Prior to scoring the head coaching gig on “The Ultimate Fighter 18,” it could be argued that there was no hotter name on the UFC’s roster – male or female – than women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (pictured).
On the very first day of filming – in a twist that worked out nearly perfectly for Fox Sports 1 and the UFC, but couldn’t have been worse for Rousey – bitter rival Miesha Tate replaced injured Cat Zingano as her opposing coach on the reality show.
Before this season’s debut on September 4, Rousey revealed to UFC president Dana White that she was nervous about how fans would perceive her going forward after reflecting back on how she behaved on the pre-recorded show. Clearly, Rousey had good reason to feel anxious.
Ten episodes in and Rousey’s image has taken a massive hit. While fans have called her a bitch, a bully, and everything in between, White isn’t concerned with how his golden girl is being viewed.
“It’s not the way she’s portrayed herself, it’s who she is,” White said over the weekend of Rousey’s tumultuous stint on TUF. “That’s why women fight in the UFC, because of her. I [couldn’t] care less if you don’t like her or like her. It doesn’t matter to me. She’s the world champion. She’s badass and she goes out to win.
“I wouldn’t have even [started the women’s division] without Ronda. You could line up all the greatest girls on earth, from here to f****** Pluto, and she’s the one, that when I met her, I said, ‘This chick is insanely competitive and just a different animal.’ And she’s what it took to get women in the UFC. Hate her or not, the reason all these girls fight in the UFC is because of her.”
Nobody is denying Rousey’s skills inside the cage, nor that she blazed the trail to the Octagon for her female counterparts. But in all my years of watching and covering this sport, I can’t think of another fighter who suffered such public backlash for simply being themselves in such a short period of time.
White claims that’s just what happens when you lock two archenemies in a small training facility together for weeks on end. Only cameras were around to capture the drama and Fox Sports 1 was there to air it to a national audience.
“The thing with [Ronda] and Miesha, she hates Miesha Tate,” White added. “When her and Cat Zingano were going to be the coaches, you heard them talk at the podium with mutual respect.
“She hates Miesha Tate. Hates her. And anybody who’s ever hated anybody before knows how that feels. Yes, when you hate somebody, you might stoop low and do some things that make you look like a jackass. But, oh well.”
Rousey’s popularity hit an all-time low Monday morning when EA Sports revealed Tate received more votes than her in their head-to-head matchup to score the cover of EA’s first UFC video game. There is no way this would have happened prior to TUF hitting the airwaves. In fact, Rousey probably would have beaten some of the UFC’s most popular male fighters – or at least given them a run for their money.
Tate now faces Alexander Gustafsson in the second round of the fan-voted contest.
As they say in professional sports, winning cures everything. If that’s the case, December 28 can’t come soon enough for Rousey. The “Rowdy” one will get the chance to reload her bandwagon when she defends her crown against Tate at UFC 168.
Perhaps even more importantly, Rousey’s season of TUF will be long over by then…