The UFC sets to wrap up 2016 with another major event Friday as Las Vegas plays host to UFC 207, featuring two championship fights and the return of Ronda Rousey.
UFC president Dana White has helped take the sport to a new level in recent years, bringing in fans worldwide. Many of these fans are athletes in other sports, and you can see them sitting prominently in the front row at most events. Many of these athletes have a lot in common with the fighters when it comes to athleticism, passion for their sport and their journey to the top.
Rousey: As the biggest star in the history of women’s MMA, Rousey possesses many of the same traits as NBA superstar LeBron James. Rousey, an Olympic medalist in judo, burst onto the scene with incredible hype, something very similar to James. Not only did she face lofty expectations once the UFC created a women’s division around her, she delivered and became an even bigger star as each fight wore on.
Both of these athletes have had to overcome odds to win the championship in their sport, but both also eventually lost their reign as champion.
James and the Miami Heat were two-time defending champions when they were dominated in the 2014 NBA Finals, losing in five games to the San Antonio Spurs. To make matters worse, the following year James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Finals, only to once again lose, this time to the Golden State Warriors. However, James was able to bounce back with the incredible championship run last season, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Warriors in seven games.
Rousey has a similar opportunity on Friday.
At UFC 193, she lost her women’s bantamweight title to Holly Holm in a fight that is known as one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. Holm dominated the fight from the very beginning, and in the second round, delivered a vicious head-kick to seal the victory. Rousey took the loss extremely hard and will be stepping back into the Octagon for the first time in 13 months.
James and Rousey are both extremely popular within their respective sports, and each has branched out into Hollywood, with James appearing in the comedy film “Trainwreck” and Rousey landing roles in the action films “Expendables 3” and “Fast and Furious 6.”
These two have helped take their sports to new levels, but their postretirement careers could have the potential to surpass their athletic ones.
Nunes: From 2011 to 2014, Nunes had an up-and-down run, going just 3-3. It was capped by a tough loss to Cat Zingano in September 2014 by third-round TKO. Nunes has been on a tear of late, however, winning four straight fights. This run is similar to a star in another sport, Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta.
Like Nunes, Arrieta hit a rough patch in nearly the same time frame, as he posted a 24-27 record with a 5.23 ERA from 2010 to 2013. But since the start of 2014, he is 50-19, having won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award as well as a World Series title this fall.
Amanda Nunes: Ronda Rousey ‘knows I’m better than her’
With a starting pitcher and a UFC fighter, the result of a fight or game comes down to how you perform. In the UFC, if you aren’t on your A-game, it can be a really short night. In baseball, the offense can help overcome a bad start, but for the most part, a pitcher has to be on top of his game. Both of these two have done a great job of going out and setting the pace, and doing what they do best — dominating their opponents.
Nunes has finished three of her last four fights in the first round, setting a devastating pace with powerful strikes, evidenced by her dominant first-round submission win over Miesha Tate at UFC 200 to capture the 135-pound title. Both of these athletes are coming off their best performances on the biggest stages of their careers, and for Nunes, she will be on an even bigger stage Friday with the eyes of the sporting world focused on Rousey’s return.