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In Ronda Rousey's book tour a lot of interesting things are coming out. One of these is an article about the specialness of Ronda's Sports Illustrated cover, only the 2nd time a UFC fighter has made the cover. And as is pointed out, it is really only the first time that they have done so AS the story.

One of the notable things is where the author mentions that Ronda Rousey threatens to take over Serena Williams as the most talked about female athlete in the world:

The former Olympic judoka now duels tennis star Serena Williams as the most-talked about female athlete in the country. As far as domination, her last three title defenses, against Sara McMann, Alexis Davis and Cat Zingano, have lasted a total of 96 seconds.

and it goes on...

With the exception of iconic boxing figures, a Sports Illustrated cover is a rarity for combat sports athletes. Rousey would be the first judoka ever to make the cover. Nobody from the jiu-jitsu world has ever made a cover, and the lone amateur wrestler, Danny Hodge, did so back in 1957.

Still, the other part of the cover is the jinx. The lone female combat sport athlete to make the cover was boxer Christy Martin in 1996. While Martin didn't lose a fight until 1998, her career never really advanced past that point. Martin is best known as a nostalgia figure from the 90s when for a brief period of time, people talked about women boxing. Like Huerta, she is probably best known as the answer to a trivia question about the cover. As a sports figure, Rousey is almost assuredly going to be remembered as something far more significant.

read the rest of the article here

Personally, I was intrigued about this battle between Serena Williams and Ronda, as I don't follow tennis much and I wasn't aware of just how much Serena has been in the public conversation over the years - it's a great deal. I'm a numbers and graphs guy, and an analyst of digital footprints, so I thought I'd turn to the Google Trends tool and see what the was case. If you are not a numbers person you'll find this boring, no doubt, but maybe the conclusions of interest.

Google Trends reports an index of presence of a search term compared to total searches, something that makes it easy to see a rough picture of how much a topic is on the public's finger tips. So I ran a few trend pictures of four different female athletes to see where Ronda has stacked up:

Ronda-Rousey-Most-Talked-About-Female-At

2005 - 2015 - Index of Google Searches

above, Ronda Rousey (blue), Serene Williams (red), Gina Carano (yellow) and Danica Patrick (green) since 2005 - you can see that Serena (red) has had a very strong footing for almost 10 years. below the same selections since Ronda came on the scene in 2011.

Ronda-Rousey-Most-Talked-About-Female-At

2011-2015 Index of Google Searches

 

Ronda-Rousey-Most-Talked-About-Female-At

Jan 2013 - May 2015 - Index of Google Searches

and then above, the same selection since January 2013. In the last year and a half Serena (red) and Ronda (blue) have been searched roughly at about the same frequency. This is worldwide Google data. If you run this for just searches done in the United States Ronda has indeed passed Serena as the most talked about female athlete in the country.

 

As a point of comparison I also ran the trends of Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones as search terms since Ronda came into the UFC. As Jon Jones has had his share of controversies, this too has stimulated searches. It is just amazing that the budding male star vying for the title of the "best fighter in the world" or Best MMA fighter ever, has caught the public eye perhaps to a lesser degree that Ronda has:

Ronda-Rousey-Most-Talked-About-Female-At

2011-2015 Index of Google Searches

Now of course this data is snap-shot, and if we were really to break it down we would provide more caveats and analysis. All these numbers are telling us is that Ronda is really standing somewhere special in terms of reach and public consciousness, both among female athletes and in her own sport as well. This is something we already knew, right? But seeing the numbers puts things into a certain perspective. Why? Because these kinds of numbers are the things that money looks to, the things that drive decisions. The important thing is that in our fast changing world we really forget that there was a time when things we take for granted today were unthinkable a short time ago. 10-11 years ago there was no such thing as YouTube or Facebook. They were a murmur. Now we can't imagine a world without them. And before Ronda it was simply unimaginable that a female FIGHTER, could outstrip male fighters in one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

Evey single thing that Ronda does. Every image the media takes up of her. Every motif and story arc is a new thing. Something that never existed before. It is cutting forth a path for female fighting that will shape the fighting imaginations and expectations of both men and women for decades, if not longer.

