Ronda Rousey may the the second UFC fighter to garner a cover of Sports Illustrated, but she was the first to make it on her own merits with a major profile in the newest issue.
Ronda Rousey’s promotion of her autobiography, “My Fight, Your Fight,” which is officially released today, has led to her appearing on the cover of the May 18 issue of “Sports Illustrated,” that hits the newsstands later this week.
Rousey gets full cover treatment with an article entitled, “Ronda Rousey is the world’s most dominant athlete.” This makes her the second UFC fighter to get a cover, which at one point was considered a standard in the sports world for making it as a true mainstream superstar. MMA, which is rarely covered in the pages of the country’s highest profile sports magazine, has had one prior cover.
Roger Huerta, a then-UFC lightweight fighter who for the past few years has been best known as the answer to a trivia question that is no longer valid about being the only UFC fighter on the SI cover.
But the Huerta cover was completely different. The magazine was doing a story on the growth of UFC in 2007, and Huerta was more a photo representing UFC action than a sports superstar gracing the cover. He was never a major superstar in the sport and was gone from the organization by 2009.
Rousey, UFC’s bantamweight champion, sporting an 11-0 record, has emerged as the unlikely biggest drawing card in a sport where the company was heavily criticized just two years ago when the decision was made to include women fighters. Part of that is by default, with Jon Jones and Anderson Silva both suspended, and Georges St-Pierre on a sabbatical that may or may not end up as a retirement. But her numbers on pay-per-view have blown away any numbers for events headlined by a female. Prior to her fight with Liz Carmouche the record was 125,000 buys for a 2001 Laila Ali vs. Jacqui Frazier-Lyde boxing match, a bout between the daughters of one of the greatest sports rivalries of modern times, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Rousey’s first pay-per-view main event, against Liz Carmouche in 2013 drew 450,000 buys.
The former Olympic judoka now duels tennis star Serena Williams as the most-talked about female athlete in the country. As far as domination, her last three title defenses, against Sara McMann, Alexis Davis and Cat Zingano, have lasted a total of 96 seconds.
With the exception of iconic boxing figures, a Sports Illustrated cover is a rarity for combat sports athletes. Rousey would be the first judoka ever to make the cover. Nobody from the jiu-jitsu world has ever made a cover, and the lone amateur wrestler, Danny Hodge, did so back in 1957.
Still, the other part of the cover is the jinx. The lone female combat sport athlete to make the cover was boxer Christy Martin in 1996. While Martin didn’t lose a fight until 1998, her career never really advanced past that point. Martin is best known as a nostalgia figure from the 90s when for a brief period of time, people talked about women boxing. Like Huerta, she is probably best known as the answer to a trivia question about the cover. As a sports figure, Rousey is almost assuredly going to be remembered as something far more significant.
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