When you have two undefeated fighters decorated with Olympic medals, it would seem they are destined to square off.
That’s how Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White sees the impending Feb. 22 main event between UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann at UFC 170 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
“There’s no doubt that those two were on a collision course from the inception of the division,” White said Monday at a media luncheon at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Los Angeles.
Rousey, who trains at Glendale Fighting Club under Edmond Tarverdyan, boasts an 8-0 record with two bouts under the UFC umbrella — title defenses against Liz Carmouche and most recently versus Miesha Tate on Dec. 28. She is also a two-time former United States Olympian in judo, having won a bronze medal in the 2008 Games, becoming the first American female to medal in the sport.
McMann is 7-0 in mixed martial arts, with one fight — a first-round technical knockout due to ground strikes over Sheila Gaff in April — under the UFC banner. Prior to MMA, she won a silver medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2004 Olympics, becoming the first American woman to do so.
Scheduled for five rounds, the 135-pound championship will headline a pay-per-view event that also features a co-main event pitting former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and Daniel Cormier, a former U.S. Olympic wrestler. The event will take place with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in full swing, though, White said, “that just sorta happened,” to make for a pleasant coincidence.
The bout will come a day shy of the one-year anniversary of Rousey’s victory via first-round armbar over Carmouche on Feb. 23, 2013 in the first-ever UFC women’s bout.
Since then, women’s MMA has risen, as has the already burgeoning stardom of Rousey, who has subsequently filmed roles in “The Expendables 3” and “Fast and the Furious 7.”
“At the end of the day, the reality is people love to see Ronda Rousey fight,” White said. “Ronda Rousey is a big star. Every time she fights, she blows me away with what she does as far as star power.”
Rousey’s ascent and the subsequent rise of the 135-pound division, which also includes Glendale Fighting Club teammates Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler, led to the formation of the 115-pound division, which will debut in an upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and features the likes of Carla Esparza, Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig, among others. Other divisions could follow, but White believes more depth in those divisions — such as 125 and 145 pounds — is needed.
“You need some real depth,” said White when asked about the potential of a 145-pound division, which could house the likes of current Invicta Fighting Championships queenpin Cris Cyborg and potentially Marina Shafir, an undefeated amateur who trains at GFC and has fast made a name for herself. “I have so much depth at 115 that I can do an ‘Ultimate Fighter.’ That’s real depth.”
Another recent hot topic as it relates to the UFC is star power, as longtime UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre recently vacated his title to take time off, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is injured and former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, considered by most to be the greatest MMA fighter of all time, is recovering from a gruesome broken leg.
White doesn’t hesitate, though, in saying Rousey is already a one of the UFC’s brightest figures.
“Ronda Rousey is a massive, massive star,” White said, “arguably one of the biggest stars in MMA right now.”