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I actually found what you posted fascinating. And while indeed she is carving out a path for females in both fighting and public presence, for some reason, I still don't like her. Maybe it's the way she is portrayed, the overly cocky and confident bitch who will whoop your ass in a heartbeat, or maybe it's possible I just don't like what I've heard about her (which isn't much, by the way.. Only in the past year have I really heard her name a great deal), which is that she's done nothing but take people down via submission. Which, I'm sure that it takes a great deal of skill to do, but, I still don't like her. I can't really explain it.

Otherwise, I have heard of and read articles by Serena Williams. And I don't really like tennis, but as a personality and person, I do. Maybe I'm just weird. Who knows. Great post though :)

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I actually found what you posted fascinating. And while indeed she is carving out a path for females in both fighting and public presence, for some reason, I still don't like her. Maybe it's the way she is portrayed, the overly cocky and confident bitch who will whoop your ass in a heartbeat, or maybe it's possible I just don't like what I've heard about her (which isn't much, by the way.. Only in the past year have I really heard her name a great deal), which is that she's done nothing but take people down via submission. Which, I'm sure that it takes a great deal of skill to do, but, I still don't like her. I can't really explain it.

Otherwise, I have heard of and read articles by Serena Williams. And I don't really like tennis, but as a personality and person, I do. Maybe I'm just weird. Who knows. Great post though :)

 

Thanks for the good words Michelle. I've heard several women say this about not liking her. And we know that there are certainly men who just don't like her. I'm eager to read the book because it sounds like she didn't just have a ghost written fluff piece produced, but that there are real things in there. I'm probably on the other side where I can say: "Well, I just like her", though I think I was pulling for Cat Zingano in the last fight because I like her too (and Sylvie trained at her gym a bit before we came out here). The thing that just makes such a huge difference for me is that she really went through hell long before she was known, was at the fringe of falling out of a fighting art that she had devoted life to, and somehow leveraged up a future for herself - I want to read about those things. Also, one of the things I DON'T like about MMA is how it has become a mishmash of martial arts and the top fighters are now not really great at any of them. Ronda kind of represents male MMA years ago, when you came in AS a particular artist, as someone with a very strong background of that art, which you built around. These two things, her throwback nature, and the way she wears her toil on her sleeve really made me satisfied with her. I'll also add that there are a lot of people who just don't like Sylvie. They don't know much about her at all, and what they do know is probably pretty distorted. The way people filter through media is complicated, and a lot of it has to do with pre-existing bias and values in the media that receives her. Women suffer when they are poured across media, especially when that media is conditioned to and by men.

It seems pretty clear that Ronda took on the villain persona as a strategy, in really a WWE kind of way. And from what I read it matches up with her own mental game where she always felt disrespected as an American female Judo player on the International scene. Most of the things she says seem well-thought out when I hear them, she seems to think about where she stands. I have to say though that every time she talks about gender it is horribly grating to my ears. Fallon Fox, and now Cyborg. It's painful to hear, and honestly I don't even know where she is coming from. It threatens a lot of credit I've built up for her, but I give her begrudging leeway.

I imagine that she's under incredible strain given her position. She basically has two jobs now, full time female fighter - I love that she fights a lot and doesn't stay out of the octagon to protect herself - and as a media marketer for herself and the UFC. The mental skills that make you a great fighter don't necessarily make you able to handle all the aspects of the other.

Mostly though I feel like we are all missing how unbelievable this is. As in, 10 years ago nobody would believe it. 5 years ago even. In our day and age we lose a sense of time, we lack perspective. We can't even remember that Facebook didn't exist a decade ago. It feels kinda normal for there to be a female athlete who has so much air time, whether we like her or not. This just was not even remotely imaginable a short time ago. It was science fiction. I remember when CBS (I think it was CBS) was debating about whether to have Gina Carano fight on national television. Would it even be a real fight - can women fight? Would there be blood which would suddenly shock the nation?

What does it mean for a woman who is a fighter to be a media superstar? It means at the very least this: little girls growing up now see a woman who is KNOWN for her fighting. Not for her beauty. Not for any number of qualities or achievements. Even her Olympic achievements are largely un-thought-about. She is known as a fighter. This creates a huge resonance in the possible lives of young girls everywhere. For almost everyone you have to see an example before you can know it is possible. And, of course, the phenomena of Ronda also normalizes the fighting of women everywhere now. The bigger the image grows, the more normal it is for a woman to be a fighter, or, for that matter for women to train in fighting arts.

