By now, even the most casual of mixed martial arts fans have heard the hubbub surrounding Ronda Rousey’s debut bout against former marine Liz Carmouche. Most have heard about the historic nature of the UFC 157 fight on Feb. 23, how it marks the first time two women will compete in the octagon.
The gender-bending issues presented in the fight? Check.
Issues of sexual orientation in sports brought to light by the openly lesbian fighter, Carmouche?
Traditional constructs of feminism?
And just good, solid title fighting?
Check, check and check. UFC 157 offers all of these elements.
Capturing these themes is the debut episode of UFC Primetime: Rousey v. Carmouche, airing Thursday night on Fox Sports Network. The show gives a voice and context to the two women who’ve tossed social stereotypes around the way that they’ll throw each around other come fight night. The Zuffa-produced Primetime is arguably the most spellbinding MMA television we’ll see this year. (And yes, I know. It’s only February.)
While the show has long been know for unprecedented access to fighters, the first episode of the three-part series features the most raw and emotionally gripping personal stories we’ve seen to date.
Rousey has told the story of her early-childhood speech problems, her close relationship with her father, and the devastating impact of his death, in several high-profile outlets, including SI. In Primetime, we hear a few, never-told-before memories of him. Most compellingly, Rousey describes what it’s like talk about him. SI won’t ruin it for you, but hearing her describe how it feels to relive his life and death is gut wrenching.
Carmouche is as magnetic as her much more famous counterpart. Her grace and poise as the undisputed underdog are endearing. Primetime tells of her coming to grips with her sexuality and the struggles, both financial and logistical, of being an under-the-radar fighter. As Carmouche takes the viewers through her day, she easily slips into the roll of the All-American Every Woman. It’s easy to understand the devotion she elicits from her dedicated fan base, the Lizbos.
Primetime is well told and well worth your time. It’s greatest achievement is the dexterity with which it handles these fighters’ delicate and complex histories while simultaneously treating them not so much as female fighters but simply fighters. – Melissa Segura