Does it make sense for Ronda Rousey to take on a male opponent?
Both UFC fans and those who happened to be on on the Internet this weekend likely know that Ronda Rousey soundly defeated challenger Bethe Correia in 34-seconds on Saturday night, lighting the #UFC190 hashtag on fire. Fans of the sport know that Rousey has a reputation for taking down her opponents with lightning speed. In fact, the total time for her last four fights combined is about a minute and a half. The sheer force of her athleticism is awe-inspiring and fans want to see more of it – and her challenged. Some had hoped that Correia would present one and when she so clearly didn”t some threw up their hands and exclaimed, “That”s it! Ronda has got to fight a man…”
Rousey herself has said that she wouldn”t – and has a great reason not to: “I don't think it's a great idea to have a man hitting a woman on television,” Rousey told The Daily Beast. “I'll never say that I'll lose, but you could have a girl getting totally beat up on TV by a guy — which is a bad image to put across. With all the football [domestic violence] stuff that's been happening, not a good idea. It's fun to theorize about and talk about, but it's something that's much better in theory than fact.”
So the question is: Is she right? Or given the ease with which she”s defeating her female opponents, should Ronda fight a man?
Now, I am a great enjoyer of the UFC, but I am not an aficionado. So we”re really looking at this in terms of the potential cultural implications rather than a place of expertise on the sport. Having said that, take a look at our chat on the topic above and a brief overview of our thoughts below.
As Rousey herself said, the negative impact that the image of a man fighting a woman on television presents is reason enough not to do it as far as I'm concerned. However, Donna and I chose to look beyond just that reasoning in our chat, because the notion does raise the question of female athletes competing against males. The famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs came out of a moment culturally where feminism was on the rise and the order of the day – quite often – was for a woman to somehow prove that she was/is “as good as a man”. I”d like to think that we”ve moved beyond that limited framework where we really can appreciate and embrace the differences between the sexes.
That”s in no way to indicate that Rousey categorically cannot beat a man. It”s simply to say that divisions and weight classes exist for physiological reasons and this quickly becomes a no win situation for Rousey, her opponent, and the sport. If she wins, then because of the cultural structures we have in place the man becomes emasculated for “losing to a girl”. If she loses, then it”s somehow a reflection on the merits of all female athletes. Not only does she have to fight, she has the burden of standing in for all of womanhood as a whole. It”s entirely unfair –and silly. Finally, does that mean that the next female champion would need to fight a man as well? At what point, does it simply become a mixed gender sport?
It”s ultimately up to the fighters, and there”s certainly times and places where it makes sense for men to compete against women, but I”m not sure that this is it. If there”s a time when it makes sense to have a mixed gender division – so be it. I think we'll have to see some pretty seismic shifts in our culture first, though, and will always want to be sensitive to issues of domestic violence. It's also fine that men and women — in broad strokes — are physiologically different. One is not inherently better or worse. Let”s embrace these athletes for what they bring to the table as individuals and within their own weight classes and divisions.
Asking Ronda Rousey to fight a man opens up a can of worms about professional athletics and gender. On the one hand, Rousey is at the top of her game: no challenger can seem to last more than a few seconds against her in the ring. But human bodies are designed differently. If Rousey doesn”t want to fight a man, that doesn”t diminish her skills as a UFC fighter. However, if a female fighter WANTED to step into the ring to fight a male competitor, I see no issue with that either. As long as the fighters are comparable in skill and weight class, our cultural squeamishness against mixed gender contests shouldn”t stand in the way. Perhaps a new UFC division could be instituted should enough professional fighters want a chance to test themselves against all-comers, regardless of gender.
However, what Rousey says about domestic violence is a real concern. Rousey has been an outspoken critic of how professional athletes get to skate on domestic violence charges, most recently throwing shade at Floyd Mayweather at the ESPYs. So while logistically there is no reason a male and female UFC fighter couldn”t go toe-to-toe in a fight, we have to consider that will still live in a culture where a man can beat a woman and still face little consequences as long as he is famous enough. Having mixed gender fights would cut a little close to home for women – and men – across the country, so perhaps encouraging it would be irresponsible.
It”s definitely a complex issue.
Let us know what you think below! Would you like to see Rousey fight a male competitor? If so, is there a way that the battle can become a win/win for the sport, Ronda, and her opponent?