Did Santos, her management, Rousey, Invicta FC or Zuffa come out looking great? Did any of them blow it? The answer is a big, fat meh. Winners. Losers. The line's a blur with this one. Despite a lot of not getting what was wanted most, in certain ways everyone came out ahead.
The only thing we know for sure is this episode has added texture and dimension to a fight that will happen if everyone is as good and smart as they think they are.
How they win ...
Zuffa: The UFC holds rights to Rousey, so they're way ahead of the game. They stuck to their guns on keeping one weight division, which is the smart move as new fans are indoctrinated into the ways of women's mixed martial arts. Again, they've refused to let a fighter dictate terms and get away with it. The absence of Cyborg shouldn't hurt too much because 135 features several appealing contenders.
Santos: After a year away from the cage because of steroids, Cyborg has a fight again. She'll compete for a promotion that quickly earned a reputation as the home for women's MMA. She'll face a legitimate challenger at 145 in Ediane Gomes. She won't have to kill herself to make 135 pounds, which she could if she had to, but only at a cost. Another year of destroying women would lather up fans for a fight against Rousey, boosting her leverage heading into another round of contract talks with Zuffa.
Rousey: If it comes together, Rousey-Cyborg has the makings of the biggest money fight in female combat sports history. This chapter does nothing but add to that. It's all part of the story and, hey, now it has gotten personal. Right? Rousey is a clear winner if she holds up her end of the bargain and gets that payday.
Primetime 360: Tito Ortiz and two attorneys are trying their hand at the management business. The Cyborg episode landed them press. If their female star remains clean and beats up the competition, the "flexibility" they said they opted for could pay off a year from now.
Invicta FC: The female-focused promotion landed Cyborg to a three-bout contract. Duh. So long as Invicta didn't do something foolish with the money or terms (and there's no reason to suspect they did), it's a no-brainer. Press interest will hit a new high for Invicta this April.
How they lose ...
Zuffa: Dana White said he didn't understand why UFC's offer to pay Santos to fight in Invicta was turned down when she ended up with the same promotion for less money. Santos said she didn't want to sign the eight-fight contract Zuffa offered. And so Zuffa loses if Cyborg puts herself in the best possible position. That's not so terrible. Zuffa still stands to make big money on this deal whenever it happens. Zuffa, too, loses if it continues to play up the narrative that Cyborg is running from Rousey.
Santos: She drops one of her next three fights in Invicta. That would be bad.
Rousey: Rousey has her mountaintop to defend. So long as she's the top female bantamweight in MMA, there's not much downside to seeing Cyborg compete outside of the Octagon. Fights will arise, money will be made, her fame will continue to grow. There is the chance, however, that if she's unable to fight Cyborg, Rousey can't take the title of the sport's best female fighter. And that's worth something.
Primetime 360: Cyborg loses. Zuffa decides it doesn't like how Ortiz and his team do business.
Invicta FC: Pay-per-view numbers are lower than expected. Cyborg falls on her face in the cage or screws up another steroid test. All the usual pitfalls.
Where it stands ...
Zuffa: Business as usual. They're invested in Rousey. If she should falter, though, it will be interesting to see what that does to UFC's interest in Cyborg.
Santos: She'll have to do what she has done and keep hurting women in the cage. Cyborg is lined up for big things if it plays out this way. She's taking a potentially riskier route to her goal, but the benefits could be greater.
Rousey: Let's check back on the 23rd.
Primetime 360: Ortiz's group also has wrestler Bubba Jenkins under contract, with a promise to focus on brand building and contractual protections. It was refreshing to hear a management group openly discuss the inner workings of contract negotiations. Hopefully that continues.
Invicta FC: As of right now, they're not a "feeder organization," per Dana White. The Cyborg signing isn't quite Fedor Emelianenko to Strikeforce, but it's a major moment for the young promotion.