There’s a lot of criticism to level at the annual ESPY Awards, but no injustice in 2014 was greater than Floyd Mayweather beating UFC star Ronda Rousey for Fighter of the Year.
Unfortunately, that just shows how far MMA has left to go as a “major” sport.
If you look back at the last 12 months, Rousey’s star couldn’t have been any higher. Following the very successful UFC 157 event — which introduced women to the promotion for the first time — the women’s bantamweight champion had a remarkably full year of highlights:
• Coached first co-ed season of The Ultimate Fighter
• Defeated Miesha Tate at UFC 168
• Defeated Olympic medalist Sara McMann in 66 seconds at UFC 170
• Crushed Alexis Davis in 16 seconds at UFC 175
• Dual movie roles: “The Expendables 3” and “Entourage”
No matter how you look at it, that’s historic, especially for a female athlete. Mayweather, on the other hand, has spent the last year essentially running in place.
While it’s nothing short of impressive that his fight with Canelo Alvarez broke pay-per-view box office records, the rest of Mayweather’s year was run-of-the-mill by comparison. Are his methodical decision victories over Miguel Cotto, Robert Guerrero and Marcos Maidana really more significant than Rousey’s brutal string of finishes?
Week by week and month by month, is Mayweather really creating the same amount of buzz Rousey does in all her tireless self-promotion? Not really. Besides, the UFC’s biggest star is also a far better role model to boot. Mayweather, on the other hand, is a sore eye for the sport of boxing, with a history of battering women that’s left him unrepentant at best.
To date, Mayweather has won six ESPY Awards for Fighter of the Year, and it seems like this latest one is just for making the most money. Maybe that’s to be expected, but it still rings false to see Rousey’s biggest year yet undercut when she moves the needle so much.
Maybe next year will tell a different tale.
If the UFC is able to put together fights for Rousey against Holly Holm, Gina Carano and Rin Nakai, wins over all three of them should solidify Rousey as the best female fighter of all time. It’ll be even better if her two movie roles — and her upcoming “Athena Project” — are major box office hits, leading to even bigger Hollywood projects.
Barring that, it’s hard to tell what will net Rousey a “Fighter of the Year” nod from the sports community, short of Mayweather finally losing. “Female Fighter of the Year” is great in its own right, but it’s still telling just half of the story.