“It’s a po’ ass that can’t take a whuppin’.” That bit of wisdom came to me courtesy of my uncle, Red Carter, many years ago. It still holds true today. And there is no better example of that than former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
The great heavyweight champion, George Foreman, after dismantling a ring opponent back in the early 70s, tempered the praise of ringside announcer, Howard Cosell, by saying, “Anybody can dish it out. A real champion is the man who can take it.”
Again, it was George who tweeted this to Ronda following her devastating loss to Holly Holm in 2015: “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Foreman! Down goes Ali! We all got back up Ronda. So will you.”
Except, Ronda is not made of the stuff of those great fighters. Less a champion, Ronda was more a product of UFC promotion, and the public’s twisted desire to parallel the triumphs of women in sports to those of men.
ESPN sports analyst, Max Kellerman, once compared the rise and fall of Ronda Rousey to the ups and downs of Mike Tyson’s career. Let’s see: Ronda is 14-2, with one knockout and nine submissions by armbar. Tyson is 49-4, with 43 knockouts; the same number of KO’s as Rocky Marciano. (Not quite the correlation they were looking for, huh?)
Perhaps it is in the labeling: During Tyson’s reign as heavy weight champion, they proclaimed him “The baddest man on the planet.” During Ronda’s run, they proclaimed her “The baddest woman on the planet.” Ah… except, there is this rub: In the fight game, only the heavyweight champion can reasonably call himself, “The baddest man on earth,” for only he is obliged to take on all comers to prove it. The champions of lesser weight classes – middleweight, welterweight, lightweight – are compelled to fight only men their size, or smaller.
Back in the 40s, a two-fisted bartender, nicknamed “Two-ton” Tony Galento when asked if he could beat then heavyweight champion, Joe Louis, famously replied, “I’ll moider de bum.” Joe took the fight despite being outweighed by 200 pounds. He beat “two-ton” Tony down. Being heavyweight champion, Joe simply did his job. If some behemoth had challenged heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson, in that same manner, Mike would have had to do the same. Such responsibilities come with the territory.
Proclaiming Ronda Rousey “The baddest woman on the planet,” meant nothing. If a 235-pound female shot putter had challenged bantamweight champion, Rousey, to a fight, Ronda would have laughed and said, “lose a hundred pounds, girlfriend, and then come back to see me.” That would have been a bantamweight champion doing her job.
Ronda burst onto the UFC scene with one spectacular victory after another, most of which came within the first minute of the first round. Gorgeous, to boot, they packaged and sold her before she knew who “her” was – trumpeting Ronda “The greatest female fighter ever!” at one stage in this ballyhoo, a handler, at the mention of boxing champion, Floyd Mayweather, scoffed, “Ronda would ‘rad doll’ him.” They had gone too far.
Of mixed martial art’s many disciplines – judo, boxing, karate, jujitsu – boxing imparts the most enviable edge. To simply be able to punch ad adversary in the mouth is extraordinarily menacing. Ronda’s principle discipline is judo, where she earned a bronze medal at the Olympics. As MMA fighters go, her striking/punching skill is tolerable; her ability to defend against strikes, atrocious. Ronda was a “one-trick pony.” Deny her the armbar, and she becomes a punching bag for skilled strikers. Holly Holm, with her boxing background, maintained her distance from Ronda with good footwork, and then pounded her to a pulp.
On December 30, 2016 Ronda Rousey marched on the octagon for what should be the last time. The initial optics were convincing - she appeared in great shape. She wore her trademark “mean-mug.” But, she had not come to fight. Ronda was there to collect three million dollars and get the hell out of there – one last time – in under a minute. Mission accomplished. She took some punches, grabbed the money, and was out of there in 48 seconds.
There is a world of sports far removed from mere mortals. It steams with testosterone as toxic as the Venusian plains. It is a land of giants – of Shaqs, Gronks, and Phi Slamma Jamma. There, boxing greats like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson cut other great fighters to shreds, as though they held straight razors in each hand. And hitters, like Big George Foreman and “Iron Mike” lift 200-pound bruisers off the floor with a single punch. It is a land of men, unsafe for women and children.