The first 48

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After watching Ronda Rousey get knocked out in the first round, two things went through my head. One: she has had a fantastic career but it’s possibly over, and second was I couldn’t have been the only one to see this coming.

I watched the match expecting the referee Herb Dean to look to the audience and playfully joke how the match was in fact not over in 48 seconds and Ronda was allowed a moment to catch her breath and keep fighting. The sudden stoppage saddened me, but Herb did everyone and especially Ronda a favor because it would not have gotten any better from there.

Full disclosure I’ve been watching UFC since a youth illegally on VHS (ask your parents what VHS is) when many considered Mixed Martial Arts a joke. It was at times viewed, as a level below the WWE(shocking I know). To see where the sport is today, the money, the appreciation, the sophistication and technicality of it is phenomenal. Dana White has been the face(and rightfully so but he’s not the only one) grinding away putting this sport into the mainstream for a very long time, and the fans, as disgruntled as they can be are smart and thankful for it. There is an artistry to watching MMA that I appreciate. The fans of it know that it’s not just a display of violence and are aware of the skill and dedication required to be successful in this sport. Frankly, anyone can lose at any time and this in itself causes inconsistency for the title holders. In other words: If the octagon is a pool the fighters are all sharks. One thing you can’t fake in MMA is hunger because a shark will always smell blood.

We live in a world of hyperbole; we live in a world where it seems being phony gains more popularity and fans then being authentic and honest. However in Mixed martial arts, when you are both a hungry combatant and a smart tactician you typically win your bouts. The strategist behind the scenes that has helped UFC become the giant it is today is Joe Silva. Joe Silva who will retire this year is a UFC matchmaking genius. The way we view the UFC, the way fights are assigned, the bouts, ranking, the climb that the fighter has to go through to make it to the top of the division, are all thanks to a mastermind that will be leaving the UFC after 21 years of service. I don’t know who will put fight cards together going forward, but filling Joe Silva shoes will be hard to do.

Rarely has Joe put bad fight cards together, and although some matches might have been questionable the timing of each bout has balanced itself out for the fighter and the sport. UFC 207 was the first time for me personally that I felt Joe Silva got the fight card wrong. Not in entirety because 207 was a great show, but the Rousey Nunes match was poor decision making. I don’t know who decided what but bottom line all fighters, promoters, managers and owners have to sign off on the fights that they put together. Ronda Rousey had no business fighting Amanda Nunes as her first fight back into the octagon.

The legend has been away from professional combat fighting for 13 months, a lifetime in a sport that is ever moving like the UFC. Since her departure, the belt has changed hands three times; this is not by accident but rather the women’s division evolving. I can never speak ill of Ronda Rousey because if it weren’t for her women’s MMA would not be in the forefront. It pains me to talk of Joe Silva in any negativity because the man has put together some of the best fight cards MMA fans have had the pleasure to witness but this was not smart from anyone involved. The UFC has an obligation to increase its capital and take care of everyone, but let’s face it the stars of UFC especially, must be protected. When they make money, the UFC makes money, and in that, they failed long term in protecting Ronda, her brand, and their longtime star.

No one knows how the conversation went in the offices when Ronda was ready to come back, but she should have clearly had a buffer fight to showcase that the rust was off and that she is prepared to take on the champion eventually. Amanda Nunes is the real deal; her entire life focused on these moments. She represents how far the women’s division has come, and another prime example of that is Raquel Pennington. As good as Miesha Tate is/was she lost to a hungry Raquel Pennington and shortly after retired. Miesha knew you could fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake hunger. These up and coming ladies are fighters, not women fighters but fighters, and Raquel Pennington a professional fighter similar to Nunez is the future of the women’s division, which continues to evolve.

They are skilled trained and hardened, and this is why a fighter such as Ronda Rousey should have been protected before fighting a champion that was(before this match) on a four fight K.O. Streak all by stoppage and her previous 13 wins 9 were by Knockout. Amanda was and still is hungry. Her hunger is not manufactured, anyone can lose, but she has been training and fighting for over a year. Ronda Rousey has been on spiritual retreats finding herself.

Instead of being thrown into a title fight Ronda Rousey would have been better suited to getting her feet under her to showcase that she is still hungry. It is possible the UFC gave her too much respect and expected her to be ready for a shot at the belt again. Even thought her long layoff merited no such opportunity. Truthfully If competing for the title was her idea, then she made the wrong decision. She could have still retained number one ranking battled a number two or a number three showcase that she is for real, and take six months to recoup. UFC makes huge money off her return to the octagon, build up fanfare and chatter that Ronda is back and then take on whoever the champion is, whether it’s Amanda Nunes after she retains the title from her first title defense or the newly crowned champion if she lost it.

Even allowing Ronda, a media exemption seemed to do more harm than good because it didn’t showcase focus but rather a psychological cushion if she was to fail. If that was the case part of her battle was already lost to not facing her doubters head on. There was so much made of Ronda Rousey return that no one looked at the Champion. Nunes is a phenomenal fighter with real punching power, humble but hungry, confident where she needs to be, and she will only get better. Again the sport has evolved, the women’s division has changed since Ronda came in and made history and after she received her first shocking loss of her career.

Ronda Rousey is forever a legend, and it is unfortunate how abruptly legends come back down to earth, no matter the sport, rarely do they go out gracefully. Although a rarity, I can criticize those who work on UFC matchmaking for not honestly thinking this through.  It wasn’t for injury purposes that Ronda has been away for so long; she needed to regain her inner self, and after this 48-second loss, her search will continue but you can be assured it won’t be in the octagon.

There would have been no money loss and only more money to be gained if they had given Ronda another fight before competing for the championship belt, but that is not what happened, and because of it, Ronda’s illustrious career is likely over. Make no mistake she is a Hall of Famer; she is a legend, and she will forever be one of the best pound for pound fighters in MMA, but you can’t fake hunger. Sharks circle the tank regularly, and that will always be the beauty of MMA. The cliché of “who want’s it more” which is ridiculous holds just a slither of merit because you cannot fake hunger. MMA fighters expose that quickly and being away for 13 months and then asked to take the title first fight back is hard to do. Especially from someone who has been on the type of streak Amanda Nunes is on, training is one thing real combat is another. There is always blood in the water. We learned that very quickly in the first and probably the last 48 seconds of her professional career.

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