Never in the history of combat sports have women been presented as the main and co-main event.
This is set to change when the Ultimate Fighting Championship juggernaut comes to Melbourne in November.
Ronda Rousey fights Holly Holm and Joanna Jedrzejczyk takes on Valerie Letourneau in the strawweight division.
But make no mistake, the elevation to headline act is the work of one woman: Olympic judo medallist turned mixed martial artist, Rousey.
She is – to use fighting parlance – ‘the baddest woman on the planet’, and I can’t help but be drawn to her.
I like the way she shoots from the hip – words pour out of her mouth in rapid, machine gun fire sentences. She has no filter. And she clearly has no fear – she doesn’t turn meekly to her PR agent, she doesn’t dodge questions, she doesn’t relentlessly tow the corporate line and she doesn’t want to please everybody. All the time.
She is her own woman – flaws and all. And this makes her fascinating.
She is the reason I take an interest in the sport.
Ten years ago if you said there would be a woman in the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world you would have been laughed out of the room.
She’s the reason women are competing in the UFC. Again, this was unthinkable 10 years ago.
UFC president Dana White went as far as to say it would never happen on his watch.
Rousey is now the face of the UFC.
She signed with the UFC in 2011 and has successfully defended her bantamweight championship six times. She holds the record for the fastest championship stoppage in UFC history – 14 seconds.
She remains unbeaten (with a 12-0 record) – and her past four wins have lasted a combined 130 seconds.
Outside the octagon, Rousey wants to lift women up, not knock them down.
She is vocal about issues close to her heart.
As a younger athlete fighting in strict weight classes she was under constant pressure to make weight. This relentless struggle led to an obsession with body image, which resulted in bulimia.
Her message now is simple and powerful – it’s okay to have a muscular body. It doesn’t make you less of a woman.
Or in her words, “I think it’s femininely badass as f**k”.
She prefers to be photographed before she has cut weight for a fight – it’s a truer reflection of how she looks.
She was one of the few big stars to repeatedly (and loudly) speak out about Floyd Mayweather’s history of domestic violence.
When she won the ESPY Sportsperson of the Year award this year (Mayweather was also in contention), she asked Mayweather how it felt to “be beaten by a woman for once”.
Rousey also isn’t afraid to criticise ‘role models’ like Kim Kardashian who she believes is famous for the wrong reasons and sets a bad example for teenage girls.
All this makes her one of the world’s most compelling athletes.
Her name has entered into popular culture – and her reach ensures her messages are being heard.
Rousey herself is a reluctant role model. She would rather girls be their own super-heroines.
“I don’t want little girls to have the same ambitions as me. But I want them to know that it’s okay to be ambitious. This is my way that I found to try and change the world.”
If a drop of what Rousey says breaks down barriers and changes attitudes then surely that is a good thing?
She may not be everyone’s cup of tea but right now she’s hard to ignore.
I think it’s terrific that she isn’t afraid to pick a fight outside of the ring. As she matures it’ll be interesting to see which path she takes – fame can either eat you up or propel you onto a greater stage.
It might be wishful thinking but I would love her to use her power and influence to address the broader issues of equality, respect and recognition for women in sport. She has shown, when she’s passionate about something, she can make a difference.
Sport needs women to blaze a trail – no matter how “badass” they are.