The UFC are growing quickly in China as their fighters continue to perform well with a combined 3-1 record at UFC Fight Night Manila in May. But who is the biggest draw for UFC fans in China? As the biggest MMA organization in the world, the UFC will never lack star power but one name stands out from all of these. She is the world’s most dominant athlete – Ronda ‘Rowdy’ Rousey! The reason why? Let me tell you!
Arguably the most dominant champion in UFC history, Ronda is undefeated in her 12 professional fights with 12 stoppages, including 7 successful title defenses in the UFC. Her incredible record led her to become the Best Female Athlete and the Best Fighter at the 2015 ESPYS. She was also named as the World’s Most Dominant Athlete of 2015 by Business Insider. She is the current face of combat sports and the queen of the Octagon, not to mention also being extremely marketable as well. Her recent fight at UFC 190 was even bigger than highly promoted UFC 189 at PPV. For Chinese sports fans, success in their industry is a key driver in why they follow a certain fighter, player, club or sport.
Inside the Octagon, Ronda is the queen, but outside she is also a role model for many people. She is the only UFC fighter to have featured in ESPN Body Issue and Sports Illustrated Swimming Issue, showing that she does not only have a body for fighting. Her committed and positive personality is clear to see, becoming a global fan favourite. Chinese fans love to see the personal side of each individual, and she has shown them that she is not just a fighter but also a role model with an inspiring personality.
Ronda also has a succesfull career in entertainment, with a major role in ‘The Expendables 3’ in 2014, as well as ‘Furious 7’ and ‘Entourage’ in 2015. After ‘The Expendables 3’ held a special screening in Macau during the same week as the third UFC Fight Night to be held at the Venetian Macau, Ronda became equally as recognised in China for fighting as her acting career. Western entertainment figures are regarded as figures of influence in China, driving Ronda and the UFC’s popularity as more than just a sport.
Ronda is one of only a few UFC fighters on Chinese social media, launching her Sina Weibo account in August 2014. She has now grown to more than 10,000 followers, with an average engagement of 200+ per post (comments + forwards + likes) – comparable to football, tennis and basketball’s elite. Her star power event can be felt across UFC’s own official channels, with the UFC Weibo channel reaching a record level of engagement during UFC 190 Fight Week. Ronda is showing online that she can power the UFC to another level in China, just like how she is in the rest of world!
The UFC is growing in popularity in both China and across the world, and if they can grow Ronda’s reputation in China, as well as a local hero similar to Conor McGregor in Ireland, the UFC will soon find itself on the same level as the NBA, NFL and European football. These individuals may just be the most important piece in the puzzle for the UFC to break the Chinese market.