Time. It’s a concept we measure in a multitude of ways, yet a luxury that few possess in excess quantity. For Ronda Rousey, it’s something that she and the UFC should be more mindful of.
Initial reports have the rematch between Rousey and Holly Holm pegged for the inevitable UFC 200 mega-show in July 2016. Although not a done deal at this point, all signs indicate it will be at some point. Holm’s camp had been vocal about fighting sooner, but the UFC isn’t going to waste the opportunity to book a monumental rematch for what could be its biggest event in the company’s history.
“I think that if we didn’t make the rematch, me and [UFC CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta] should probably lose our promoters’ license,” UFC President Dana White said on the morning ESPN radio show Mike & Mike.
It makes sense in a business sense. Rousey is the sport’s biggest star, an athlete that has crossover appeal to both hardcore and casual fan alike. She’s capable of pulling in staggering pay-per-view buys, which makes it a no-brainer move to put her on the UFC 200 card. But that was before UFC 193, and before the highlights of Rousey’s unconscious body bouncing off the canvas as a result of a Holm head kick. It was before Holm’s footwork made Rousey look like an amateur on a national stage.
If the UFC were set on having a Holm-Rousey rematch right away, the timing of UFC 200 couldn’t be any worse. White recently commented that “Rousey is bigger now” following the loss to Holm. While that may be true, the UFC is missing the boat on a grander story. As much as fans may have enjoyed seeing Rousey fall from grace, there’s more to tell and more to sell in Rousey’s story of redemption.
It’s a story that can’t be told with an immediate rematch, especially one that is so soon. A July fight date gives the Rousey camp little time to drastically improve Rousey’s footwork and clinch-entry game, something she will need in a showdown with Holm. Outside of cage skills that require more time in the gym, there’s the mental game. Rousey seems to have taken the loss pretty hard, which isn’t surprising given her self-belief of invincibility before fighting Holm. Instead of having the time to recover from both physical and mental wounds, Rousey will have to go right back to preparing for the woman who handed her an embarrassing defeat in front of a worldwide audience.
The story of Rousey’s road to redemption is something the UFC could’ve milked for at least one additional fight. The organization could’ve given Rousey an opponent who could be credible yet susceptible to Rousey’s strengths. A rebound fight, in other words. It gives Rousey the opportunity to work on her game while avoiding the pressure of a high-profile contest on the UFC’s biggest event and against the woman who previously defeated her. That’s a lot of factors coming into play, and that’s before you consider Rousey’s hectic schedule outside of fighting. By giving Rousey a prop-up fight, it would allow the UFC a chance to promote its former champion as a renewed and improved fighter. It also allows Rousey to overcome the mental hurdles of the UFC 193 loss in a bout that won’t feature as many media requirements and provides time to improve the skills necessary to beat Holm.
An immediate rematch will end up making the company quite a bit of money, there’s no denying that. Rousey is more than capable of becoming a better fighter considering her competitive nature, but will there be enough time to improve enough with all things considered? What if she defeats Holm? Will the UFC book a rubber match right away, essentially holding back an entire division for over a year? The UFC seems to believe it needs to capitalize on the quick payday an immediate rematch would provide, which is odd since the promotion has routinely passed on quite possibly the biggest money-drawing fight in women’s MMA history between Rousey and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. Rousey is still one of the very best fighters in the world and has the ability to defeat anyone in the women’s 135-pound division. But will she be able to improve enough by July to beat the best woman in the 135-pound division? It’s going to take a lot of work and quite a bit of time spent in the gym. There’s that word again. Time. It’s something Rousey might not have.