By Mitch Ciccarelli
The recent Strikeforce bantamweight title-bout between Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey was a pivotal night for female fighters across the globe. For the first time since Gina Carano was defeated by Cristiane Santos back in 2009, the female side of the sport once again became water-cooler conversation despite the critics.
Prior to the fight, a large portion of the audience criticized Rousey for using her good looks and witty mouth to fast track her way into a championship fight with Tate so early in her MMA career. The consensus among many in the MMA community was that the only reason Tate and Rousey were the main event of a major Strikeforce card was because of their sex appeal with the male audience. Come showtime, both women proved they were much more than eye candy, delivering one of the most action-packed and technical rounds in the history of WMMA. The doubters may have begun to take note but there are still individuals out there that will overlook the talent of these women in favor of their physical appearance.
Fighters.com recently had the opportunity to speak to a woman who knows a thing or two about being a female in a profession dominated by men, none other than perhaps the most famous WWE Diva in all time and an icon in the world of professional wrestling, Trish Stratus.
A former fitness model, seven-time WWE Women’s champion, actress, and martial arts practitioner herself, Stratus definitely took note of the Rousey-Tate rivalry even she wasn’t able to catch the broadcast.
“I did not watch (Tate-Rousey) but I’ve been very keen on Strikeforce. That fight did catch my attention and those girls are hot. That is going to be the key to people sticking around and watching because there’s no doubt about it that sex sells,” Stratus said. “I hate to say it but you have to use whatever can bring you to the dance. With me, I started as a fitness model and made my transition into wrestling and I dealt with the same thing. People would say that I was just the hot chick but that is what caught their attention.”
Stratus debuted in the WWE in 2000 as a valet for the tag team known as T and A with heavyweight superstars known as Test and Prince Albert. Fans viewed her as eye candy for the first twelve months of her career before they witnessed her incredible ability in the ring following a series of great matches and her first title win in 2001.
“Once I had their attention I was able to showcase my talents and as long as you can back up your looks with your talent, as both (Tate/Rousey) have proven, that is the key. The fact that these women went out there and proved themselves is awesome,” Stratus glowed proudly of her fellow female athletes.
“We had the same thing in wrestling where we’d have the crowd chanting “puppies” but once we brought it and delivered some solid action in the ring those chants stopped and fans began chanting for us and what we were doing in the ring,” Stratus continued. “WWE Productions noticed that and ended up giving us more time and more devotion to our storylines and character development.”
Obviously professional wrestling and MMA are two different entities but there are similarities between the two in terms of drawing an audience. When Stratus was on the top of her game in the WWE, women’s wrestling was often the highlight of many WWE cards.
Female fighters such as Rousey and Tate could absolutely follow a similar route in MMA. With Rousey’s marketing ability and niche for creating pre-fight hype, we may very well see more female fights in the main event on many cards in the near future.