The Lens: Ronda Rousey's Stardom, Josh Koscheck's Fall & Matt Grice's Future
ANAHEIM, Ca.— On Sunday morning, as I cruised down to the always-busy Starbucks located in the Hyatt Regency Orange County, I ran into an older couple in the elevator. They were in their mid-50's, by my own estimation, although I am admittedly terrible at estimating ages, and that trait has gotten me in more trouble than I'd care to admit.
As we rode down to the hotel lobby, I overheard the man ask his wife if Ronda Rousey won last night. It was less of a question and more the man just simply wondering what happened, so I piped up and told them that Rousey did, indeed, win last night here in Anaheim. The man asked me if she won by armbar in the first round, and I said yes, she did win by armbar in the first round.
He smiled and shook his head.
"Of course she did," he said.
I nodded and asked him how many UFC fights they'd seen over the years.
"None. Not one," he said.
The man and his wife had never seen a single UFC fight, but they'd seen Rousey's story played out across all forms of news media over the past four days.
In his newspapers, on the local news, on ESPN and Fox and our own CNN and every other news property, Ronda Rousey was the biggest thing going on this week. She was the most searched-for term on Google.com on Saturday, and it wasn't even close. Not even the various Oscar contenders compared to "Rowdy" on fight night.
It was media exposure on an unprecented level for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and it was all thanks to Rousey, who has become the UFC's biggest mainstream star after just one fight for the promotion.
I posited a few days ago that Rousey had the chance to be a bigger crossover star than George St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva or anyone else on the UFC roster; plenty of readers called me an idiot, but it's clear now that I was right.
It was one heck of a night for women's mixed martial arts, for the UFC and for Rousey. And here, in my latest post-event feature, I'm going to take a deeper look at some of the things I saw while in Anaheim covering UFC 157.
GRICE UNINJURED, BUT AT WHAT COST?
On Sunday morning, I stood outside the Hyatt Regency hotel in Orange County, patiently awaiting my shuttle to the airport while also wishing I'd booked an extra day in the city for the express purpose of going to Disneyland. It was just across the street, and even though I am no longer what one would consider a Disney-appropriate age, it still seemed like a fun way to spend a day.
While I waited for the shuttle, I spoke with Matt Grice, who'd come out on the other end of a fight-of-the-year candidate with a bad limp, a loss and $50,000 in extra cash to take back to his home in Oklahoma. I assumed that he'd at least be suffering from some sort of headache; after all, Dennis Bermudez used his head as a speedbag in the third round of that thrilling fight.
No, Grice said, it was just his leg that hurt. He'd gotten plenty of accolades for the fight, and UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby told him after the fight that there was zero chance of him getting cut. That made Grice happy, of course, but he said he'd still trade all of that for the win.
As Grice limped away with his team, headed toward the Outback Steakhouse across the street, I couldn't help but wonder: What was the price that Grice paid for pleasing the fans and for making his bosses so happy that he survived the firing squad, even in the midst of massive cuts and bloodletting in the UFC roster?
He said it was only his leg that hurt, and I believed him, but what about the damage we can't see? What about all of those football stars and professional wrestlers who never realized they were broken until it was too late?
I can't sit here and tell you that Grice vs. Bermudez wasn't a thrilling fight, because it was. But I also can't tell you that I felt all that good about the long-term consequences or the idea that going into the cage and getting your head bashed in is a surefire way to save your job, even if you lose.
KOSCHECK ON THE CUTTING BOARD?
I was stunned to hear that media colleagues believed that Josh Koscheck hadn't been afforded an opportunity to fight back against Robbie Lawler and that the fight stoppage had been premature. Are you kidding me?
The stoppage was perfect. Koscheck was out. He was still out of it, in fact, when I saw him five minutes later in the backstage area. He still had the glassy eyes and the thousand-yard stare that goes hand in hand with being knocked out. Koscheck didn't protest the stoppage because he knew it was fair.
The question now: Will Koscheck be cut after his second consecutive loss? A better question: If I were in Joe Silva's shoes, would I cut Koscheck?
Dana White's justification for cutting Jon Fitch was that Fitch was "too expensive." If that's the case, then Koscheck must feel a twinge of fear this morning, because his contract is far more lucrative than Fitch's.
There's also the fact that Koscheck's only good win since December 2010 was over Matt Hughes. Koscheck's on the downward slope of his career (just like Fitch), and he costs far too much to be placed on the preliminary card (just like Fitch).
But unlike Fitch, Koscheck is still a marketable star—at least for now. And so while I believe he should be cut under the precedent set for Fitch, I think he'll get at least one more shot. The fans may not enjoy watching Koscheck fight, but they sure do enjoy watching him get beat up. That counts for something.
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