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2015 MMA Personality of the Year: Ronda Rousey (Yahoo Sports)
January 04, 2016
( Yahoo MMA )

A few days after the fight ended, the letters began pouring in.

There was one from Kobe Bryant. Another was from Maria Shriver. One from Diana Nyad, and many more, from notable people in sports, politics and celebrity. View gallery . No one did more for the UFC, or the sport, than Ronda Rousey in 2015. (Getty)

View gallery

No one did more for the UFC, or the sport, than Ronda Rousey in 2015. (Getty)

The letters were all addressed to Ronda Rousey and arrived at her agent’s office only a few days after her shocking defeat to Holly Holm at UFC 193 on Nov. 14 in Melbourne, Australia.

They were mostly long, inspirational missives, commending Rousey on what she’d done for her sport and for women in general, and urging her not to get down over her defeat.

Former boxing heavyweight champion George Foreman, who has become a major fan of mixed martial arts, tweeted to and about Rousey several times in the hours and days immediately after her fight.

In his first, he wrote, “Ronda Rousey, you made us look. Win, lose or draw, you’re the big story. Rest, reset. You’ll be back.” Later, he added, “Down goes Muhammad [Ali], [Joe] Frazier and Foreman. Ronda Rousey, we all came back. So will you.”

Another legendary ex-champion, Mike Tyson, tweeted to Rousey, “A true champ is not defined by wins. You are glorious even still.”

Never in the 20-plus-year history of the UFC has there ever been such a reaction to an individual fighter as there was to Rousey in 2015. From average fans to leaders in sports, business and celebrity, Rousey resonated with all people at all levels.

She is the one fighter who transcends her sport. She literally transfixed the world during an incredible year in which she fought three times in less than three full months, released a best-selling autobiography that has been translated into five languages, appeared in two major motion pictures and became among the most prominent athletes in the world.

She was mentioned in a Demi Lovato song, “Stars,” and appeared on the cover of too many magazines to mention. She hit the mainstream in such a way that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted that he was glad she lost, presumably since a few days earlier, Rousey had said she supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) for president.

Lady Gaga chided her for failing to touch gloves with Holm. ESPN’s viewers chose her as not only the year’s best fighter, but also its best female athlete.

View gallery . Ronda Rousey's loss to Holly Holm doesn't diminish her impact and what she accomplished in 2015. (AP) Rousey was also the best, and most articulate, interview in the sport, providing insight and wisdom impossible for MMA reporters to get anywhere else. For a superstar, she was amazingly accessible and rarely used the same line twice.

View gallery

Ronda Rousey's loss to Holly Holm doesn't diminish her impact and what she accomplished in 2015. (AP)

For all of that, and much more, she is the easy choice – the only choice – as Yahoo Sports’ MMA Personality of the Year.

Featherweight champion Conor McGregor became a massive star in the sport in 2015, but he doesn’t translate to the mainstream nearly the way that Rousey does.

Rousey began the year with a pair of compelling victories, defeating Cat Zingano in 14 seconds at UFC 184 on Feb. 28, then stopping Bethe Correia in 34 seconds at UFC 190 on Aug. 1.

Rousey's fight with Holm at UFC 193 was a massive affair that drew a record crowd to Etihad Stadium in Australia and generated the second-most revenue and pay-per-view-buys of any fight in the company’s history.

Rousey holds positions two and three for most combat sports pay-per-view sales in 2015, with only the record-shattering Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao bout in May surpassing her.

Rousey was shockingly defeated by Holm and lost her championship, but certainly not her place as far and away the brightest star in the UFC universe.

UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports he believes Rousey is bigger than ever after the defeat, and said he doesn’t believe it unrealistic that the rematch could do 2 million.

Rousey’s agent, Brad Slater, said “The Ronda Rousey business is stronger than ever,” and said interest in her from movie studios and advertisers has picked up, not waned, since the Holm fight.

She made the sport better and more lucrative for her peers by attracting interest that none of them could do on their own.

In that regard, she finds herself in a similar position to golfer Tiger Woods during his early days on the PGA Tour. Woods was such a phenom that the media paid so much attention to him that it rankled many of the veterans on the circuit.

But when they saw the crowds that Woods drew, and the sponsors and the television money he brought in, they fell into line.

The same is true of Rousey. View gallery . Ronda Rousey has reached an audience that few, if any, UFC fighters had resonated with before. (AP)

View gallery

Ronda Rousey has reached an audience that few, if any, UFC fighters had resonated with before. (AP)

When she lost, haters came out of the woodwork to celebrate. And she didn’t help herself by classlessly failing to congratulate Holm when she released a statement after her fight.

But there wasn’t a hint of scandal around her, and she showed the kind of person she is in December by going to the Marine Corps ball.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jarrod Haschert posted a video to YouTube in the summer in which he called her his “celebrity crush” and invited her to the Marine Corps ball.

She got up at 3 a.m. PT to fly to South Carolina, at her own expense, to attend the party so as not to disappoint someone she’d never met. When a TMZ cameraman caught her on her way to Los Angeles International Airport, she said, “It’s an honor to be asked.”

She posted pictures of the event on her Instagram account, where she has more than 7.2 million followers, and thanked Haschert for inviting her “and putting a smile on my face again.”

Many others who attended the event that night posted photos of her to social media as well. It’s hard to imagine a more down-to-earth celebrity than Rousey.

Some of the MMA fan base is resentful of her and feels she’s being treated better by White and the UFC than the other fighters. That’s not necessarily the case, though if it was, it would only make sense.

No one does more for the UFC, or the sport, than Ronda Rousey.

She was undoubtedly the Personality of the Year in 2015, and no one else is even close.

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