Dan Henderson's camp takes issue with Ronda Rousey headlining UFC 157, Dana defends the decision

Photo via Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Going into Henderson's fight with Machida in March, a Team Quest coach takes issue with the MMA legend being relegated to co-main event. Dana White has already gone on record defending the decision.

It's well known at this point that WMMA star Ronda Rousey will be making her UFC debut at UFC 157. In the press conference for UFC On Fox 5, UFC president Dana White confirmed that Rousey would headline the card in her first women's Bantamweight title defense against Liz Carmouche. This stirred controversy amongst fans immediately as it bumped the Light Heavyweight bout between Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida down to co-main and made it a 3-round fight instead of 5.

MMA fans aren't the only one's upset with decision, either. Gracie Mag caught a quip from Team Quest coach Gus Pugliese's Facebook account:

Ronda is headlining UFC 157. Here is why I have a problem with that. Ronda is the champion of Strikeforce with 6 wins in less than 2 years of a mma professional career. That's impressive regardless of who she has fought. However, she is not the UFC champion yet. She still has to win this fight to get that belt. On the other hand, we have Hendo, who has also been the Strikeforce champion (never lost the belt), Pride champion in 2 different weight classes; he has been ranked #1 contender for the UFC 205 lbs, and #6 by many pound for pound best fighter. His resume is second to none, moreover, he is fighting a former champion, Lyoto Machida. Now why aren't they main event? Is Ronda a better market value? I don't know, but her fight could be quick as usual and we could be missing another historic 5 rds fight between 2 legends and possible hall of famers. I'm not saying she doesn't deserve to headline an UFC event, but certainly not this one.

Pugliese gave a follow up statement to Gracie Mag, as well:

Where I come from, there’s a pecking order for anything in life. I believe in paying dues. In this particular case, ‘Hendo’ and Machida paid their dues a long time ago. For someone new to come in and have a free ride just seems unfair to them and the whole sport they helped build.

There is one issue with Pugliese's logic here. He says that Rousey "is not the champion yet." While some agree with his sentiment that she won't really be the champ until she actually fights in the UFC, she was granted the title and proclaimed the champ by Dana White at the Fox 5 presser. This is consistent with how the UFC handled the men's Featherweight and Bantamweight championships after the WEC merger. And to White that's the most important factor (via Bleacher Report):

She's the champ. You will never see a [different] situation in any fight, whether men, women, the lightest weight division there is. If you're the champion, you're the headliner. You're the top of the card. I've seen some people talking s--- about, "Oh, the women's fight is headlining." Ronda Rousey is a badass, she's the champ, her opponent stepped up to the plate and wanted this fight with her when no one, others didn't. I don't give a s--- what they say, that's a fact.

On the other hand, Pugliese does raise a salient point regarding the expectations of each fight. Rousey opened as a 9:1 favorite over Carmouche. There's very few people who expect that fight to end in anything but first round armbar. But with Hendo/Machida predictions are much less clear and it's very possible that the Light Heavyweight bout could go the distance.

What neither White nor Pugliese mention is that the UFC could easily fix this issue by making Henderson vs. Machida a 5 round fight. We've seen repeatedly in the last year that both the commission and the UFC can make non-title matches 25 minutes. There's nothing in the rules that limits that privilege to main events. In many cases it would be considered a risk to book two 25-minute fights on one PPV, but with Rousey/Carmouche so likely to end early in round 1, that makes perfect sense here.

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