If you're into the mixed martial arts scene, you already know her name: Ronda Rousey, widely considered one of the most dominant fighters on Earth. She's been battering opponents into dust for years now, and even if that isn't your kind of thing, you've got to admit it's pretty cool to see someone so firmly at the top of their craft. And she's got some attention-grabbing opinions about the business side of the sport, as well — Ronda Rousey has spoken out on UFC fighter pay, and her complaints are a little different from what you might expect.
Typically, when you hear a story about pay issues in sports, especially when raised by one of the foremost women competing, it relates to differing pay between men and women. That was precisely the story that embroiled the Women's World Cup in July, when it was revealed how much more men's World Cup teams made than the women's did.
But back in February, Rousey was involved in a different kind of dust-up over UFC pay — how much fighters make compared to the UFC's ring girls, also known as "Octagon Girls." Here's what she told Fox Sports that set off the controversy:
I think that [fighters] should get paid more than the ring girls. ... I don't know if the ring girls get paid too much or the fighters don't get paid enough. But yeah. There's definitely a lot more in what the fighters do than what they do. So, I think that's one thing that's unfair.
Her comments drew some ire from one of the UFC's most visible ring girls, Arianny Celeste, who called Rousey a "big bully." But it's an undeniably strange situation — typically, the issue with pay discrepancies between performers and athletes is skewed in favor of the athlete side to an absurd extent. NFL cheerleaders, for example, can make perilously little.
It's also a pretty opaque issue if you're looking at it from the outside; as the Las Vegas Sun detailed, the earnings of ring girls aren't publicly known, and fighters can score more money in endorsements and Pay-Per-View bonuses than what the matches themselves net them. Rousey, for example, earned more than $130,000 for her last bout in March.
But being a UFC fighter is a taxing calling, to say the least, more so than being a ring girl, and that may factor into the arithmetic. Beyond how much money a fighter might make per match, it's not that hard to believe that ring girls could earn more than the fighters on a yearly basis. As Fox Sports observed, fighters only participate in so many matches per year, by way of recovery times, training, injuries and the like. Rousey herself, for example, only fought twice in 2014.
Regardless, it's nice to see high-level competitors sticking up for their lesser-paid comrades, and that's definitely an aspect in all this. Rousey didn't even necessarily argue that ring girls should be making less, either — she specifically said she wasn't sure whether they should make less, or whether the fighters should make more. And considering what a grueling physical ordeal high-level mixed martial arts can be, it's not too hard to see why a little pay bump would be desired.
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