UFC president Dana White insists former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, despite not having fought for the promotion at all in 2016, remains a bigger star than featherweight champion and PPV record breaker Conor McGregor.
The question of who’s the biggest star in the UFC splits fans and media. McGregor is having a blockbuster 2016, headlining UFC 196 and UFC 202 with Nate Diaz and in turn breaking box office, gate and PPV records. He’s now also set to headline UFC 205, the promotion’s inaugural event in Madison Square Garden, New York City, where he will attempt to become the first simultaneous two-weight world champion.
For Rousey, it’s been a relatively low key year. We last saw her in the Octagon at UFC 193 last November when she dropped her 135lb strap to Holly Holm in spectacular fashion, with a head kick knockout that’s become a highlight reel for MMA.
Yet despite hardly being seen over the past 10 months, White still believes she’s the Octagon’s number one star.
“By far. Not even close,” White told New York radio station Hot 97. “By far the biggest star. Ronda Rousey is such a big star. When you go down to Brazil, they don’t care who you are. They want the Brazilian to whoop you’re ass. When Ronda went down there, they cheered for Ronda over the Brazilian. Never seen that before in my life, and will probably never see it again. That’s how big Ronda Rousey is.”
According to White if anyone has deserved a time out from active UFC competition and all the media requests that come along with it, it’s Rousey.
He added: “The truth with Ronda is this: Ronda Rousey worked her ass off for four years. She worked hard. All the time she fought, all the PR that she did for us, and more importantly the training. The training takes a lot out of you. And after the loss she said, ‘I need a break. I need time off.’
“And the minute anybody says that in this business… you don’t do that in this sport. Your head has to be in this game 24-7 and you’ve got to be a killer. The minute you think you need a break, you definitely need a break.”