It’s been less than two weeks since “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey spectacularly defended her Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight championship against archrival Miesha Tate.
It’s been nary three weeks since she was in Los Angeles for a press tour leading up to the Dec. 28 co-main event at UFC 168.
But the Glendale Fighting Club-trained champion was back in Los Angeles on Tuesday, as tickets for her UFC 170 main event title defense against Sara McMann go on sale Friday with the bout looming Feb. 22.
“I was supposed to take a vacation this week; I was supposed to go on a cruise. Oh well,” said Rousey at Fleming’s Steakhouse during Tuesday afternoon’s UFC media luncheon. “I’ll rest when I’m dead. I’ve got too much to do.”
Immediately on the agenda, Rousey (8-0), a 2008 United States Olympic bronze medalist in judo, will defend her belt against McMann (7-0), a 2004 U.S. Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling. The card, which airs live on pay-per-view from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, will also feature former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier taking on former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in the co-main event.
Rousey, a two-time Olympian in ’04 and ’08, was joined by McMann and Cormier, as the trio of former Olympians looked forward to their impending bouts in the UFC’s octagon.
Cormier, who’s also an analyst on UFC Tonight on Fox Sports 1, was quick to offer his excitement for the main event.
“To be on the card with two ladies that are Olympians, Olympic medalists, during the Olympic Games — the winter Olympic Games are going to be going on — I’m excited,” Cormier said. “Just to be fighting on the same card as two girls that I went to the Olympic Games with — Ronda and I twice — yeah, it’s a big deal.
“These are two women that have done things that most people can only dream about. That’s why this is the fight. This is the fight.”
Rousey’s bout with McMann will be a first on many accounts, as it will be the first time Olympians — male or female — will square off in the UFC and the first time the women’s bantamweight title (dating back to its lineage in the Strikeforce promotion) will feature undefeated foes.
“I think it’s an amazing matchup,” Rousey said. “It’s great for, not just women’s MMA, but MMA in general.
“To have two undefeated fighters, both not just Olympians, but Olympic medalists, fighting each other — women’s MMA has almost skipped ahead of the guys.”
McMann, 33, has been wrestling since she was 14, while the 26-year-old Rousey has been taking part in judo since she was but 11.
Hence, many believe this will be a matchup of perhaps the two best athletes to ever fight in women’s MMA.
Thus, the bout, centered on athletic pedigree and pure competition, is in stark contrast to Rousey’s prior fight on Dec. 28 when she defeated Tate for the second time to conclude a build-up rife with animosity and bad blood.
“I think that how different it is is really what’s appealing. It’s hard to sell the same thing over and over. I think that because the dynamic of this fight is so different, it’s easy to get people interested in another fight so soon,” Rousey said. “I think this is the perfect fight that’s needed at this time.”
Though the two were technically teammates in the 2004 Olympics, Tuesday was actually the first time they met and there was nothing but mutual respect.
“It’s different I think whenever you have respect for the person you’re competing against. I don’t think it changes how you will compete. I competed against Olympic medalists, I competed against world medalists and champions, as has Ronda,” said McMann, who began her mixed martial arts career in 2010. “You have a certain degree of respect for the people who put in the work that you’ve put in. It’s a little bit different than somebody who you know, maybe has done it for a little bit of time. You don’t feel like that they deserve my total respect for that.”
So, while Rousey was never at a loss for harsh words to direct at Tate, she had plenty of praise for McMann.
“I’ve been following Sara’s career from the very beginning. We pretty much started at exactly the same time. I always thought this would be the perfect fight,” said Rousey, whose amateur debut was also in 2010, beginning a run of 11 fights that have all ended via armbar submission. “I think this is the perfect time for everything to be coming together. I couldn’t be more excited to have an athlete of Sara’s level to really test myself against. It helps all of us. ... It raises the whole level for everybody. I couldn’t have a single bad thing to say about her. She’s obviously St. McMann.”
Upon the path that Rousey has blazed in becoming the first woman signed to the UFC, its first female titlist and the first to win a women’s fight in the octagon, she also believes her bout against McMann could well be a game-changing event.
“All those factors combined: Olympians, Olympic medalists, undefeated for the championship, we’ve never had that many factors come together for the UFC championship,” Rousey said. “It just really speaks about how far MMA has come in general. They used to be kind of sold as these are two guys that they picked up from outside in the bar and then they gave them some extra money to fight in front of some people. Now it’s just the athletes that get to the absolute epitome of their sport are now moving over into MMA and being successful. Why are they being successful? Because we’re using our Olympic sport. This is not brawling or human cockfighting like people [called] it. I walk in there and I pretty much do exactly what I did representing my country in the Olympics for judo. She goes in there and she does exactly what she learned to do for her sport. There’s nothing barbaric or anything about that. We’re celebrated for what we do in one arena and we’re criticized for it in another. I really feel like bringing the whole relationship to the Olympics into it, kind of softens up the look of MMA a little bit more and people are gonna look at us more as athletes and not just fighters.”
Rousey said she was approached about potentially fighting in February by UFC President Dana White roughly three weeks before the December bout and knew the night of Dec. 28 that she would be fighting McMann. However, both seemed to believe a matchup was always destined to happen.
“I have been training all along anticipating getting that phone call,” McMann said.
Now, less than two months remain until Rousey will take to the cage for her next conquest, looking to defeat one of her most celebrated foes yet. Adding to the intrigue, Rousey believes, quick as the turnaround between fights will be, she’ll have a vastly different approach to implement and a new obstacle to overcome.
“I’m absolutely positive that the way that I was able to throw Miesha when she came in for those shots, it would not be possible to do that against Sara,” Rousey said. “Because of the time that she’s put in and the level of athlete she is and the technique that she has, I know that I definitely have to approach her completely different than Miesha, even though they both came from a wrestling background. The level that she’s at, she has to be approached in a totally different way.
“Doing such a quick turnaround I think adds that impossibility factor that really makes me motivated.”