MISS­ING IN AC­TION

WHERE DID RONDA GO?

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MARTIN ROGERS LAS VE­GAS — USA To­day Sports

A women’s fight is head­lin­ing the Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship’s sum­mer show­case this week and Ronda Rousey has no part in it.

That in it­self is no sur­prise, given that the last time Rousey stepped into the oc­tagon here she made it just 48 sec­onds.

Her con­queror on that late De­cem­ber night, Amanda Nunes, will top the bill at UFC 213 on Satur­day, de­fend­ing her ban­tamweight ti­tle against Valentina Shevchenko in the main event.

How­ever, in one of the most em­pow­er­ing weeks for fe­male fight­ing that the UFC has ever had, Rousey isn’t just ab­sent from the cage, but seems to be com­pletely out of the sight and minds of the mixed mar­tial arts com­mu­nity.

On Wed­nes­day, the or­ga­ni­za­tion hosted a “Women of UFC” dis­cus­sion panel as part of a week­long se­ries of events de­signed to bring fans into Las Ve­gas for sev­eral days, rather than just fight night.

Over the course of an hour and in front of sev­eral hun­dred fans, four prom­i­nent women’s UFC fight­ers and mod­er­a­tor Me­gan Olivi spoke about how far the sport has evolved, where it might be headed next and its po­si­tion in pro­vid­ing role mod­els to young girls and women. And not once was Rousey’s name men­tioned.

Strawweight cham­pion Joanna Je­drze­jczyk re­mem­bered a time when a UFC ca­reer was not even a dream for fe­male ath­letes, be­cause the or­ga­ni­za­tion was stead­fast in its re­fusal to add a women’s di­vi­sion.

That was be­fore UFC pres­i­dent Dana White changed his mind, which is to say that Rousey changed it for him. Vir­tu­ally sin­gle-hand­edly, she con­vinced White to im­ple­ment a women’s di­vi­sion, and he built it around her. With six crush­ing vic­to­ries in 2½ years, she put the women’s di­vi­sion on the map, gave fe­male fight­ing both cred­i­bil­ity and a su­per­star face and gained an army of world­wide fans.

Mixed mar­tial arts is ar­guably the tough­est sport in the world, and it moves with re­mark­able haste. Cham­pi­ons be­come chumps at warp speed, for­mer su­per­stars be­come quickly for­got­ten once their skills wane and their rank­ing dips.

Yet you never thought it would go like that for Rousey, at least not this quickly. As re­cently as Novem­ber 2015 she was still seen as un­beat­able, an all-con­quer­ing su­per­woman that the pub­lic couldn’t get enough of. A stun­ning de­feat to Holly Holm fol­lowed and Rousey be­came a vir­tual recluse, be­fore reap­pear­ing in De­cem­ber to be de­mol­ished by Nunes.

And just like that, the jug­ger­naut is over. Rousey is now some­thing else. No longer a fighter even per­haps, at least ac­cord­ing to White, who thinks she will re­tire.

For now she is a coach on ABC’s “Bat­tle of the Net­work Stars” ath­let­ics com­pe­ti­tion, which is why she was on the “Live with Kelly and Ryan” couch on Wed­nes­day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Ronda Rousey stands in the cage after Amanda Nunes forced a stop­page in the first round last De­cem­ber.

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