Ronda Rousey  will headline Saturday’s UFC card at Honda Center in Anaheim.
Ronda Rousey will headline Saturday's UFC card at Honda Center in Anaheim. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

Girls go wild. Boys go to TV set.

Networks, sponsors, dish and cable companies happy.

More to come? Let's make a date.

The only thing slightly less titillating than Danica Patrick climbing into the octagon for a pay-per-view exclusive, or Ronda Rousey climbing into the cockpit of a NASCAR rig for the pole position at the Daytona 500, is that the opposite of that will happen this weekend.

The result is that we're in a committed relationship with our TV to find Rousey's UFC debut on Saturday from Anaheim, and then make sure we're on the rail for Patrick's pole exploits come Sunday morn.

Eric Shanks, the Fox Sports co-president and executive producer, gets the best of both worlds. He's in Florida with his network's coverage of what's become an unprecedented moment in NASCAR history. But he'll also be monitoring the events of the UFC landmark moment from his laptop (computer, that is), knowing Fox could darn well have Rousey show up someday soon on one of its mixed-martial arts cards.

"Two of the greatest female athletes in a male-dominated event on center stage - the only thing better would be to have Ronda fighting on Fox Saturday before Danica on Sunday," Shanks said Thursday afternoon.

Say the Fox coverage at Daytona on Sunday (9 a.m. pregame, 10 a.m. race, Channel 11) attracts some 13 million viewers. And the UFC event on Saturday (7 p.m., $54.95 for high-def, $44.95 without, none of it refundable) has about 1 million pay-per-view buys, adding in another 3 million to 4 million people to the mix.

Does that combined 15 million to 17 million lured in by two female headliners surpass the total viewership for any guy-related NBA, NHL, golf or other pro sports telecasts this weekend?

It adds up that way going in.

Ramped-up media coverage for the UFC has already hit the front page of USA Today's sports section - Thursday, fighting for space against the Patrick angle.

Jeff Wagenheim at SI.com wrote this week: "Even if you don't think women should be fighting in a cage, or even if you're neither in favor of it nor opposed but simply don't care to watch, there's no denying the historic implication here ... (the fight is) not as momentous as women's suffrage, not even as far-reaching as Title IX, but when these athletes step through the cage door on Saturday night they'll be staking their gender's place on the sport's grandest stage."

Danica Patrick will be the first woman to start from the pole position in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup this Sunday at the Daytona 500.
Danica Patrick will be the first woman to start from the pole position in NASCAR's Sprint Cup this Sunday at the Daytona 500. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Shanks is careful not to over-promise on Danicamania, content that a pre-race feature allowing her to talk about her week in a first-person format, as well as adding some historical context, will not divert from any other hysteria the race itself draws naturally. (FYI: Erin Andrews was already dispatched to dress up a feature on defending Sprint Cup champ Brad Keselowski, providing what the network says is "an in-depth one-on-one interview").

Fox has already been told Patrick will have one of its eight in-camera cars - although that's an arrangement made with the team sponsors and the network, not always based on news value. A more sexy technical innovation from Fox this weekend includes showing off a "Gyro-Cam," another in-car device mounted in the center of the cockpit that tilts with every high-banked turn. It may be tough to stomach.

Patrick may be one of three drivers also supplied with a Gyro-Cam, but that will be determined Saturday. Until then, please tip your waitresses.

The Associated Press reported that immediately after Patrick locked in the pole during last Sunday's qualifying, Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III sent Shanks an email exclaiming that they both "had a good day today" with the results.

"Obviously from a Fox perspective, it's about viewership," Chitwood said.

Shanks chuckled when reminded of that email, but admitted that Fox immediately began to cut new promos for the race specifically mentioning that Patrick was on the pole.

"Generally you hope to get some people who wouldn't normally tune in at the beginning, but once it does start, the race takes over, whether it's Danica or Dale Jr. or anyone else on the pole," Shanks said.

"You can't let one thing take over. You won't be seeing an hour-long preview featuring what Danica had for breakfast and what we think she's going to have for lunch.

