UFC better hope Ronda Rousey isn't the next Gina Carano

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Ronda Rousey has the opportunity to become one of the biggest PPV draws for the UFC. They just better hope she doesn't leave it all behind for Hollywood.

Tell me if you've heard this one before...

The face of WMMA takes off to Hollywood after receiving interest from producers and mainstream media.

Of course you have, it's exactly what happened when Gina Carano was offered the lead role in the Steven Soderbergh film Haywire after getting absolutely decimated by Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos at Strikeforce: Carano vs Cyborg in 2009. The film did relatively well at the box office and has a 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Carano was expected to face Sarah D'Alelio in her return to the Strikeforce cage in Dallas, Texas as part of the main card for Alistair Overeem vs Fabricio Werdum in 2011. Then, without any explanation, she was pulled from the event. At first it was stated she failed a pre-fight medical exam. But eventually it came out that she passed all her pre-fight tests, but was removed from the card without reason.

She's since starred in Fast and the Furious 6 along side Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and has the lead in the upcoming Action-Thriller In the Blood directed by Jason Stockwell. There hasn't been a rumored return to the cage.

When Strikeforce landed the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games bronze Medalist Ronda Rousey, they knew they had a star on their hands. She was attractive and brash, and had the ability to back up all her trash talk with ridiculously brutal armbars. There was beauty in the violence, and it wasn't long before she became one the faces of the organization.

Without a doubt, she became the heir to Gina Carano. MMA's next certifiable babe, but one who wanted to fight and prove she wasn't just a pretty face. She was so popular, that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was forced to create a 135 pound women's division, just to make sure she could fight in the promotion.

And she's box office gold. Her UFC 157 bout with Liz Carmouche did better on pay-per-view (PPV) than UFC 156 which featured a main event of Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar and UFC 160 which was headlined by Cain Velasquez and Antonio Silva.

That box office gold translated to a big time Hollywood agency in William Morris Endeavor (WME) picking her up as a client. There were apparently enough issues between WME and UFC President Dana White, that when Rousey showed up on the set for The Ultimate Fighter 18 (TUF), she walked off when she saw Miesha Tate on set. Turns out she thought she was replaced.

WME has done great by their client, landing her a role in the third Expendables film, as well as negotiating for roles in the upcoming Hunger Games and Fast & the Furious movies. That's a lot of Hollywood offers for an athlete. Rowdy has already stated her intentions to bring her camp on set so she can prepare for her UFC 168 bout against Tate.

If I'm the UFC, I would be terrified. In a year that saw one of the lowest buyrates in the history of the promotion with Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson doing a rumored 150,000 buys for UFC 161, losing Rousey would be a huge hit to their future.

Rousey is getting the attention that their male fighters aren't receiving. She's getting some major sponsors such as Lululemon, a powerhouse in the female workout attire market. And she's showing up in Maxim Magazine and ESPN magazine's "Body Issue." That's a recipe for a breakout star with crossover potential. We're not just talking MMA fans. Women everywhere want to watch Rousey fight.

Dana White can claim that Rousey can make more in fighting than she can in movies, but last year Fast & the Furious 6 and Expedables 2 combined for over a billion dollars in worldwide revenue. As her brand continues to grow, it will be harder and harder to get her in the gym for fights.

The UFC better hope that she's the fighter they think she is. Because if not, the UFC may as well call it a day on the women's division.

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