When Dana White announced that Ronda Rousey was going to become the first female fighter in UFC history, all of the male fighters under the UFC banner smiled and clapped politely. Aside from one brutally honest comment from Georges St-Pierre about how he viewed women’s MMA, nobody really offered much of an opinion on it either way.
Two weeks ago, when Rousey got her championship belt at the UFC on FOX 5 pre-fight press conference, once again, everyone smiled and clapped politely.
When Rousey was named the headliner of UFC 157 and given top billing for the event because she’s a champion and there are no other champions fighting on the card, everybody stopped smiling. That, apparently, was a cardinal sin of some sort.
While Rousey’s fight is obviously getting a lot of attention right now, the bout from UFC 157 that everyone is really looking forward to is the one between Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson. The two are essentially fighting for a shot at the light heavyweight belt after Alex Gustafsson gets his shot. Because of the names involved and what’s at stake, some people from Henderson’s camp are questioning why their guy isn’t the headliner for the entire event.
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Gus Pugliese, Henderson’s boxing coach, wrote this on Facebook recently:
“Ronda is headlining UFC 157. Here is why I have a problem with that. Ronda is the champion of Strikeforce with 6 wins in less than 2 years of a mma professional career. That’s impressive regardless of who she has fought. However, she is not the UFC champion yet. She still has to win this fight to get that belt. On the other hand , we have Hendo, who has also been the Strikeforce champion (never lost the belt),Pride champion in 2 different weight classes; he has been ranked #1 contender for the UFC 205lbs, and #6 by many pound for pound best fighter.
"His resume is second to none, moreover, he is fighting a former champion, Lyoto Machida. Now why aren’t they main event? Is Ronda a better market value? I don’t know, but her fight could be quick as usual and we could be missing another historic 5 rds fight between 2 legends and possible hall of famers. I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve to headline an UFC event, but certainly not this one.”
After he made those comments, our friends at MMA Sucka reached out to Pugliese for a follow-up. He didn’t back down.
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“He (Dana White) is the President of the UFC, if he feels Ronda has a better market value than Hendo or Machida, he is gonna risk it. But Ronda never fought for the UFC, she was given the belt without a fight there. I believe in pecking order, and paying dues. In this particular case, it wasn’t applied.”
White, for his part, had this to say on the matter:
“It’s not ‘Hey pony up $55′, she’s the champ. You will never see a situation in any fight – whether man, woman, the lightest weight division it is. If you’re the champion you’re the headliner; you’re the top of the card.”
So, who is in the right here? Without a doubt – Dana White. Rousey is the champ, she deserves the headlining spot. It’s no different than Mighty Mouse headlining January’s UFC on FOX card. Both the Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone and Quinton Jackson vs. Glover Teixeira bouts are going to be better, but champs get to headline.
Henderson is a legend (as is Machida, for that matter), but he is right where he belongs on the UFC 157 card.