Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE
When news broke that Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey would be headlining UFC 157 in her first fight inside the Octagon, it was received with a mix of criticism and curiosity. The big question: Why is she headlining a pay-per-view in her first fight with the promotion?
Because she's the champ, that's why.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White has made no secret of the fact that Ronda Rousey is almost solely responsible for getting him into women's mixed martial arts (MMA). He's so fond of her, in fact, that he changed his tune on promoting women as headlining attractions in his promotion.
That's what he'll do with Rousey in her very first fight, a bantamweight championship title defense against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 on Sat., Feb. 23, 2013, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. But that decision has come under fire from a few sides of the fan base and naturally, the media gave voice to that criticism when speaking with White at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale post-fight press conference.
As is always the case, White didn't hold back (via MMAFighting.com):
"She's the champ. You will never see a situation in any fight, whether men, women, the lightest weight division there is. If you're the champion, you're the headliner. You're the top of the card. I've seen some people talking shit, 'ohh, the women's fight is headlining.' Ronda Rousey is badass, she's a champ, her opponent stepped up to the plate and wanted this fight with her when no one, others didn't. I don't give a shit what they say, that's a fact. ... What people don't realize is there was a time and a day when we put the 155-pound division and headlined it with a title fight and people said, 'you can't headline a title fight, BJ Penn and Jens Pulver in a title fight headlining? This is ridiculous.' BJ Penn become one of the biggest stars in mixed martial arts and a huge pay-per-view draw.
""I'll admit Ronda's the one who got me interested, but this is going to be done the same exact as the guys. Nothing different. I'm looking at Ronda and all the other 135-pound women the same way I'm looking at the guys. They're UFC fighters, and they deserve all the recognition and perks and all the other things that go along with the men. Everyone keeps asking all this crazy shit, it's not fucking 1920 guys, there's women fighting in the UFC, there's a woman who's the champ, she's mean, she's nasty, she's badass, and there are other girls in that division who are tough. There are fights out there that will be interesting, and I'm going to treat them the way I treat the guys, no different."
It's fair to wonder about the direction of women in the UFC when the current bantamweight division has just two fighters in it -- Rousey and Carmouche. There's plenty of time to sort all that out, though, and at least White is saying all the right things right now.
Equality in MMA, folks. It's all we can ask for, right?