The world of mixed martial arts (MMA) has exploded over the last few years and while the majority of highly dextrous fighters remain largely unknown to the general public, there is an increasing number of crossover stars entering the mainstream.
One of the biggest stars over the last two years and a veritable pioneer in the sport is Ronda Rousey. An Olympic level judoka before she entered MMA, Rousey has not only established herself as one of the most dominant fighters in world, but as the poster girl for the sport. Featured in numerous ad campaigns, TV shows and now films, Rousey’s fame has reached levels previously unheard of by an MMA fighter.
A Document of Success
In fact, this level of fame is set to reach more highs in the coming months thanks to the recent release of her new biography: My Fight / Your Fight. Written in conjunction with her sister, Maria Burns Ortiz, a highly regarded sports journalist in her own right, the book details Rousey’s transition from a world-class judo player (following in the footsteps of her mother, Ann-Maria De Mars) into a global star.
Despite being released in May 2015, the book has already received high praise from both critics and fans which has further cemented Rousey’s reputation as one of the most influential people in MMA. However, were it not for Rousey, would MMA be as prominent a sport as it is today?
For the last 60 years, boxing has been the dominant combat sport in the world. However, in recent years its lack of stars and frustrating politics has left many fans disenchanted with the sport and searching for a new form of entertainment. MMA, more specifically the UFC, has been on hand to fill this void over the last decade with a brand of fighting that’s infinitely more dynamic and, therefore, entertaining.
MMA Beats Boxing
Although high-profile boxing matches such as the recent one bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao can still draw huge crowds at the box office and on the betting floor, there’s now a greater interest in MMA as a sport.
This recent rise to prominence has given MMA stars such as Rousey a chance to court the attention of sponsors and explore opportunities outside of the octagon. Of course, Rousey’s record is another important factor in her crossover appeal. As it stands, Rousey has never lost an MMA fight and holds multiple records in the women’s bantamweight division.
Before her recent fight against Cat Zingano, Rousey was more than a 3/1 favourite with many online bookmakers. Despite Zingano being one of Rousey’s toughest tests to-date, she proved the odds makers at sites such as Betfair right by demolishing her challenger in under 20 seconds.
Reebok Cements UFC’s Appeal
It’s this unparalleled skill, combined with the recent rise of MMA, that’s allowed Rousey to star in TV shows such as Entourage and films such as The Expendables. These acting roles have been complemented by a recent sponsorship deal with Reebok. Owing to the UFC’s growth as the premier MMA organisation, Reebok recently agreed a $70 million apparel deal. As well as giving every fighter a cut of the proceeds, the new deal has given Rousey, along with the likes of Conor McGregor and Paige VanZant, a sponsorship worth $1million+ per year with a respected brand such as Reebok.
MMA Moves into a New Era
Although there have been complaints from some fighters about the deal, the overall impact of having a brand such as Reebok in the mix is fantastic news for the sport. Although some people still have jaded opinions of MMA, the reality of the situation is that it is a highly entertaining sport with mass market appeal. Through a combination of highly-tuned athletes, fatalistically entertaining fights and breakout stars such as Rousey, MMA is a sport on the rise in all senses.
As well as more fans tuning in to watch the latest fights, more sports bettors are looking towards MMA markets at the leading online bookmaking sites. With fighters such as Rousey offering fantastic options for any punter, there’s now a lot of value in the MMA betting market and that’s another reason why the sport is one of the best spectacles in the world.
MMA is a sport on the up, but without stars such as Rousey it may still be struggling to surpass boxing as the world’s leading combat sport. Fortunately, Rousey has hit the headlines in a big way in recent years and that’s propelled the sport into a new, more fruitful, era.