Conor McGregor may say that he is worth $4.2 billion to the UFC, but what does that make Ronda Rousey worth?
After all, UFC president Dana White, even in doing the promotional rounds for UFC 205, which is headlined by lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez putting his belt on the line against McGregor, reiterated that Rousey is “by far” the biggest star the promotion has ever had.
“By far. Not even close. By far the biggest star ever,” White said in a recent interview on HOT 97 Radio in New York. He didn’t put a price tag on Rousey, but put her popularity in perspective.
“Ronda Rousey is such a big start that… when you go down to Brazil, they don’t care who you are, 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.”
White considers Rousey such a huge star, not just because she generates dollars for his company, but because she changed the face of his company. Rousey altered the trajectory of the promotion.
“Everybody heard the famous TMZ words from me. When will women fight in the UFC? I said never. Then I met Ronda Rousey and we sat down and we talked. And 15 minutes into a 45-minute conversation, I was like, holy (expletive), I think I’m gonna do this. I think she’s the one,” White regaled.
“Then I went out and made her the main event down in Anaheim, Calif., for an event that we did over Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida and people went crazy.”
White opted to supplant two fighters destined for the UFC Hall of Fame with two women. Two women who had never set foot in the Octagon. Two women that, to the masses and to many casual fans alike, were little known quantities.
Yes, there was a backlash. But the backlash is what helped to change White’s perspective not just on women in the Octagon, but women in sports in general, as well as how women are viewed and valued in American society.
He admitted that he had preconceived notions about women in the Octagon, preconceived notions that were bred from generations of societal influence.
“People were like, ‘you’re gonna put women above these legends? This is a disgrace.’ That’s when it really opened my eyes, like, Wow!” said White. “You always talk about women not getting equal pay, women not getting equal rights, that was when it was like, holy (expletive), I didn’t expect this, but (expletive) ‘em. I didn’t expect that kind of negativity.”
That’s when Rousey tipped the scales. She tipped the scales for the UFC and busted down several doors that were closed to women in American society.
“It was really a huge, monumental moment for sports, and obviously for women. When that fight happened, it was a massive success. The gate was awesome, the pay-per-view did really well, headlined by two women. I never though I’d see the day,” said White, although he is now clearly happy that he did see the day.
“Ronda opened the floodgates.”