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Ronda Rousey’s debut one of the most anticipated in UFC history

If you haven‘t heard, the first woman‘s fight in UFC history happens tonight. And it‘s the main event. Ronda Rousey‘s career has been the source of both polarizing views and controversy for more than a year now. From her talking her way into a Strikeforce title match after only four pro fights – and then winning the belt decisively – to becoming UFC‘s most talked about fighter before she‘s ever stepped foot competitively in the Octagon. She clearly has her supporters as well as her critics. For a year straight, she‘s made critics look foolish with two first-round armbar wins, and in putting women in MMA on a stage it has never been before. She‘s appealed of late to a fan base that otherwise would have little interest in the sport. She‘s gotten a level of media attention that UFC has rarely seen, and that few if any individual fighters have ever received. On the flip side, from the day her fight with Liz Carmouche was announced as a pay-per-view main event, the reaction has been like no show in company history. Not so just in volume, but in vehemence. You couldn‘t help but see it all over message boards and social media, the numbers of people who wanted to see Saturday‘s show fail.Some don‘t want women in MMA. Some don‘t like the fact someone who has never fought in UFC has been given so much attention. Some have been mad her fight was put in the main event slot. Some were mad about her opponent, who was clearly not the top contender and was almost a complete unknown until the recent whirlwind of publicity for the bout. Some are mad she‘s the UFC women‘s bantamweight champion and has been strutting around with a belt without having ever won a fight in the company. Some want to see a Dana White project fail, and seized onto the idea that two women in a main event that people have to pay $45 or more to see was the one where he would fall flat on his face publicly. The irony of it being some of the most hardcore and vocal MMA fans who have been the loudest in salivating over a box office disaster, is what I call the Rip Van Winkle effect. If you fell asleep in 2006 and woke up this week, all of those comments about how people don‘t want to see women fight would make for an interesting argument. In 2013, there is only one point that can be argued without being out-of-touch. Can a woman‘s main event draw on pay-per-view? But no matter what happens, interest in Rousey‘s debut is easily among the five biggest in UFC history, along with Mirko Cro Cop, Mauricio Shogun Rua, Brock Lesnar and Kimbo Slice. But in looking at that list, most did not have nearly the UFC runs that were expected of them. Lesnar, who became UFC heavyweight champion and the biggest pay-per-view draw in company history, would be the exception. Rua became light heavyweight champion, but if you consider how he was viewed when he arrived in UFC, he did not have nearly the success predicted. Slice was not a high-level MMA fighter and didn‘t do any better or worse than should have been expected. But he was a case of an unknowing public seeing him as something he wasn‘t. Cro Cop‘s UFC run has to be considered a huge disappointment. A disclaimer is that a lot of people will question Wanderlei Silva not being on the list. Silva, one of the biggest stars in Pride history, came to UFC on December 29, 2007, for a long-anticipated fight with Chuck Liddell, a spectacular fight won by Liddell via decision. But while most modern fans weren‘t aware at the time, Silva had three prior UFC fights during the promotion‘s dark ages in 1998 and 1999. MIRKO CRO COP FILIPOVIC – The signing of Cro Cop in December 2006 was at the time among the biggest moves in UFC history. UFC was a distant second on the world stage to the Japanese Pride organization. A combination of problems in Japan, and the spectacular success of UFC‘s gimmick matches, matching UFC‘s original stars against its modern stars, with Royce Gracie vs. Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie and the two Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz fights, exploded both the popularity and the bank account of UFC.Suddenly, the balance of power in the sport had changed. Dana White‘s goal by the end of 2006, before Pride was purchased, was to strip Pride of its marquee heavyweights: Cro Cop, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fedor Emelianenko. While Emelianenko was untouched and had beaten Nogueira and Cro Cop in Japan – when UFC signed Cro Cop – he was the hottest heavyweight in the sport. Cro Cop was, by far, the most popular foreign fighter in Japan. He had just won the 2006 Open weight Grand Prix tournament, finishing Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett on the same night, and won virtually every Fighter of the Year award. UFC was almost counting the money they would make with the Croatian knockout artist as champion, particularly after Randy Couture, a far bigger star, had upset Tim Sylvia to become UFC heavyweight champion. But the reality was different. Cro Cop‘s success in Japan includ…

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