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Fortunes changed for five at UFC 157

When we look at who the fortunes changed for at UFC 157, the correct answer is far more than many of the fighters, but fortunes also changed for the sport. Whether Saturday night’s show at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., was the beginning of a period where Ronda Rousey will become the female equivalent to a Georges St-Pierre or Brock Lesnar as one of the UFC’s biggest money generators (something 18 months ago which would have been inconceivable) or it was one night where she just became a curiosity piece is something only time will tell. No pay-per-view numbers are in this early, but there has been more curiosity about these numbers than any show since the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen fight in July. What is known is that web site traffic on not just MMA sites but a number of sports sites and even pro wrestling sites went through the roof with coverage of her. Locally, the Los Angeles Times’ traffic for Rousey articles was at the same level of a Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao before one of their big fights. Google search volume for Rousey over the weekend exceeded that of anything related to UFC since Silva vs. Sonnen. And reports from around the country indicated sports bars were packed, also doing their largest crowds since July. There was never a question whether Rousey would be able to draw if put on television, as she had already proven that last year with Showtime. There was little question she could garner press, or get people talking, since Gina Carano, with far less of a gift of gab, had already done that in the past. The question was whether people would be willing to pay $44.95 to see it. But selling out a major arena, in a market where selling tickets for UFC hasn’t always been the easiest, was surprising. But there was also a local aspect to that, with Rousey being from nearby Santa Monica. And there was a California theme to the other headliners, with Dan Henderson from Temecula, Liz Carmouche from San Diego and Urijah Faber being The California Kid, even if Sacramento was hundreds of miles away. More than anything, Fortunes changed for a number women sitting right behind the press section or at ringside, people like Miesha Tate, Julie Kedzie and Sarah Kaufman, who will all be fighting with not just the potential to be in prelims on a big UFC show, but with a few wins, to have a shot at headlining major a pay-per-view and earning money that they likely thought would never be possible when they entered the sport. Fortunes changed perhaps more for Cris Cyborg Santos, who is not under contract to UFC. If Santos and Rousey continue winning, their eventual showdown could become a major event that should make Saturday night seem like veggie appetizers to the eventual steak dinner, as the biggest female combat sports fight of all-time. And fortunes changed for women high school wrestlers, judo players and kickboxers, who at least right now may be able to have a long-term focused goal of having a shot at using their skills to become a professional athlete. Or could this be a flash in the pan. It could be a one-night novelty. It could be something, like with boxing in the Christy Martin era, where it came and went. It could be all about Ronda, and when she’s no longer the star, interest will fade. Or, and the most likely long-term, is that it will be like all the lighter weight divisions in UFC. It will be there as an accepted part of the promotion, and peak interest if the right star or the right match comes along. As for the five big names from Saturday’s show, this is how their career paths have changed: RONDA ROUSEY – Now 7-0, with seven first-round armbar victories, she’s still facing all kinds of questions. Will the sudden fame remove the necessary hunger to stay on top? What happens when an opponent can finally defend her armbar, or keep the fight standing? Will she get outside offers that lead to her having a relatively limited career in the sport? For now, she’s the it girl. To capitalize on her momentum, they’ll probably get her back in the cage as soon as possible. Most likely, her next opponent will be the winner of the April 13 fight in Las Vegas, with Brazilian Cat Zingano (7-0), the 30-year-old wife of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Mauricio Zingano, against Rousey’s most noteworthy career rival, Tate (13-3). It was the mutual dislike that Rousey and Tate were able to project to the public a year ago that got the ball rolling on what ended up culminating on Saturday. The latter fight, under the UFC banner, has the potential to be a big one. LIZ CARMOUCHE – Carmouche (7-3) was brought to the UFC simply to be the opponent for the showcasing of Rousey, but somewhere along the way she went from a faceless opponent to a major part of the show’s narrative. She came in with a compelling life story. She served in the Marines. She was the first openly gay fighter in UFC history. She worked 14-hour days, and lived in an apartment with no kitchen table or couch. And her goal was to…

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