Ronda Rousey is one of the most marketable fighters in the UFC. As the women’s champion in the premier MMA league in the world, she is a draw based on her skills in the octagon and persona outside the cage. This week she can be seen in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, which signifies a continuing effort to gain Rousey more mainstream recognition and star power.
An athlete appearing in the SI Swimsuit edition amid an increasing push for popularity is nothing new. Witness Danica Patrick, featured in 2008. Patrick had the same challenge Rousey faces: a female in a male-dominated sport. Although Dana White hypothesized a few years ago that the UFC fan base is 45 percent female, Experian Marketing Services puts the number closer to 27 percent. Rousey’s rise has likely increased that fan demographic, but her forays into more mainstream media could be the key to growing her personal brand as well as UFC.
There is a fine line when pushing the model-athlete boundaries, and there is always some type of push-back in this situation. Some will say Rousey should not have to sell her good looks since she is so dominant in the octagon. That is probably true, but appearing in the SI Swimsuit edition opens up other avenues of revenue for her. Rousey is playing by the rules of the game of business, and should take as many steps as possible to increase her name recognition and Q rating. After all, she can’t fight forever.
Rousey already has several endorsement deals, including Reebok and Buffalo David Bitton Jeans. She also played a role in Expendables 3. As she gains widespread popularity, articles talking about her lack of endorsement deals will be replaced by articles similar to this one. Rousey’s SI appearance only helps her in securing future endorsements and lucrative appearances.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.