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Gone but far from finished: Why MMA still needs Ronda Rousey

The ink just dried on Ronda Rousey’s contract with the WWE and the former “Golden Girl” of the UFC is already set to premiere at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. While the career move definitely will put Rousey in a great position for continued mainstream success, she still has unfinished business in MMA.

Rousey has been a life-long wrestling fan and has made several appearances on WWE programming throughout her MMA career so the move isn’t that much of a surprise. I mean, she even got permission from the late, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to use “Rowdy” as her nickname.

On the flip-side, Rousey helped break down a lot of barriers for women in MMA, she was the first Female UFC Champion and has six successful title defenses.

Hell, UFC President Dana White was adamant about not having women compete in the organization until he signed Ronda. Now the UFC holds multiple women weight class divisions and fighters like Holly Holm, Amanda Nunes, and Rose Namajunas headline pay-per-views all the time.

Women’s MMA has come a long way, but that’s not to say there aren’t more barriers that need to be broken. Female fighters still have to deal with their competition being hyper-sexualized by media and fans, rather than appreciated for the dope athleticism they bring to the table.

Rousey was no stranger to this treatment as well, but her no-frills approach to fighting and crazy ground-game skills got the respect of many and helped prove that beauty should not overshadow the skillset of any athlete, especially a woman.

Rousey was no angel though. Her infamous trash talk against opponents got her a lot of backlash from fans, especially before her fight against Holly Holm at UFC 193 where she lost her Bantamweight Title.

After suffering another loss at the hands of Amanda Nunes, many were quick to turn their backs against Rousey, citing her villain-like baditude as the reason.

But Rousey is definitely not the first fighter to talk a lot of trash, the sport has seen dozens of men who talked shit, had setbacks, but were still loved by fans (Tito Ortiz anyone?). What makes Rousey any different?

Not touching gloves during weigh-ins, acting arrogant during press conferences, and being straight-up disrespectful have always been admirable qualities when displayed by male athletes who were donned bad-asses, while Rousey got called a bitch.

Rousey challenged this perception in athletics and was quick to give the finger to anyone who had a problem with it. MMA still needs that. Even in combat sports, women who don’t fit the humble, angelic mold are stigmatized and that shouldn’t be case.

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We need a villain, we need someone with hardcore mentalities who’s unapologetic about it. Rousey’s heel-like arrogance and mainstream marketability made you hate her, love her, and be shook all at the same time. 

Having a women’s division in the most popular MMA organization was one door that got knocked down, but now we have to continue to fight for room for women to be themselves and not get shitted on for it.

Hate her or love her, Ronda Rousey made history and changed the game for women in MMA. In this climate, an athlete of her stature is needed more than ever.