Of course it stands to follow though that the choices she makes also cast a very long shadow, or a very bright light, each of which will endure. Who she is will shape who other people can be.

I think she has a terrible burden being in that place.

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Kevin, Ronda being the sole women MMA champion for years could have made her "harsh", but I think this is her personality. She despises the weak, she seems to have no understanding for people who can't do something.

I'm in a place where I'm slightly fascinated by her and don't accept her way of doing things. So I might like some of her quotes "So they say I fight like a girl. Good." - but I also think she lacks a deeper quality when it comes to speaking about gender-related issues. I love the way Sylvie approches them, just to give you a picture. I, as a woman, want to be empowered by the words of a successful female athlete in martial arts, not feeling bad.

It's interesting though, now that the strawweight division has gained a new strong champion - Joanna Jędrzejczyk. She seems to have a similar background as Ronda, but in Muay Thai, being a multiple world champion (of course it's not easy to compare it to the Olympics) and building around it to become a well-rounded mix-martial-artist, but still having her strong Muay Thai and bringing it to good use. Even though she's "my homie" as she's also from Poland, I got interested in her only shortly before she got the title fight at UFC. As she's standing right before her first UFC title defense, this is the moment she will prove herself to be the "Ronda Rousey" of the strawweight division. I think she has what it takes to stay at the top for a long time.

Now, the second aspect we can compare two of these female champions: their personality. I like Joanna far more than Ronda. Even though I don't necesserly agree with all her actions, but she's far more likeable than Ronda...

A funny thing: I've been following the fanpage of Joanna from before the title fight, and most of the comments from the fans were like "fight!" "war Asia" (Asia is a cutesy-name for Joanna), "train hard", "what did you do in training", "you'll be the champion", "you are great", "you kick her [Esparza's] ass!". A lot of her pictures were also natural, light or no make-up, from training or her home. She's also been replying to a lot of the posts.

Now, after she's gotten the win and gained a lot more international fans, most of the comments are like "you are beautiful", "you're so sexy", "marry me", "your eyes are beautiful", "such a pretty champion". NO WORD about training or the most important thing, fighting.

She also started to post more pictures in full make-up, less from trainig. This change is drastically visible to me, as I admired and supported her as a Polish female fighter stepping into the UFC octagon, representing my country. Now, you never see her reply to the comments and even though she presents herself in social media just like the UFC could only dream of a champion to behave, but I feel she starts to lack authencity.

I just wanted to point out that there's now a new worldwide-recognizable female champion, who will be interesting to watch.

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Micc,

Joanna's fight was actually my first UFC fight ever, and she impressed the hell out of me in comparison to the others. It was so much better than the main fight, too. I loved that she was about striking and that her background was in muay thai. I immediately followed her that night. And I have also noticed a difference in what she posted before and what she posts now. I will say though that I think some of that change might be due to the UFC and being in more spotlight in normal. More pressure, etc. Which for her I hope she does not succumb altogether. Make up is one thing but changing completely due to having a new title, etc, that's fake. I hope she doesn't become that. But in regards to her fighting, I believe you to be correct in your assessment about her being the next person to watch and keep an eye on. As well her possibility of being the Rousey of strawweight.

 

Also, I think you may have described my dislike of Rousey better than I. There's just something about her that rubs me the wrong way.

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I also want to read the book, it's interesting to know how a life shapes a human being, especially one of her calliber. But...I don't earn my wages in dollars, so 15$ for a book is hmmm....like 60$ would feel for you perhaps ;) So not exactly my top priority spending this much on a book (even if it's great and I want to read it). Gotta put it on a waiting list :)

Michelle, I'm glad I could put it into words that you agree with it :) I had a bit of a writer's creativity day today :D

Joanna Jędrzejczyk has also a cocky attitude, she has shown it during the face-offs with Carla Esparza, and she was this cocky also on the local Polish ground, beating all the best females - she's borderline disrespectful in talking about her past opponents though ;) She's not fluent enough to bring it into English words YET, but I've watched a few videos of her and she was not talking the best about the Polish girls she fought. She's really humble on the international scene, but borderline boastful on the local Polish fight scene ;) And I say "borderline" because maybe it's all just my interpretation, maybe someone elso wouldn't think that..but for me it's shaky ground :)

But I love it that a Polish girl is out there in the world, kicking ass and being awsome. Coz she is awsome! :)

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Yeah I noticed she was cocky. What's it someone posted from an article.. Swagalicious or something. It was both funny and kind of.. Idk. Like she went from being a cocky fighter to a pretty boy.. If you catch my meaning ? And shit talking.. Being I don't speak or understand anything other than English and some Spanish.. I only see what she posts in English. But, really, it seems like all the fighters in the UFC do it to some degree anyways. So its not as surprising to hear that she does.

