Ronda Rousey can add Rolling Stone magazine to her ever-growing mass media resume.
Rousey, the unbeaten Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion, makes an appearance in the magazine's most recent issue in a short piece 33 pages in – next to a fellow Olympian in recent U.S. swimming sensation Ryan Lochte.
And Rolling Stone cut right to the chase with the all-caps headline: "The best female fighter ever."
Rousey (6-0 MMA, 4-0 SF) is coming off yet another dominant victory, defending her Strikeforce title for the first time with a 54-second armbar win over former champ Sarah Kaufman this past month in San Diego.
That win came on the heels of her title fight win over Miesha Tate in March, which took what for Rousey has become an almost crazy-by-comparison 4:27 to pull off.
The math is what makes that 4:27 crazy, of course. Rousey's three amateur opponents and five professional opponents outside of Tate lasted a combined 4:56 – an average of 37 seconds each. And as is well-known, all tapped to Rousey's signature armbar.
While the MMA world has for a while known first of Rousey's potential, and then of her prowess, the mainstream world quickly is catching up. The Californian appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's famed "Body Issue" wearing nothing but pink hand wraps. She's graced the back cover of UFC Magazine. She appeared on Conan O'Brien's show. She guest-hosted on "TMZ Live" after her criticism of reality star Kim Kardashian hit the news in a big way. And in the buildup to her fight with Kaufman, Showtime aired a two-part "All Access" special on her.
Now Rolling Stone, the 45-year-old music, politics and culture magazine, has taken notice, too. Jesse Hyde's story references Rousey's thoughts on Kardashian, sure, but also says she has "proved she's the best female fighter in the world ... Partly because of her looks, and partly because of the lethal way she finishes fights, the bantamweight champ is forcing the powers that be in sports to pay attention to women's mixed martial arts."
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker believes Rousey has officially made the crossover into the mainstream. But he also believes the time may be coming soon when Rousey, like a select few athletes in history, could be a one-name star, a la Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods. Rousey, Coker believes, could fill the role that last was thought to be for Gina Carano before Carano mostly left the sport behind to focus on an acting career.
"She's definitely on her way (to being a one-name star)," Coker told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
). "She's so dominating right now. And I always tell everybody, 'Don't let the beauty fool you because this girl is a dangerous athlete, a dangerous fighter and a great martial artist.' ... But slowly and surely, the media has caught on to who this personality is.
"Gina was like the girl next door, the way I look at it. Ronda has that little edge on her. Or maybe a lot of edge on her is a better way to say it. She'll speak her mind. This girl has a lot to say and she's going to come out and say it."
Coker believes the kind of publicity Rousey commands now, just six fights into her pro career, is not something that can be orchestrated. And while it's a good thing for Rousey, which in turn is a good thing for Strikeforce – despite the Rolling Stone piece not once mentioning the promotion Rousey fights for – Coker is in position to sit back, watch and enjoy the ride.
"I think it's kind of happening organically, to tell you the truth," Coker said. "You can try to market somebody – let's put this person on this show or that show. But this is a situation that has kind of unfolded organically, which has really been fun to watch. It's been one hit after the next. The success she's had in the media and outside the cage, it just keeps coming.
"These are things you can't just plan for – they're just happening. And that's going to continue. She's already one of the biggest stars in MMA, male or female, but she could become the biggest star in mixed martial arts."
For now, Rousey, who is not yet three weeks removed from her win over Kaufman, remains in a bit of limbo for what her next fight will be. The biggest talk is that former featherweight champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos (10-1 MMA, 4-0 SF) could return from a yearlong steroids suspension in December, drop to bantamweight and face Rousey for the title.
But Coker believes Rousey won't want to wait that long. And then there's the matter of Cyborg perhaps not wanting to make the drop in weight, depending on which report is read. Coker said Strikeforce is committed to finding fighters who can test its champions, Rousey included, in the event that fight can't be put together for the next time Rousey gets in the cage.
But regardless of when Coker's biggest star returns, he knows he's dealing with a rare commodity.
"I think if you look at the success of Ronda, not just in the ring but outside the ring, she's one of those rare athletes in any sport that's crossed over," Coker said. "I think the Rolling Stone article and the ESPN The Magazine cover and the Conan interview she did, these are the things that athletes in all sports, whether it's football, basketball, baseball, swimming, track, whatever – not many athletes cross over to where there's that much interest into what she's saying. Male or female. It's a testament to what she can do inside the ring and outside the ring."