It doesn’t appear likely that Ronda Rousey will return to the Octagon, but that’s not going to stop UFC president Dana White with heaping praise on the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion.
Despite the massive success that Conor McGregor has achieved, White credits much of the UFC’s crossover into the mainstream with Rousey’s star power, particularly on the women’s side of the sport.
Prior to meeting Rousey, about five or six years ago, White famously had no interest in bringing women into the Octagon. After meeting the then-Strikeforce champion, he did a 180-degree turn.
Not only did he bring Rousey and other women into the UFC, he went all in. Rousey was inaugurated as the first UFC women’s bantamweight champion and she defended the belt against Liz Carmouche in the first women’s fight in the Octagon in the UFC 157 headliner.
Rousey defended the belt six consecutive times before losing back-to-back bouts to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes in her two most recent bouts.
Despite all her accolades, Rousey has drawn heavy criticism, particularly since losing to Holm and Nunes. As such, White believes that his former star doesn’t get enough credit for what she achieved.
“(Rousey is) underrated,” he said on Sunday’s Pardon My Take podcast. “Look at what she did. Look at what she built. She started it all.”
Since Rousey’s emergence, in just four short years, the women’s side of the Octagon has gone from zero divisions to four. Originally starting solely with the 135-pound bantamweight division, White and company eventually added the strawweight (115-pound) division, which has started to fill out, and more recently added the featherweight (145-pound) and flyweight (125-pound) classes as well.
“You had such a dominant female fighter. She was so bad ass and she spoke well and she was pretty,” White continued. “That whole combination of what she was built that whole female mixed martial arts phenomenon. She was the right person at the right time to do it.”