Article By Dave Walsh
UFC 157 marks a historic first for MMA’s premier promotion, as it will host not only its first Women’s MMA fight, but it’s first Championship Women’s MMA fight. Headlining UFC 157 will be former Strikeforce and now UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey against Liz Carmouche. To say that promotion for this fight has been Rousey-centric is an understatement, to say the least. The UFC has done a fair job of promoting both fighters, but to say that Rousey comes into the fight as the clear favorite and that the UFC would have to be pulling for her internally would be putting it lightly.
Before Rousey signed with the UFC, she was the Strikeforce’s Women’s Bantamweight Champion and everyone knew that it was just a matter of time until Dana brought her into the UFC fold. Rousey was being trotted around by the UFC as an ambassador for the sport thanks in part to her Olympic Judo credentials as well as her success in the sport of MMA. Rousey has really taken the world by storm in her short tenure as a MMA fighter, taking her first fight in March of 2011 and since then amassing an impressive 6-0 streak with six armbars. Yes, every fight that Rousey has won she has won via armbar.
Rousey has now become the face of Women’s MMA, taking the place of the former Strikeforce fighter, Gina Carano. Carano was, for years, the most popular Women’s MMA fighter not just for her abilities but for her looks as well and proved to be the perfect pin-up girl for the MMA world. After a loss to Cris “Cyborg” Santos Carano has yet to step into the ring again and has instead found a new home in Hollywood, with Rousey quickly filling in the role of the new pin-up girl for Women’s MMA. She followed right in line with what Carano was doing, even posing for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue.
It doesn’t hurt that Ronda Rousey has an interesting story to back up her career and her aspirations, as well as rugged good looks and a big attitude to round things out. If you were to watch last week’s episode of UFC Primetime you’d probably notice how the show opened with seven minutes of Rousey backstory before shifting to a brief introduction to Carmouche before going right back to Rousey for most of the show, only shifting back to Carmouche once. Most of the focus was on Rousey’s ascent to the top, her Olympic career and then ultimately her family life, including a sob story about her father’s suicide and how Rousey feels bad “prostituting his memory” for her career gain.
What is apparent is that the UFC is putting most of the focus on Rousey and that they have every reason to want her to be the success in this inaugural Women’s MMA bout within the confines of the UFC. We’ve seen this happen before, where the UFC has a clear favorite in mind and has future plans for them. In fact, it is safe to say that the only reason that there is a UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship is due to Rousey’s popularity and success. The thing is, this is still very early on in Rousey’s career and one could argue that she has yet to really be tested in all facets of Mixed Martial Arts.
For Liz Carmouche, the task in front of her is not an easy one, because Rousey proves to be a formidable opponent no matter what, but the legend that is now accompanying Rousey has raised her profile even more. Rousey has now moved to become part of the MMA elite within just six professional bouts. Carmouche has fought ten times now, amassing a record of 10-2 with losses to some of the very best in Marloes Coenen and Sarah Kaufman, with Carmouche actually moving to the finals in the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Tournament to crown the first champion, which is where she met Marloes Coenen.
So it is safe to say that Carmouche understands stress and pressure of title fights, as well as being the focus for such a big bout. There will be a lot of stories about Ronda Rousey’s road to becoming UFC Bantamweight Champion, about how difficult she had it and the trials and tribulations that she faced, but Carmouche hasn’t exactly led a charmed life, either. Carmouche is actually a veteran, serving five years in the United States Marine Corp. and doing three tours of duty in the Middle East. To top that off, Carmouche is now very open about her homosexuality and her life in a lesbian relationship.
Carmouche also has the hunger and the drive to propel herself into greatness, as Rousey is treated like UFC royalty and travels around California to the best gyms while Carmouche is working at her home gym as a trainer and helping to manage it, something that Rousey does not have to deal with. There is something to be said for hunger when it comes to a fighter, something to be said for the battle of the “haves” and the “have nots,” and in this case, Rousey is clearly a “have” while Carmouche is a “have not.”
The entire world, from the MMA media to fans even to the UFC brass have a good feeling about Rousey continuing her reign of armbar-induced dominance and putting Women’s MMA on the map. This has created a no-lose situation for Liz Carmouche. Carmouche is getting national media attention, a headlining spot on a UFC event as well as the biggest payday of her career (as long as her management are doing their job) and is facing all of this without the pressures that Rousey is facing. Sure, Carmouche has to prove herself, prove that she is the best and that she can live up to everything that she says she is, but no one is expecting her to go out there and win against Rousey.
A loss against Rousey still gets Carmouche a good deal of attention and has her foot in the door in the premier Mixed Martial Arts organization in the world, while a win against Rousey might not propel Carmouche to Rousey’s level as a media darling, but wins her respect, money and a championship. If I’m Liz Carmouche, I go out there and let it all hang out, because she truly has nothing to lose and everything to gain.