First of all, let’s take a step back and marvel at the fact that the New York Times – the most respected news publication around – is talking about MMA on such a pedestrian level. It honestly took the biggest female MMA star ever, who crossed over into the mainstream in a huge way, to make them realize this was a party they wanted in on.
Okay, so in the aftermath of Ronda Rousey’s loss at UFC 193 this past weekend, the New York Times has some ideas about who could be the sport’s next big star. I don’t know why they didn’t go full “Bleacher Report” and do a slideshow, but anyway, here are some of their thoughts on the matter:
8. C. M. PUNK
Though the sport continues to mature, there is still a lot of carnival in mixed martial arts, and most fans enjoy that. Brock Lesnar was an accomplished heavyweight champion, but his popularity in the cage stemmed in large part from his years in professional wrestling. Now another colorful wrestler, C. M. Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, is set to try his hand at M.M.A., with a debut sometime in 2016. There is no telling how good he will be, and many people expect him to flop. But if it turns out he can fight, his background will make him one of the most watched fighters very quickly.
Oh my god, shut up.
3. CONOR MCGREGOR
McGregor has taken the U.F.C. by storm, with his fists and mouth getting him attention, especially among Irish and Irish-Americans. After a win in January, he jumped out of the cage and wildly confronted Aldo, who was sitting at ringside. The lower-key Aldo just laughed. Now the two will meet Dec. 12 in Las Vegas for the undisputed featherweight title in one of the most anticipated fights in years. It is a sign of how fast McGregor’s stock is rising that he is actually the betting favorite over the nonpareil Aldo. The winner will have a real claim to the spot as the U.F.C.’s top dog.
Dude, are you Irish?
1. RONDA ROUSEY
Yes, there’s no getting around it. Ronda Rousey is still the U.F.C.’s biggest star. Part of her appeal lay in her invincibility. That is gone, but it has been replaced by an equally appealing comeback story line.
Love her or hate her — and based on the reaction to her loss, many hate her — Rousey makes news. Her comeback fight, probably against Holm, will draw as much attention, if not more, than any in her career.
“When she gets over this loss, she’s going to be a savage,” the U.F.C.’s president, Dana White, told M.M.A. Junkie. If the loss motivates Rousey to get better, her continuing stardom will be assured.
Oh, New York Times. Stick to the news, please.