Ronda Rousey, the first American women’s judo Olympic medalist, occupied one of the downtown Marriot’s Olympic conference rooms in L.A. on Thursday to discuss her UFC bantamweight title fight against reality TV rival Miesha Tate. The rematch serves as the co-main event role for UFC 168: “Weidman vs. Silva 2,” Dec. 28 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Rousey’s UFC debut in February was legendary for having three significant firsts: First female bout in the octagon, first female pay-per-view headliner, and first female championship coronation. “Rowdy” made it entirely possible, according to UFC President Dana White. The Venice-based fighter submitted Liz Carmouche via her trademark finish to go a perfect seven-for-seven first-round armbars in her career - a career that saw her initial coronation as a champion by submitting then-titleholder Tate in the now-defunct Strikeforce promotion in March 2012.
At the press conference, 26-year-old was in media obligation heels, but War Tape wrapped around her right hand reminded us that she is gearing up to defend her title belt. Three years into the sport, Rousey has fashioned herself into a UFC mainstream crossover, complete with movie roles in the upcoming TheExpendables and Fast and Furious movie franchises. And while we wouldn’t stand a chance against her in the ring, we did at least manage to make her submit to the Maxim interrogation…
What was it like boxing with former WBC champ Victor Ortiz on the set of The Expendables 3?
We did a lot of clinching stuff together. We found some random boxing club in the middle of Bulgaria - we would move around the ring and I’d have to try and clinch him, and he’d have to try and get away from me, which is good for him. He’s got great footwork from pure boxing. He would try to run away and I’d try to cut him off. One day, he was like, “Try to throw me once. I just want to know”’ So then he found out what it’s like!
Are you dating anyone in Hollywood?
No. I’m new to that industry, and the way to gain respect in it is not to fuck around…
How did you switch from movie mode back to fight mode?
By the time I’m tired of doing one, I’m ready to go back to the other. I was so ready to go back to the gym. I’d be sitting around in Bulgaria like, “Man, I miss my gym.” I miss waking up in the morning with my morning coffee and being the first one there and unlocking the door.
You talked about being in a funk after filming The Ultimate Fighter, what exactly are you referring to?
All of us really left with a sour taste in our mouth. The gym is my safe place, it’s where I retain my sanity. It bastardized that for us.
It warped the public’s perception of you, is that what you’re saying?
No, the experience sucks. It wasn’t the perception. Yeah, they edited as they pleased - they needed a villain, and they made me that role. But all that matters is [the fighters] came off well. Everyone’s memory is as long as their Twitter timeline - how long ago was it that Robert Downey Jr. was blacklisted from Hollywood and now he’s the number one paid actor? How long ago was it that Kim Kardashian had dicks in her mouth, and now she sells my little sister shoes? Those examples are encouraging to me, because there are no permanent problems.
Are you surprised the UFC added another female division within a year?
The less weight on my shoulders, the better. Less work, less pressure for me, and it’s better for the longevity of the sport. I wouldn’t want to leave and have it be in shambles. If I leave, I want it to skyrocket past me.
When you and Tate fought last, you were the challenger, and she said you didn’t deserve it. Now that the roles are reversed, do you feel the same about her?
I would say that the factors in giving her a title shot are definitely outside of her recent athletic performances. That’s why they’re playing up the rivalry and her looks part, because, athletically, look at the Vegas odds, she’s 10-to-1 - it’s hard to sell that! You have to look outside the box at how to get people interested.”
How did Tate go from a manufactured rivalry to what appears to be a genuine, heated rivalry?
When she walked on the show, I shook her hand. When she walked off the show, I flipped her off. You’d be shocked at the absolutely appalling number of people that have come to me, begging to come to my camp because they’ve been fucked over by Tate and [her boyfriend Bryan] Caraway some way.
Has anything changed in your mind to make this fight different from the first fight?
She has to talk me down all the time to herself, because she has to convince herself she has a chance. I expect a lot more from her than she expects from me, and that’s why I’m always going to be better prepared.
Do you believe Tate coming off a loss upsets the credibility of female MMA that you are trying to establish? Are you accepting this fight because it’s a way to get rid of her for good?
It’s a fight fans want to see because the rivalry is there, the history is there, and she’s a cute chick, so I want that fight to be able to happen and the opportunity not to be wasted. I can’t count on her doing that on her own later. I’d rather snatch it up now - I don’t think a fight with her makes sense at any other time. I can’t count on her building up a win streak after this… I know that if I fought the me that fought Miesha then, I’d beat the shit out of myself right now.
To what do you attribute women’s MMA surpassing women’s boxing, despite being around for a shorter time?
I think a lot of these girls need to march into their sport and be like, “I have a right to be here.” Not be worried about stepping on anyone’s toes and not be worried about saying anything wrong. If you want to make money off professional sports, remember, you’re always an entertainer. You’re not Miss America.
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Photos by Stephan Wurth | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013