Conor McGregor pulls in huge PPV numbers for the UFC, but if you ask UFC president Dana White who the biggest star in the company is, he won't say McGregor. He says it's Ronda Rousey.
In an interview with Hot 97, White said that Rousey is "the biggest star ever."
By far. Not even close, by far the biggest star ever,” Dana White said.
Rousey has not fought since she was knocked out by Holly Holm on Nov. 15, 2015.
She was undefeated heading into the fight and few pundits gave Holm a chance of defeating the Olympic bronze medalist in judo. Holm, however, put together a perfect game plan, and used her boxing, leg strikes, and lateral movement to frustrate Rousey, before eventually knocking her out.
Still, Rousey is the kind of star that even with a magnificent loss, she still shines as a top attraction in the sport. While hardcore MMA fans debate whether Rousey is the same fighter she once was, the mainstream -- the casual MMA fans -- don't care as much about wins and losses. To them, Rousey is a big star, like Mike Tyson, regardless of whether she wins another fight.
Rousey submitted Liz Carmouche on Feb. 23, 2013 in the UFC's foray into women's MMA. White had said for years that the UFC would never include a women's division, but Rousey, hot off her championship run in Strikeforce, changed his mind.
Inside the Octagon, Rousey has wowed fans around the globe. She owns stoppage victories of 59 seconds, 34 seconds, 16 seconds and 14 seconds, the latter of which is the fastest submission in UFC championship history.
Rousey brought in a new generation, a whole new demographic of fans. Young women could now see themselves one day fighting in the Octagon, thanks to Ronda. She turned women's MMA into acceptable mainstream fare, and paved the way for today's female stars, including Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm, and Miesha Tate.
Since her loss, and even prior to it, Rousey has worked hard to build her Hollywood and entertainment brand, as well.
She's appeared in The Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Entourage. Rousey also performed at Wrestlemania 31, in a segment with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and is a regular guest on television talk shows, including Ellen. She hosted Saturday Night Live in January of 2016, and has been a cover girl for Sports Illustrated's iconic swimsuit issue.
A Rousey vs. Cyborg Showdown?
Rousey is rumored to return in early 2017. In her absence, the women's bantamweight championship has changed hands multiple times. Holm was submitted by Miesha Tate, who was then submitted by Amanda Nunes at UFC 200. As significant as the title changes were, Cris Cyborg has emerged as possibly the biggest female star in MMA. She headlined UFC Fight Night Brasilia recently, and if Rousey returns, the UFC might look to book Rousey vs. Cyborg, if the two women could agree on weight. Cyborg fights at 145 and Rousey fights at 135.
If the two fight, even if it's in Brazil, White believes Rousey could be the fan favorite, if the past is any indication of the future.
“Ronda Rousey is such a big star, that when you go down to Brazil, I don’t know if you guys have watched any of the fights we do from Brazil, they don’t care who you are," White said. "They want the Brazilian to whoop your ass. When Ronda went down there, they cheered for Ronda over the Brazilian. Never seen that before in my life, and will probably never see it again. That’s how big Ronda Rousey is.”
Who is the bigger UFC star?
poll image courtesy of Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports