Ronda Rousey to fight in the UFC

Ronda Rousey submitted Sarah Kaufman in 54 seconds via armbar to retain her bantamweight title. (Aug. 18, 2012)

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Ronda Rousey, the magnetic star of women's MMA, will join the UFC, leaving behind Strikeforce, according to multiple reports Thursday.

TMZ first reported the news on Rousey, who will become the first female fighter to be under contract with the world's premier mixed martial arts organization. Newsday confirmed the report with a source close to the promotion. Rousey (6-0) is the Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion. She has won all of her pro bouts in the first round via armbar submission.

No official news from the UFC has been released yet, but president Dana White did tweet ":)" shortly after Twitter went abuzz with the report from TMZ. 

Sure, it's just a smiley face, but that has history with White. He tweeted the same thing when Fedor Emelianenko lost his first bout in 10 years back in June 2010.

Of course, Rousey will need opponents. It is not yet known when Rousey and other female fighters -- presumably from Strikeforce and Invicta FC -- will make their debut inside the octagon. That first fight, however, will be the inaugural female MMA bout in the UFC's 19-year history. Miesha Tate, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, Sara McCann and Liz Carmouche are possible opponents.

The move s a significant step on several levels. It boosts Rousey's star power, which has grown with each fight as the former Olympic medal winner in judo submits opponents with her arm bar then flashes that Madison Avenue smile. It will boost ratings and pay per view buys on whatever 2013 card she fights on, seeing how her last two fights were headliners that drew some of Strikeforce's highest numbers on Showtime.

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It also represents a 180-degree turn from past months and years where White said women would likely not fight for his promotion. He had routinely said that he didn't feel there were enough top-tier female fighters to create a competitive division in the UFC.

Rousey's emergence as a star in and out of the octagon helped change his thinking. Other fighters such as Tate and Julie Kedzie likely helped as well given the bout they put on the last time out.

Rousey's inclusion in the UFC provides another helping hand in women's sports gaining more and more popularity among the casual sports fan.

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