When Ronda Rousey makes the long walk down the aisle at Etihad Stadium to climb into the Octagon to defend her women’s bantamweight title against Holly Holm in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday, the woman who thought she’d be facing Rousey on this night will be 8,157 miles away at a gentleman’s club in Las Vegas picking up a few extra bucks by hosting a UFC 193 viewing party..
That Miesha Tate will be in a strip joint in Vegas instead of the Octagon in Melbourne is disgusting.
UFC president Dana White said multiple times throughout the summer that Tate would get a third chance against Rousey should she defeat Jessica Eye in July.
Tate did just that, dominating Eye en route to a unanimous decision. Post-fight, White confirmed that Tate indeed would meet her bitter rival for a third time.
But a few weeks later, he had a change of heart.
As he got into the process of putting the show together, he began to think that it would make more sense to pit Rousey against Holm, a former boxing champion who is undefeated in MMA.
“I know what I said, but when I sat down and started to think about it carefully, I asked myself, ‘What fight would people really want to see the most?’ ” White told Yahoo Sports. “Before we signed Holly, you guys [in the media] were blowing up my phone, asking me when we were going to get her in the UFC. Everyone on Twitter was killing me about it.
“And Holly’s come in and won a couple of fights since she’s been in the UFC. Everyone has already seen Ronda and Miesha twice. I want to give the fans the best possible event, and what they want to see, and when I really thought about, it made more sense to go with Holly.”
White paused for several seconds.
“And I know. It sucks for Miesha,” he said.
Indeed it does.
On one hand, it’s easy to buy White’s argument. Even if you believe, as many do, that Tate is the best women’s bantamweight fighter in the world not named Rousey, she’s had two chances and despite extending Rousey into the third round at UFC 168, hasn’t come close to winning either.
Title shots are precious, particularly against a popular champion who generates enormous revenue like Rousey, and Tate has had two bites at the apple.
No reasonable person could fault the UFC for bypassing Tate in favor of Holm for this opportunity.
Except, White promised it to Tate publicly on many occasions, both before and after her fight with Eye.
That’s where the UFC is without question 100 percent in the wrong. Tate took the fight with Eye knowing that one of the conditions of it was that if she won, she would get another crack at the championship.
White told Yahoo Sports, “You know us. We’ll make it right with her.”
But in this case, there is no making it right.
Professional athletes have short windows of opportunity to make their money. It does them no good to have someone promise to make it right.
The first woman to defeat Rousey – if the champion ever loses – is going to make a boatload of money, and not just from the lucrative rematch that would be sure to follow.
Endorsements, which UFC fighters are struggling with mightily in light of the UFC’s Reebok deal and changing economics, would come in droves to whoever would be able to slay the sport’s biggest star the first time.
All indications are that UFC 193 is going to do a monster live paid gate at Etihad Stadium as well as a massive pay-per-view number.
Rousey’s 34-second victory over Bethe Correia in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August sold one million pay-per-views, the UFC’s largest number of the year. Saturday’s bout has at least a chance to surpass that.
Miesha Tate (R) punches Sara McMann in their bantamweight bout during UFC 183 in January. (Getty)
It’s hard to make that up to Tate, because the circumstances may never again be the same.
Even Holm understands Tate’s anger over being yanked.
“Of course I do,” she said. “I was offered a fight and as a fighter, it’s my job to take the fights that are offered to me. But I can understand how Miesha is angry about it. I completely sympathize with her. I totally get how she feels.”
No one ever knows how a pay-per-view event will do until each sale is counted, but the trends are in favor of a massive number. White has said he expects Saturday’s show to surpass the number that the Rousey-Correia show did.
Commercial establishments are buying the card at an unprecedented rate. White fully expects 70,000 to jam Etihad Stadium.
Is Holm’s presence on the card the reason for that? Well, perhaps, except that she remains a massive underdog.
The most logical reason that the show is trending so well is simply because of the mainstream interest in Rousey.
Rousey brings in all sorts of demographics that other fighters don’t, and it’s getting to the stage where it almost doesn’t matter who she fights. People go to movies when Tom Hanks or Scarlett Johansson are in them because they like Hanks and Johansson.
It probably wouldn’t make an appreciable difference whether UFC 193 was headlined by Rousey-Holm or Rousey-Tate. In either event, it was going to generate massive dollars.
If, as seems likely, it exceeds one million pay-per-view sales, that would give Rousey two of the year’s three biggest pay-per-view performances, including boxing.
Only the mega-fight on May 2 between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, a match that was years in the making, will wind up ahead of her. Mayweather-Pacquiao did 4.6 million buys, an astronomically high number that nearly doubled the previous record of 2.5 million set in 2007 by Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya.
It’s hard not to feel sorry for Tate for having the rug ripped out from under her like it was.
And no matter what happens in the aftermath of UFC 193, it’s probably going to be very difficult, if not impossible to, as White said, make it right.