Last week, rumors came out that Warner Bros. is planning to have UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey star in two upcoming movie projects. Not only would she play a lead role in the forthcoming Entourage film, but she would also be set to star in what could become a series of movies based on the Brad Thor novel Athena Project. These two new reported roles are in addition to Rousey's previous engagements to have roles in the next Expendables and Fast and Furious installments.
It is easy to see why Hollywood has become so smitten with Rousey. In a film landscape generally devoid of female action stars, Rousey has mega-star potential with a rare combination of toughness, personality and good looks. The appeal is clear to tie in Rousey's movie appearances with successful, buzzworthy appearances in the octagon.
For an example, look no further than Rousey's most recent UFC appearance. In a much hyped-bout, Rousey successfully defended her UFC bantamweight title against rival Miesha Tate in dominant fashion in the co-main event of UFC 168. It was her eighth win in as many fights, all by armbar. If that did not give Rousey enough attention, her actions after the fight only brought more eyes to her when she openly refused to shake Tate's hand as sign of the bad blood between the two. Between her dominance and attitude, Rousey left no doubt that she is a bona fide star.
That is why it makes sense for Hollywood to try to latch on. The snowball effect from winning big fights and appearing in successful action movies will only grow her fan base, leading to even more and bigger opportunities. However, all of this presupposes one thing: that she keeps on winning. If instead she moves back towards the middle of the pack in the bantamweight division with a couple of losses, it is easy to see her quickly drifting out of the mainstream eye both in the octagon and out of it.
This raises a clear question: what happens if Rousey does lose? Considering what may be at stake in terms of her Hollywood career, it is conceivable that she could decide to walk away from MMA upon a loss to keep it from turning into the streak that could ruin her status as a marketable commodity.
Regardless of how impossible it may seem now, there is some precedent for Rousey walking away while in her prime. Former Strikeforce featherweight champion and "it" woman of MMA Gina Carano left the sport in 2009 after suffering her first career loss in dominant fashion to Christiane Justino. While it is easy to say that Rousey's background and motivation would make her less likely to walk away than Carano, a bad loss may be enough to do just that if it means risking future Hollywood pay days.
The next chance for Rousey to suffer defeat comes in the main event of this month's UFC 170 against Sara McMann. Like Rousey, McMann enters undefeated in her MMA career and with an Olympic pedigree. While Rousey nonetheless enters the fight as a heavy favorite to retain her title, McMann should provide some challenges with her wrestling that Rousey has not yet faced. When taken with the fact that Rousey may only be one poor streak away from abandoning the octagon for Hollywood, it makes fight a can't-miss event.