Prior to losing to Holly Holm at UFC 193, Ronda Rousey was a seemingly undefeated champion who would never get a fight with her biggest rival, recently retired undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Rousey and Mayweather had both be engaged in a verbal feud, that begin more than a year ago, when Mayweather answered in an interview that he had never heard of Rousey. Mayweather’s comment seemed meaningless at the time, because it is entirely possible that the boxer may not have heard of Rousey.
However, the comment offended Rousey, who after hearing Mayweather’s immediately lashed back at the boxing champion. The two athletes battled back and forth, with Rousey taking every opportunity to mention Mayweather’s history of violence. The argument between the two continued to play out in the public as Rousey took a shot at Mayweather at the ESPYs. Mayweather threw a verbal counter punch at Rousey, saying that he would like to see her make as much money as him and sell as many pay-per views. Rousey quickly responded by saying she makes more money per second than Mayweather does.
As much as these two people appear to dislike each other, they could not be more similar. From their sizes, Olympic medals and family, the similarities between the two, are reminiscent to the romantic comedy where the man and women refuse to admit how similar they are until they finally hook up in the last 30 minutes of the movie.
Rousey was born into a judo family. Her mother AnnMaria De Mars was the first American women to win a gold medal at the World Championships. Mayweather was born a decade earlier into a family of boxers. Mayweather’s father and two of his uncles both had careers as boxer and later trainers. At a young age Rousey and Mayweather both started training in their family’s respective sport. Both Rousey and Mayweather received training from their parents, as Rousey trained with her mother and Mayweather trained with his father. Mayweather would also be trained by his Uncle Roger, following his father’s incarceration from 1992 until 1998. For Rousey it was much harder to deal with the loss of her father. When she was just eight years old, Rousey’s father committed suicide upon learning that he would eventually become a paraplegic following a sleighing accident.
Rousey and Mayweather continued to rise through the amateur rankings, both qualifying for the Olympics as teenagers. At 19, Mayweather qualified for the Atlanta Olympics controversially winning a bronze medal, after he lost a questionable decision in the semi-finals. While training for the Olympics, teammates gave Mayweather his first nickname of “pretty boy” for his exception defensive style that kept his face from being seriously damaged. Rousey first qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympics, and then again in 2008’s Beijing Olympics, where she like Mayweather would come home with a bronze medal.
Mayweather started his professional career in the October following the Atlanta Olympics. Within the first 20 months of turning professional Mayweather won his first 17 fights, with 13 knockouts before receiving his first title shot.
Rousey earned her first title fight after winning her first four fights by submitting her opponents with an arm bar within 50 seconds of the fight starting. Rousey claimed her first title at 25, submitting rival Miesha Tate with an arm bar in the final minute of the first round. Rousey would defend her title for seven consecutive fights, winning all by submission or knockout, with only one fight advancing past the first round.
Mayweather would win his first of four lineal titles at 22, stopping Genaro Hernandez in the 8th round to win the lineal super featherweight title. For the next 17 years, Mayweather emerged as the sport’s biggest pay-per view. Inside the ring, there many have never been a better defensive fighter, who excelled in not getting hit and responding with quick counter punches. In the late stages of Mayweather’s career, he was able to win easy decision after decision, as his opponents routinely had their lowest punch connection of their career. When Mayweather retired, he had 49 victories and zero defeats, winning the lineal title in four weight classes.
As Rousey emerged as the UFC’s biggest pay-per view star, it’s hard not to compare the outgoing personas that she and Mayweather used to sell themselves as the bad guy in order to sell their opponents as credible foes with the chance of beating them.
Prior to fighting Oscar De La Hoya, Mayweather left his previous promoter and emerged with a new persona and nickname. Gone was the “pretty boy,” title that Mayweather had used since the Olympics. Mayweather began introducing the world to Floyd “money” Mayweather, a brash cocky and confident fighter, whose only concerns were money, winning and showing everyone how much money he had. Mayweather would enter the ring against De La Hoya, wearing the colours of the Mexican flag and sporting a sombrero. Mayweather had successfully turned heel and people were willing to pay in the hopes of seeing someone beat Mayweather.
