By Michael James
The Tribe Sports
When you are Ronda Rousey, once touted as The Baddest Woman On The Planet, every move you make will engender scrutiny.
A right turn will cause half the people to question why you didn’t take a left. A left turn will do the opposite.
Questioning the moves of famous and infamous people simply comes with the territory, like Beyonce and Jay-Z being second-guessed for allowing their 6-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, to wear heels to the Grammys.
But when you are Ronda Rousey, a mixed martial artist who so fully embraced a toughest girl moniker that may have never been true at all, those questions contain the added ingredients of venom and contempt.
So, surely, Ronda Rousey must have known what was coming when she made the decision to leave behind the brutal Octagon for the orchestrated faux brutality of Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment.
Coward. Fraud. Fake. Phony.
There are far more vicious adjectives being used to describe Ronda Rousey on social media at the moment, but the preceding four are the most likely to stick.
Because leaving the Ultimate Fighting Championships for the WWE feels like a tap out.
Worse, when it applies to Rousey, it feels like a cop out.
While this sentiment may not be true for all fighters who might choose a less dangerous vocation, it feels this way with Rousey because of the way it happened.
Coming on the heels of an embarrassing and soul-crushing defeat by head kick from Holly Holm, followed by an utter decimation from current bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, this move gives the impression that Ronda Rousey doesn’t want to really fight anymore.
Not for real, anyway.
And this will be seen as an unforgivable sin by fans who have watched other notable UFC fighters suffer defeat and get back on the horse.
What’s that old saying? If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again?
Isn’t this the mark of a true warrior?
A real fighter?
Ronda Rousey’s move to the WWE proves it ain’t necessary so.
For this reason, you will hear these words spoken about Ronda Rousey forevermore:
Coward. Fraud. Fake. Phony.
Maybe even, weak, for good measure.
Now, none of this is actually true, but in today’s world, perception is all that matters.
And what matters is that when she was on top of the world, defeating all those women UFC president Dana White served up, there was simply no way Ronda Rousey would have ever entertained a WWE career.
She might have even scoffed at such an offer.
After all, she was awash in movie offers from Hollywood, magazine covers and profile photoshoots.
She, along with Conor McGregor, was the face of the UFC.
All those women she embarrassed by arm bar along the way?
They went back to the gym and got back to work honing their craft, trying to overcome their deficiencies in hopes of getting another shot.
Even nemesis, Miesha Tate, who was never her equal, refused to tap out against either Ronda Rousey, or the UFC. She let Rousey dislocate her arm and kept coming back until she wore Rousey’s old belt after beating Holm.
Ditto for Holm, who suffered three straight losses after beating Rousey, but never quit on the UFC. In fact, she fought five times since, including an admirable five-round showing against Cris Cyborg, a fighter Rousey would never face because she deemed her a steroid cheat.
The list goes on of women contenders who were never considered as tough as Ronda Rousey once was, but who never quit on the UFC.
They only tried and tried again following losses.
Why couldn’t Ronda Rousey?
That is the question that will dog her to her grave.
After all, this Royal Rumble that Ronda Rousey signed up for isn’t quite the same as McGregor taking a brief UFC hiatus to fight in a boxing ring against Floyd Mayweather, one of the greatest ring tacticians of his time.
That, despite what prognosticators said before the bout, was a real fight.
No one will care that Ronda Rousey isn’t the first UFC fighter to take such a leap. Brock Lesnar, the reigning WWE Universal champion, in 2008 became the first fighter in history to win titles in both organizations.
Other UFC fighters like Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn also pulled crossover duty. The thing is, those fighters are not Ronda Rousey, who is held to a much different standard.
And the WWE, despite its rabid fan following, just is not considered real fighting.
The biggest difference between what those fighters did and what Ronda Rousey is doing is that you get the sense that she’s never coming back to the UFC.
None of this means that Ronda Rousey wasn’t tough. She was, and is. She just wasn’t the toughest or baddest ever. No one ever is. They might manage to defeat all or most of those they face, but somewhere lurking, there is always a tougher, badder opponent.
Ronda Rousey, knowing this, simply made a calculated business decision.
Soon to turn 31 on February 1, she is remaining true to her credo of refusing to be a Do Nothing Bitch.
She is simply taking another job, one which will upset the most cruel fans who expected her to retire along with new husband Travis Browne and pump out babies.
Nothing would be wrong with either choice, but when you’re Ronda Rousey, abandoning another shot at UFC redemption for Vince McMahon’s WWE circus will always feel like the easy way out.
You hear the whispers: Coward. Fraud. Fake. Phony.
The funny thing is this, had Ronda Rousey tried this the other way around – moving from the WWE to the UFC – critics would be calling her something quite different:
Michael James has spent more than 20 years in sports journalism as a general assignment reporter with the Detroit News, an NBA beat writer for the New York Daily News and as head writer for ESPN’s Quite Frankly With Stephen A. Smith.