UFC president Dana White told the press following UFC 154 that Strikeforce 135 pound women’s champion has signed with the UFC and that he expects her to debut on a pay-per-view. He even indicated that she could headline a pay-per-view unless there was a title fight in a larger weight class on the same card.
MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer has a piece that looks at every aspect of the business history of women’s MMA in Elite XC and Strikeforce, from the Gina Carano era to the failure of Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos to emerge as a star. In the end he concludes that it’s critical that Rousey’s first fight make a strong positive impression — including performing at the box office:
The key is that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and if the first impression is that all this hype didn’t equal public interest, that’s a bad start.
Granted, with as many shows as UFC runs, that may not be feasible.
As a No. 2 fight on a big show, the media attention will still be there for her debut. It will also result in additional attention to the show overall, including the male main event. There would be no pressure when it comes to ticket sales or pay-per-view numbers, since the “haves” are pretty much assured of doing well. Whatever curiosity interest is added will make the show that already has a big star anchoring do a little better.
Meltzer makes excellent points but he doesn’t address the bigger question: should Rousey even be on a PPV card to begin with. The real question is why doesn’t the UFC put Rousey on Fox?
Rousey is a proven ratings draw on Showtime. Gina Carano went from doing well on premium cable to blowing it up on CBS. Rousey has so far not proven to be a draw in terms of a live gate. Carano sold tickets from the get go.
The UFC has struggled to find the right fights to headline its Fox TV cards. They can’t afford to put more than 1 or 2 of their title fights on Fox and #1 contenders matches so far have shown limited intrigue for the casual fans and curiosity seekers who drive broadcast TV numbers.
If Rousey follows the same pattern that Gina Carano did, she should draw excellent ratings on Fox. She’s already been a media magnet. The prospect of her headlining will drive crazy amounts of coverage. That coverage will drive ratings.
Putting Rousey on Fox solves two problems at once:
- It avoids the risk of finding out the hard way that she isn’t a PPV draw; and,
- Provides a strong driver of ratings for Fox TV cards while letting the UFC keep it’s top draws (GSP, Jones, A. Silva) for PPV.
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