(Visual proof of this whole “lady UFC champion” thing, via @MikeChiappetta)
During a UFC on FOX 5 press conference held earlier today in Seattle, UFC president Dana White presented Ronda Rousey with her new bantamweight championship belt — then announced that she’d be defending it against Liz “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157, February 23rd at the Honda Center in Anaheim. As MMAFighting writes:
While it wasn’t the hoped-for matchup with Cris Cyborg, White promised that matchup with Rousey would come next as long as she emerged from UFC 157 victorious. ”That was obviously the fight we wanted to make at 135 pounds,” White said. “We worked hard to make that fight. I believe that this fight will happen and I truly believe the next fight will be the Cyborg one.” [Ed. note: Not that Dana doesn't have the utmost confidence in you, Liz.]
A five-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Carmouche’s career MMA record stands at 7-2, with both losses coming last year, in back-to-back Strikeforce matches against Marloes Coenen and Sarah Kaufman. Carmouche rebounded impressively this year, scoring stoppage wins over Ashleigh Curry and Caitlin Young under the Invicta banner.
Though she’s been publicly angling for a matchup with Rousey in recent weeks, Liz Carmouche is one of the last people you’d expect to be headlining a UFC pay-per-view card in early 2013. But as is often the case with UFC title fights lately, the booking was motivated by a lack of options. Said White:
“Let me put it to you this way,” he said. “You ask me these questions and I tell you truth. A lot of people don’t like the truth when I say it but that’s who wanted to fight her. People aren’t kicking the doors down at Zuffa to fight her.”
Rousey added: ”I can’t make these girls fight me when I want them to fight me. I got a lot of respect for Liz. She’s the only one that really stepped up and said she really wanted this fight right now. That speaks a lot towards her. When the other girls come around and actually want to come to the big show, they know where I’m at.”
Kudos to the UFC for being committed to its women’s MMA experiment — and not burying its inaugural women’s fight in the co-main event spot of a FUEL card — but it’s a risky move, especially when one of the fighters involved is a relative unknown to casual fans. All the UFC can do is hope that Rousey vs. Carmouche turns out to be a thrilling war that turns more fans onto women’s MMA — or at least ends in a violent stoppage that they can show on SportsCenter.
Worst case scenario? Carmouche wins in a slow five-rounder. Obviously, that would still be a pretty solid outcome for Liz, but if it goes down like that, you can expect the UFC to suddenly lose interest in promoting women — which, let’s face it, was only about one specific woman all along, and the potential superfight that will be a lot more profitable than this one.