an eyepoke, the question on everybody’s mind—Can a card headlined by two female fights entice the male fan base to fork over $50 for the pay-per view?—struck Rousey as somehow indecent.
Rousey responded to the Breitbart Sports query on the conference call for UFC 184 with one of her own about the popularity of smaller male fighters: “Do you remember the last time you asked that question to a guy?”
Well, Ronda, since you asked… Breitbart Sports has asked several UFC fighters about fan response to the lighter weight classes—just last month in fact.
“I don’t know if it’s about identifying with size,” Conor McGregor told Breitbart Sports on January 16. The Irish featherweight phenom opined, “If you’re interested in combat sports, in martial-arts philosophies, and you’re interested in the way people who step inside the octagon approach the game and the way they fight and the way they handle it, you are interested in it. It doesn’t matter about size or none of that.”
Benson Henderson, who submitted welterweight Brandon Thatch at UFC Fight Night in Broomfield, Colorado, last week, called the promotion’s addition of lower weight classes a “smart decision” in a conversation with Breitbart Sports at the same press event at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. Henderson gained a following in World Extreme Cagefighting before its UFC parent-company absorbing it represented a big commitment by the promotion to showcase the previously neglected small guys.
Ben Henderson answered the question about fan response to smaller guys with a clarity deserving better than the initially blurry video of our conversation with him.
“Not many guys can identify with Brock Lesnar and his size,” Henderson theorized. “There’s not many guys who are six-foot-four, 290 pounds walking around.” But he believes since so many guys would naturally fit into the lightweight division if they went through the effort of getting themselves into shape, the smaller guys gain a strong following in mixed-martial arts—far stronger than the UFC believed when it exiled it, and women’s MMA, to smaller promotions not too long ago.
Ronda’s surely correct in that many casual fans dismiss the smaller guys in the way that some hardcore fans dismiss the women. It’s also understandable if she’s offended that people won’t buy her fights because of her sex—the Olympic judoka competes with grace and great technical precision, making her bouts more often beautiful than brutal. She’s just not right in alleging that we would never ask smaller guys about their struggles, and successes, in winning an audience. We have—and they didn’t take offense.