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Yeah I've read the article, I was happy for her. I think in the case of foreign fighters, or like it's the case here, champions, some of the bad things get "lost in translation" and a strong personality always shines through, regardless of the language. She's not exactly "shit talking" other fighters, but well..she could have said it differently, imo. And I think I get the "pretty boy" comment :)

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I was a big Ronda fan until I saw her as a coach on the Ultimate Fighter. She was so disrespectful to Misha Tate and her team. I remember every event before that she would get a huge ovation, then the first event after that the whole crowd booed her. I still have huge respect for her great skills, but her personality seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way.

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Finished it this afternoon. Surprised to see how easy to read and understandable it was. She definitely talks about how she does have a lot of responsibility with what she started. Wish she would have delved farther into that, but it also felt like she still had a lot left to say, so I'm expecting another book from her.

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Finished it this afternoon. Surprised to see how easy to read and understandable it was. She definitely talks about how she does have a lot of responsibility with what she started. Wish she would have delved farther into that, but it also felt like she still had a lot left to say, so I'm expecting another book from her.

 

Thanks for the review Michelle. It's on my google play wishlist. Looking forward to reading it.

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It's interesting to read through this thread, as the initial post/analysis is about how Rousey is the "most talked about" female athlete. And certainly being controversial is what gets people talking because you have both sides. That's not to say that she's controversial in order to be talked about, just that her controversy has probably had a big part in why those graphs look the way they do. For Serena Williams, her body is mostly what people talk about - at least from outside of Tennis, which is where I sit.

And I've written about Rousey before, many times, and when she was first using her loud mouth to talk her way into fights, I thought that was great. Because the "polite" female fighter wasn't getting anywhere. That doesn't mean it's wrong to be who you are if that's quiet and unassuming, like Jojo Calderwood, for example. But people fell in love with Jojo via the very few talking-head moments she had on TUF 20, where it was precisely her little voice and soft-spokenness that men got so worked up about (in a good way). I happen to be a big Jojo fan, from her Invicta fights, but not so much impressed by her UFC work so far. And for a lot of people, Rousey appeared out of nowhere when she stepped into the Octagon with Liz Carmouche... and they promptly forgot Carmouche after that.

It's interesting about the rebranding of this Polish fighter who has taken over the Straw-weight division. When TUF 20 was still only previews and teasers it was already evident that the entire Straw-weight division was being branded as "hot," with close-up shots of painted nails in UFC gloves, glossed lips, eyeshadow, high heeled silhouettes. If that's who you are, do it - I like how unapologetic about her sexuality Felice Herrig is - but having to step into that image for promotion or branding is disappointing. And even watching these complete lizard-brain dudes have to talk trash for those pre-fight interviews is laughable, so it's clearly something that's egged on by the UFC media management. I think it's harder for women to ride this line because anything that's said from one woman criticizing another is basically what is said about women fighters generally. So it kind of always sucks, whereas men can just blah blah all damn day and who cares.

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I was a big Ronda fan until I saw her as a coach on the Ultimate Fighter. She was so disrespectful to Misha Tate and her team. I remember every event before that she would get a huge ovation, then the first event after that the whole crowd booed her. I still have huge respect for her great skills, but her personality seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way.

 

Keep in mind that it's a heavily edited TV show...

 

I love Ronda's mom. I read her blog for motivation.

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I hate the manufactured trash talk and the insistence on being sexy. One of the things I like about Ronda Rousey is that she doesn't care whether people like her or not. Of course everything is being filtered through the lens of the PR/hype machine. It's interesting that she has embraced the role of the villain in the UFC, similar to the way professional wrestling has manufactured story lines.

I am really bothered by the transphobic things she has said about Fallon Fox and Cris Cyborg though. As a cis-woman, who has had her own gender questioned for not being feminine enough, it hits close to home.

