If you thought you saw UFC star Ronda Rousey everywhere this weekend — on sports highlights, talk shows and all over your newsfeed being proclaimed a marvel by friends who’d never shown a passing interest in mixed martial arts — you’re not just crazy. The bandwagon is filling up fast.
Rousey took all of 34 seconds to beat Bethe Correia on Saturday night, bringing her overall record to a fearsome 12-0 mark that includes three knockouts, nine submissions and just three fights that have lasted more than a minute. But anecdotal and digital evidence alike prove it’s this weekend when Rousey made the quantum leap from star to superstar in the mainstream public consciousness.
The only question is why.
Rousey’s pay-per-view fight was the most tweeted about sports program in America this week, according to Nielsen. That’s impressive — but her explosive growth in popularity is made more apparent by comparing the chatter around her fight this weekend with her prior bout on Feb. 28.
Rousey’s name was mentioned more than 1.4 million times on Twitter between Saturday morning and Monday afternoon — compared to just 338,000 mentions for the corresponding time period surrounding her fight in February, according to the social listening service Spredfast.
That’s more than a four-fold increase in chatter. Moreover, the two weeks surrounding her fight in February drew just 491,855 Twitter mentions, according to Spredfast — still less than half the online buzz generated around her demolition of Correia just this weekend.
More than 633,000 tweets mentioned Rousey’s name in the two hours following her win over Correia, according to Spredfast. Comparatively, when Rousey took only 14 seconds to beat Cat Zingano on Feb. 28 — the fastest-ever finish to a UFC title fight — just over 150,000 tweets mentioned her in the ensuing two hours.
So how did Ronda Rousey become four times more popular over the past five months?
Quick: Name the world’s second-biggest female MMA fighter. You probably can’t, right? That’s another unique thing about Rousey’s rise. Rousey — not female MMA fighting as a whole — is the thing that’s gone mainstream recently.
It’s a pro athlete’s play that dates back to Michael Jordan — and probably even predates His Airness — but one Rousey has run to perfection in recent months: Get your face everywhere, in front of everybody, in every way possible, and time the crescendo of attention to climax perfectly around a big game or fight or match. Harvest the ensuing explosion of popularity. Then cash the checks.
Thus much of the bandwagoneering around Rousey is explained. Between her fights on Feb. 28 and Aug. 1:
1. Fans of The Fast and the Furious met Rousey through her cameo in Furious 7, which was released on April 3. In the movie, Rousey fights star Michelle Rodriguez while decked out in a gown and high heels:
2. Entourage fans met Rousey through her appearance in the HBO hit’s theatrical feature, released June 3. Moreover, anyone who saw the trailer for the Entourage flick — which is to say, all of America five times over — saw Rousey heavily featured in the promos. That’s her capping on Turtle around the 54-second mark:
3. Rousey’s autobiography, My Fight / Your Fight was published May 12 and subsequently shot to the top of The New York Times bestseller list.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s one New York Times bestseller published and cameos in two Hollywood blockbusters between her fights at the end of February and start of August. Not a bad way to invite all aboard the Rousey bandwagon.
Of course, it all means nothing if Rousey doesn’t perform well in the UFC octagon. But she handled that end of the bargain just fine by knocking out Correia in 34 seconds on Saturday night.
Then came Monday morning, and more news hailing Rousey’s rising star: Paramount Pictures bought the rights to My Fight / Your Fight, planning to turn the autobiography into a biopic with Rousey playing herself.