- Maria Burns Ortiz, ESPN Playbook
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Twitter trash talk.
When Ronda Rousey began her rise to mixed martial arts prominence, she was known as much for her social media smack talk as her ability to fight. She was outstanding at both.
The run-up to Rousey's UFC 157 headlining bout against Liz Carmouche for the women's bantamweight championship has been dramatically different than the lead-up to Rousey's Strikeforce title bout with Miesha Tate last year.
In 2012, Rousey admittedly worked to generate press by engaging in an all-out social media attack against Tate. Call it brash. Call it calculated. Call it successful. The digital war of words grabbed the attention of the sports' socially engaged fan base. A flurry of 140-character posts led to a meeting in the cage that ended in a first-round arm bar, catapulting Rousey from rising contender to title holder. She went on to win a UFC Twitter bonus for most creative tweets and her Twitter following has grown by almost 800 percent and climbing.
The media circus surrounding Rousey's latest fight could be the biggest the sport has ever seen. She has been profiled by countless media outlets and is trending, even days before she steps into the cage for the actual evemt.
Rousey is not only undefeated in the sport, but she's never had a fight go past the first round. (In the interest of full disclosure, here seems as good a place as any to note that she's also my sister.)
However, more than just serving as a face of the UFC, she is also a face of the social media age athlete. Prior to Rousey's rise, UFC president Dana White didn't see a bright future for women in the Octagon. In no uncertain terms, White made clear that it would "never" happen.
Propelled by her dominance in the ring, Rousey was able to use social media to build her brand, build a fan base and engage with an audience in ways nonmainstream athletes (because few sports were further from the mainstream than women's MMA) had never before done. Now, she's the marquee name on Saturday's pay-per-view fight.
Fans hoping for another round of trash talk heading into the UFC's first women's bout have probably been a bit let down. The bad blood between Rousey and Carmouche has been almost nonexistent. In part, because Rousey says she has a different level of respect for her challenger this go-round. Moreover, Rousey understands when trash talk works and when not to waste her time.
"[Carmouche] was in Iraq, where people shoot at you," Rousey said referring to her opponent's service in the U.S. Marines, where Carmouche completed three tours of duty. "So, it's not like something I say on Twitter is going to intimidate her."
Just one more example of Rousey's social media savvy.
Elsewhere in the social mediasphere
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the most engaged NHL team, according to TicketCity.
Bayern Munich can lay claim to Germany's top sports-social media billing.
The Indianapolis Colts jumped on the Harlem Shake meme bandwagon.
New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and his Seattle Seahawks counterpart Richard Sherman engaged in a war of words on Twitter.
Professional tennis player Rebecca Marino cited social media bullying as one of her reasons for retiring from the sport.
The Minnesota Vikings are among teams taking a more in-depth look at NFL draft prospects' social media activity.
Inside UFC social media
We'll be giving you an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes with UFC social media on fight night in next week's column. I'll also be tweeting from the Honda Center in Anaheim throughout UFC 157 on Saturday night.
Got a story we should feature? Have a site we should check out? Who's on your must-follow list? Tweet me at @BurnsOrtiz. If your idea gets mentioned in this column, so will you. Follow Playbook on Twitter at @ESPNPlaybook.