Mayweather would tone his approach down slightly for his next 11 fights, but the fight was already lit by the media who did the promotions for him. After taking a 21 month retirement, Mayweather returned, replaced by Manny Pacquiao as the sport’s biggest star.
For five years, the media was wet at the mouth for a fight between the two men. But for five years, the two men would not fight, as neither side could agree on the purse split, drug testing and location. Mayweather took most of the media’s blame for the fight continually falling through as the media painted the picture of Mayweather being scared and ducking Pacquiao. The five years of media attention helped make Mayweather’s star even bigger as the sport’s biggest bad guy.
During the prime of his career, Mayweather was sentenced to serve an 87 day jail term for domestic violence. Feminist media members continued to talk about Mayweather. The media continued criticizing him for the domestically violence history and questioned how he could be allowed to fight. The media was seemingly unaware that they were making him even more money to fuel his “money” persona.
All the negative press Mayweather garnered only made the public thirst for him to lose even greater. Mayweather continued to promote himself as an undefeated champion who would not and could not be beat. Signing a $30 million per fight deal with Showtime, Mayweather continued to live in the “money” persona. Before his last few fights, Mayweather started promoting himself, as “TBE,” an acronym for the best ever. With media attention at a fever pitch, and domestic violence a hot topic following the Ray Rice video, Mayweather’s celebrity was never bigger.
After five years of negotiations, a title fight was finally agreed to win Pacquiao. The media whirlwind took over. The public bought into the fight of the century as casual sports fans were unsure who would win in a fight with the sport’s two pound for pound kings. The public bought into the hype believing Pacquiao could finally end Mayweather’s winning streak. A record 4.4 million pay-per view buys, shattering the previous world record for 2.6 million for Mayweather’s fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Mayweather would walk away from the fight, with an easy decision victory and an over $200 million paycheck.
Rousey’s career arc was similar to Mayweather’s. However, Rousey’s shift to the “money” persona of Mayweather was when she joined the UFC. When Rousey joined the UFC, the promotion machine took over. People loved to love Rousey as much as they loved to hate her for her brash cocky attitude. Rousey declared that she would win all of her fights and retired undefeated as the greatest of all-time.
The media wanted to portray Rousey as a trailblazer, a women leading the feminist movement, breaking ground in what had traditionally been a man’s world. However, Rousey would not play the role the media wanted her to play. Rousey starred as one of the coaches on the Ultimate Fighter again against her rival Tate. Rousey can off poorly and very unlikable for her approach and coaching techniques with her team.
Tate and Rousey would have their rematch at UFC 168 in the co-main event. As expected, Rousey won by arm bar, but was pushed in the third round, the deepest she has ever gone in a fight. As Tate rose from the mat, she looked to shake the hand of Rousey, who blew her off, refusing to shake hands. Despite the lack of sportsmanship, Rousey’s star continued to rise, and would receive a boost by taking shots at Mayweather for his history of domestic violence. Again, Rousey would be pushed as a feminist hero. Rousey began to cross over into the mainstream media, and began her transition into acting.
Rousey was everywhere in the media. However, the attention and fame had caught up to Rousey. She was overexposed, she was exhausted. At the weight-in for her title fight against Holm, the traditional stare down got a little too close for Rousey’s liking. The media exploded, wanting to see what Rousey would do next. Holm who seemingly did nothing wrong, was the target of scathing Instagram posts by Rousey who called her out despite her over reaction. Holm remained calm and confident.
With Etihad Stadium filled in Australia, and 1.1 million pay-per view buys, all watching were witnesses to the biggest upset in UFC history. Rousey was thoroughly dominated. Interestingly, Rousey predicted how exactly Holm would defeat her on Jimmy Fallon. Holm frustrated Rousey with his boxing combinations, badly damaging the face of Rousey. Rousey had no answers for Holm who countered all of her moves. Seconds into the second round, it was all over for Rousey, who was knocked out with a vicious head kick.
The loss ended any further comparison of Rousey’s record to Mayweather’s. However, it was Mayweather who seemingly ended the feud. In a rather unexpected turn of events, it was Mayweather who took to social media offering to help coach Rousey in boxing to defeat Holm in a rematch. Tentatively, the Holm Rousey rematch is scheduled for UFC 200 in July 2016. With Rousey stating if she loses again to Holm, she will retire.