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Rovell: Rousey's marketability takes hit from UFC 193 defeat


On the night Ronda Rousey lost the women’s bantamweight title in stunning fashion to Holly Holm at UFC 193, she passed Maria Sharapova in Twitter followers.

The latter fact is not insignificant. Now with 1.91 million followers, Rousey was on her way to becoming the world’s most marketable female athlete, which, at least dollar-wise, is currently Sharapova, at more than $20 million.

Rousey, who is closing in on $10 million annually, has been viewed as a menacing fighter and a beauty, a crossover star whose agent not surprisingly also represents Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Rousey still might become the most marketable female athlete, but now there’s going to be a required detour.

The unstoppable force in the Octagon became an unstoppable force outside it. Rousey was one of only a few fighters clearing north of a couple hundred thousand dollars a year from UFC’s Reebok deal.

Last week, UFC sponsor Monster Energy signed a deal with Rousey that gave Monster the right to have its logo on her fight gear. No terms were disclosed, but the going rate for her services figured to be seven figures with bonuses.

Although its new UFC game was coming out in spring 2016, Electronic Arts couldn’t wait. On Friday, EA announced Rousey was its cover athlete, the first woman to grace the cover of a worldwide game in its history. EA bought in-fight mentions on the broadcast Saturday to encourage fans to preorder the game.

Instead of Rousey running around the huge Monster logo at the center of the Octagon, one of the lasting images will be her getting knocked out cold onto the giant “M” before the fight was stopped.

Big deals that were ahead will now go into a holding pattern. Blue chip companies that were willing to make the risky crossover to MMA through Rousey might now stay away.

Although Rousey didn’t yet have an exclusive autograph deal, big dollars were certainly hers for the taking. In recent weeks, some of her autographed cards had sold on eBay for more than $1,000 apiece. Considering the recent deals Fanatics gave the likes of Chicago Cubs rookie Kris Bryant, it’s not unreasonable to think an undefeated Rousey could have commanded a deal worth more than $250,000.

Rousey is supposed to star in the “Road House” remake, which is set to start shooting in early 2016, but projections for the movie likely took a virtual dip.

As for the UFC, Rousey’s defeat didn’t hurt the promotion as badly from a financial standpoint. A longer fight meant people will have more faith in buying a rematch.

Rousey, in a way, was fool’s gold to this point. She was a star who, according to a recent Nielsen poll, 44 percent of the nation knew, but fans also knew that her past three fights before Saturday could be featured in a single Instagram video or Vine.

Since the UFC makes a lot of money off pay-per-view buys, restoring faith in a “good fight” was key. Of course, if Rousey loses the rematch, that’s when the UFC suffers colossal financial damage.

A one-loss Rousey could still get the masses into the sport. But if she loses a second time, even though MMA champions eventually lose, her appeal will be crushed.

It can be argued that never before has any sport’s league or promotion had as much riding on a single event than the UFC will have when Rousey steps in the Octagon with Holm again.



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