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Sylvie, maybe it's a generation thing or maybe where our interests were growing up (you're I think 5 or 6 years over me) or where we grew up, but the only things I remember hearing about Serena was how her and Venus were competing head to head a lot. And I only remember reading one article about her (at least I think it was her) and it was about how she enjoys giving pedicures. I don't remember ever hearing about her body. Then again, my nose was usually in a book and not the media.

 

Dtrick924,

I think that a lot of the seemingly ignorant shit that comes out of her mouth is in large part due to quite literally her ignorance. Based on what I was reading in her book, the lack of education is apparent. Someone mentioned (Kevin maybe, or Sylvie) that she (Rousey) has this huge responsibility as a spokesperson for women, and part of that responsibility includes being mindful of gender identification and how women want to be viewed and treated, but every time she tries to talk about heavy issues, she doesn't seem to get that some of what she says does more harm than good. I really do believe it's because she didn't know, and now her ignorance is showing. But that's just my take.

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Dtrick924,

I think that a lot of the seemingly ignorant shit that comes out of her mouth is in large part due to quite literally her ignorance. Based on what I was reading in her book, the lack of education is apparent. Someone mentioned (Kevin maybe, or Sylvie) that she (Rousey) has this huge responsibility as a spokesperson for women, and part of that responsibility includes being mindful of gender identification and how women want to be viewed and treated, but every time she tries to talk about heavy issues, she doesn't seem to get that some of what she says does more harm than good. I really do believe it's because she didn't know, and now her ignorance is showing. But that's just my take.

 

That's an interesting point about lack of education. Also, being cast as the villain and the face of the women's MMA, I wonder if she feels like she can't back down and apologize when she's made a mistake. I'm sure it's hard to have every word and action broadcast around the world and subject to intense scrutiny. Especially since no single person in a group can speak for everyone.

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One thing she does handle right in my opinion is weight - she copped to being bulemic in her book (from judo weight cuts), and is careful to mention that she puts on weight for photo shoots because that is how she looks better and she knows she has a responsibility to girls & women regarding body image.  I think she is educated on that front but I agree that her trans-phobia has got to go & its ignorance (and probably a distancing thing since I am sure she was called manly as any athletic cis-female sometimes is).

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Yeah threeoaks, I remember her writing about her insta-fear when Stallone made a comment about her arms because that's what was making her self conscious to begin with. I agree, ignorance is only so good of an excuse for so long. As for not backing down.. I think she could if she really wanted to in that regard. Maybe she is caught up in her own hype, too. Don't get me wrong, I'm not making excuses for her. Just trying to think outside the box.

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Kevin and I were talking about this yesterday morning. I get upset by her remarks regarding Cyborg and Fox as well, so much so that we actually tweeted her mom and asked what the hell was up with that. Her mom's response was kind of a mix between a non-response and a "I didn't know she was saying that" response.

I suspect that her opposition to Fallon Fox is actually very similar to her opposition to Cyborg, which is that she's "cheating" by having gone through puberty as a male and now wanting to fight women. Cyborg literally was cheating with her PED use, was suspended for it, etc. Because it's hormonal, I see the similarity to what Rousey's issue with Fallon Fox seems to be.

All this said, fuck everything that Rousey has said about these women and especially how she's framed it. If you're calling out cheating, then call out cheating and leave the bullshit narrow gender definition shit out of it entirely. I feel for Fox; it's going to be a tough ride for trans fighters for a long, long time and being at the front of it is just a rain of bullets.

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So great you tweeted her mom. Curious if it will temper her language. It's very simplistic, but I always check to see if the fear (of being masculine for example) does not point to a desire. If you take hate as a cover for fear, and look at Christy Martin who was very masculine-phobic and homophobic during her time (lotsa pink shorts), she is now comfortably butch & with a woman, post-violent trainer/husband. For myself I definitely want the cultural power that comes with being male and I don't want to/ not good at the quintessentially feminine coquettish sh*t. That does not translate into literally wanting to become or feeling I am a man, but I feel like I am a man in the sense that I feel fully human and not sub-human (a woman by many standards). Going far afield here - on the train. Sorry about that. I am not big in the business of judging stars because I have seen too many times how success brings out aggression in other people (Sylvie gets a lot of it). But as a public person yeah Ronda -stfu with the trans-phobia.

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