The phrase “We are All Witnesses” was something Nike cooked up to promote one of their marquee stars and sponsored athletes LeBron James. It was plastered all over Cleveland during his time with the Cavaliers. At the heart of the statement, the meaning behind it all is that we as fans were witnessing greatness.
In the sport of mixed martial arts, or more specifically women’s mixed martial arts, some would argue we haven’t yet seen true greatness.
At one time Gina Carano was regarded as the face of women’s MMA, but her heart never seemed truly dedicated to fighting. After a brutal loss to Cris “Cyborg” Santos is 2009, she turned her attention to the acting world. While her contributions to women’s MMA can never be forgotten, she was more figurehead than fighting royalty.
What about Cris Cyborg who dismantled Carano is that fight? Well, unfortunately, while she did obliterate her next several opponents, the Brazilian was beating up on smaller opponents who just couldn’t match her size and power, and then on top of all of that she tested positive for a banned substance that essentially killed her run in Strikeforce and possibly the entire 145-pound women’s weight class.
In the women’s bantamweight division, the title bounced around from Sarah Kaufman to Marloes Coenen then to Miesha Tate before Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, as Olympic Judo bronze medalist Ronda Rousey snatched the belt in front of thousands live and even more tuning in at home.
It was an electric moment sitting in Nationwide Arena as the crowd lived and breathed with every exchange and every scramble Rousey and Tate went through. It was an amazing experience to move past catcalls and sexist remarks and just watch two warriors battle it out in a classic where the fighters just happened to be ladies.
Leading up to the fight, Rousey was brash, she was unrelenting, and she was unapologetic about everything she said towards Miesha Tate. Was it out of line? Did it ever go too far? Does she regret anything she said?
“I did say things that I wouldn’t normally say to other people because I was trying to hype a fight. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s true,” Rousey told MMAWeekly.com prior to Saturday night’s fight.
Everything Rousey did before Saturday night was her personality with the volume cranked up to eleven. She said the things you’re not supposed to say because she was trying to pick a fight, and she got what she wanted.
With the first round dwindling down, Rousey snatched her signature move, the armbar, and powered away at Tate’s limb, ripping and pulling to force the submission. Tate fought valiantly and tried her best to wiggle free, but as her arm literally popped out of place and twisted in a way that an arm is never supposed to go, she had to tap to stop the fight or risk serious injury.
Following the fight, Rousey received some criticism for her willingness to literally break her opponent’s arm and then not apologize for it. In reality, no apology was necessary.
“Miesha impressed me, she’s a tough chick cause that hurts,” Rousey said about the submission. “I’ve had my elbow dislocated before and that’s no fun. The rule in judo is even if it’s dislocated if they don’t tap, then keep going.”
Now Rousey sits on top of the world with the Strikeforce bantamweight title firmly around her waist. She’s already got her next challenge set in front of her as former champion Sarah Kaufman will try to reclaim what she once owned.
Just like all the ladies before her, Carano, Cyborg, Kaufman, Coenen, and Tate, the new champion needs to cement her legacy before we can call her queen. The fact is right now however, women’s MMA needed a star and it found one in Ronda Rousey.
And when her golden moment was shining down, was Ronda Rousey thinking about the paychecks awaiting her or the sponsorship deals she’s sure to land? No, she was thinking about her father and his belief in her so many years ago.
“I really feel like being the best in the world at something, I feel like a fell short a little bit in judo both times, and being No. 1 and being the best was what my Dad always told me I was destined to be. So I felt like a lot my mind was with my father more than with any other accomplishments before,” Rousey said.
The fact is love her or hate her, Ronda Rousey backed up her words during the fight and now has a chance to catapult women’s MMA to a new level. Much like LeBron James, not everybody is going to like how Ronda Rousey does things, not everyone is going to root for Ronda Rousey, but we are were all witnesses to something special on Saturday night.
Women’s MMA has long been searching for their Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky, or maybe more apropos their own Billie Jean King or Jackie Joyner-Kersee. There’s nothing set in stone that Ronda Rousey will ever accomplish the same level of success that those greats were defined by during their sporting careers, but she’s off to a good start.
If there’s nothing else we can be sure of, we were all witnesses to the genesis of Ronda Rousey and her claim as the face and future of empowered and talented women in MMA.