"I'm not sure on Monday morning whether we'll be able to pinpoint any one particular thing that that will attract viewers to this - Danica's part of it, but there's also some other NASCAR rookies to bring new blood, the new car designs ... there's a ton of things converging here.

"At the end of the day, you just hope that it's kind of an eye-opener - here's two women at the top of their perspective sports, in sports considered hands down very male-dominated. It's a cliché, but the idea that sports can brings stories to life that no one could ever write keeps bearing itself out time and time again. It's fantastic."

Rousey's sister expected to put her media act in check

Ronda Rousey's older sister might be tweeting louder than usual Saturday. But then, that's her job.

When the UFC 157 main event takes place - the first all-female fight between Rousey and Liz Carmouche - ESPN.com reporter Maria Burns Ortiz plans to keep her usual yells and screams for her sister in check.

Ortiz, a Boston-based social media columnist for the ESPN website (@BurnsOrtiz) as well as a contributor to Fox Sports Latino, worked at Sports Illustrated, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel and with the Associated Press before covering soccer for ESPNSoccernet. Two years ago, the adjunct professor in the Journalism Department at Emerson College who once taught digital sports journalism at Tufts University received her new social media assignment.

Her plan Saturday is to stay engaged in a story about UFC president Dana White and how the organization has capitalized on its early adaptation of social media.

Meanwhile, she keep an eye on Rousey's pursuit of history.

"They say no cheering in the press box, so I'm either going to have to go sit and squeeze in with my mom or something else," Ortiz told LANG reporter Brian Martin this week.

Ortiz said she's coached Rousey on using social media, but she's "at a point where she does pretty good. My big advice to her: Be yourself and just make sure you don't say things that are really going to offend people or hurt people."

Ortiz has seen a social media explosion in the UFC, led by White, who often tweets comments about judges decisions and fighter's performances. White started an incentive program for his fighters based on followers, percentage of growth and most creative.

The bonuses range from $5,000 to $10,000.

"A lot of sports organizations kind of scale back - 'be yourself on social media, as long as you don't step on any toes,'" she said. "The UFC has really given their fighters the green light: Build your brand. The Twitter bonuses and all these kind of things, it's not just good for the fighters but good for the UFC."

WHAT SMOKES

•A new ESPN Films initiative focused on women's sports has led to an espnW schedule of nine documentaries launching in early July and airing on Tuesday nights. The "Nine for IX" series includes a piece called "Let Them Wear Towels," focused on former Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson and her 1990 story about how a group of New England Patriots sexually harassed her for being in their locker room. Female sports writers Melissa Ludtke, Claire Smith, Lesley Visser and Jane Gross are included in sizing up the history, and humiliations, of their lot over the years. Former ESPN and current ABC "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts is one of the series' executive producers.

•Execs at espnW will announce today that their fourth annual "Women + Sports Summit" is set to go Oct. 9-11 at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point. "espnW is proud to host the most comprehensive and vibrant summit for women in sports that will bring together key influencers and athletes in our industry," said Laura Gentile, vice president, espnW. "We've fostered a network of leaders and several initiatives resulted directly from the summit. We will ensure it continues to inspire new thinking and real progress for women."

WHAT CHOKES

•Among the data that the Sports Business Daily collected to show NBA game TV audiences are down at TNT, ABC and NBA TV through the first half of the season - the Lakers' 4.3 rating so far on Time Warner Cable SportsNet is a 10 percent drop from what the team did during its last full season Fox Sports West (2010-11, excluding last year's abbreviated season). Still, that 4.3 rating is No. 5 among all NBA teams. That translates to an average audience of 234,800, second only to the New York Knicks' 254,000 average. The Clippers are fifth at 82,500, up 29,200 from a season ago. The Clippers also showed the fifth-best ratings jump from one season over another - 56 percent - even with its 1.5 rating. Overall NBA viewership has a 1.4 rating on TNT, a dip of 22 percent from last season and from a 1.6 rating in 2010-11. ESPN games are flat at 1.2 rating.