Heading into UFC 207, much of the focus has been on Ronda Rousey. Or, rather, the abundance of Rousey promos and the absence of the fighter herself. Both the promotion and Rousey have been heavily criticized in how they’ve handled the superstar’s return to the Octagon. However, could it be that the promotion has a purpose beyond the simple fact of capitalizing on Rousey’s return?
Since capturing the title at UFC 200, Amanda Nunes has been quiet. We’ve seen and heard very little from the champ. The Brazilian star took the title by beating fan-favorite Miesha Tate all over the gold UFC 200 canvas. It was an emphatic statement by Nunes. However, beyond that impressive performance, Nunes has been absent from much of the women’s bantamweight title discussion.
Once Rousey’s return was announced, it seemed like more of a title coronation than a title bout. It was as if Rousey had returned to reclaim her lost throne with the UFC simply handing her crown back to the former champion. Nunes and fans alike have questioned the UFC’s promotional practice heading into UFC 207, a marketing strategy that’s been heavy on Rousey and light on Nunes.
It makes complete sense for the UFC to heavily promote Rousey. Outside of Conor McGregor, she’s the sport’s biggest draw and her return would undeniably overshadow anything or anyone else on the event. She will be a huge reason for the majority of fans to tune in this Friday night, so naturally the promotion would put her front and center. The company has even gone as far as to cater to some of Rousey’s media requests, the same types of requests that got McGregor yanked from the promotion’s biggest event earlier this year.
Rousey’s preferential treatment has garnered typical responses from the MMA fan base. She’s shattered female stereotypes along her way to the mountaintop, but she has also become one of the most disdained fighters out there. The former champion has stated she’s already been met with an incredible amount of rude comments across the Internet. Despite her return, it seems most fans could have done without Rousey becoming the main focus of the UFC promotional machine.
However, the surplus of pro-Rousey advertising may be a blessing in disguise for both Nunes and the UFC.
Rousey has stated that the Nunes fight will be one of her last, so it makes sense for the promotion to cash in while it can. If Rousey doesn’t have her hand raised at UFC 207, it could be the final time Rousey steps foot in the Octagon. The UFC knows it has a huge cash cow on its hands, but the organization also knows that she already has one foot out the door.
The benefit for Nunes is that she can instantly become the knight in shining armor for the anti-Rousey crowd. Much in the same way we saw Holly Holm become an overnight sensation for defeating Rousey, Nunes has enjoyed a surge in popularity for being the one to stand opposite Rousey. There’s a language barrier for Nunes, though, that holds back her ability to self-promote to English-speaking fans, and outside of the Tate fight, she remains a relative unknown to many of these fans. With Rousey willing to embrace her role as the ultimate heel, Nunes has become the ultimate face to save the anti-Rousey fans from another “Rowdy” title reign.
Could the promotion have focused more on building up Nunes as a dominant fighter? Sure, it could have. She has plenty of highlights and ended the promotion’s big UFC 200 event by dismantling a fan-favorite. Yet, it’s always been about the return of Rousey.
With that in mind, the promotion decided to cash in its chips for promoting Rousey in a way that somehow managed to make fans dislike her even more. As a byproduct, Nunes should reap the benefits of having a solid fan base behind her as she steps into the Octagon at UFC 207.
With Rousey still carrying the weight of being the big draw, the UFC will not only enjoy the bump in pay-per-view buys, but also has the possibility of Nunes being the champion that put the nail in the coffin of Rousey’s UFC career and hopes for another title reign.