Exactly a week ahead of taking center stage under the brightest lights that have ever shined down upon women's mixed martial arts, Ronda Rousey sat upon the ring apron at the Glendale Fighting Club.
Spent from her latest workout with coach Edmond Tarverdyan, Rousey answered questions that she had been asked too many times before, all centering around one impending Saturday night that could very well change the landscape of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the world of mixed martial arts.
With the questions having grown stale and the real training all but done, the fight that seemingly everyone can’t stop talking about had transfixed into the fight that Rousey can’t stop thinking about.
“I’m just getting mostly impatient and focused — impatient and intense,” Rousey said on Saturday. “I think about it all the time.”
These are the final days before Rousey, a beautiful savage that has created a media storm the likes of which the MMA world has never seen, defends her UFC women’s bantamweight championship against Liz Carmouche in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche pay-per-view at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
It will be a night overflowing with firsts.
Rousey, the uncrowned first lady of MMA, stands at 6-0 in her brief but astounding professional career, all of her one-sided fights ending in the first-round via armbar. Subsequently, she was the first female fighter to sign a UFC contract and was then crowned the first-ever UFC women’s bantamweight champion after she was the last to hold the Strikeforce bantamweight title and the latter was absorbed by the UFC.
And on Saturday, likely some time after 9 p.m., Rousey and Carmouche, the first openly gay UFC fighter, will enter the caged confinement that is the UFC octagon for the first women’s fight in the organization’s two-decade history.
Plenty of hoopla, plenty of story lines and plenty of firsts, but for Rousey and her GFC camp, it’s still plenty simple.
“It’s a fight,” Tarverdyan said. “It doesn’t really make a difference for Ronda.”
All Rousey has done in the arena of MMA is win her fights, first going 3-0 in the amateur ranks before making her pro debut in March of 2011. It was a debut she would win in just 25 seconds and the roller-coaster rise of Rousey had begun.
Just as all of her fights have ended in the first round, they’ve all ended with her signature armbar — including her three amateur bouts. Only her Strikeforce title victory over rival Miesha Tate in March of 2012 — it took her 24 days shy of a year to go from her debut to winning a championship — extended past a minute. Thus, many have concluded she’s only good — albeit exceptional — at one aspect of the fight game. Rousey and Tarverdyan disagree, though, as her work in the gym has seen the overall game of the former two-time United States Olympian judoka develop rapidly. In particular, her striking has prospered, with her footwork and the power in her right hand improving rapidly.
“Ronda’s looking very, very good,” Tarverdyan said. “She’s improved a lot. She improves every fight.
“She performed very well and she’s gonna do even better for this fight.”
Tarverdyan points out the triple-jab combination she began her first and only Strikeforce title defense with. It backed up noted striker Sarah Kaufman and led to a clinch, an eventual takedown and impending doom in the form of an armbar that’s become as signature for Rousey as her sound bytes and stunning looks.
Consequently, Kaufman holds a victory via unanimous decision over Carmouche, who enters the bout as a 12-1 underdog. It’s a status Carmouche is perfectly fine with, however.
“The pressure isn’t on me, it’s on Ronda,” said Carmouche on Monday in Burbank, where she began fight week with a media luncheon at Morton’s The Steakhouse. “I’m going in as the underdog and the pressure’s all on her. ... The pressure’s off [me].
“That’s what fuels me is just to try to prove everybody wrong.”
Carmouche, 29, is riding a two-fight winning streak, though her most notable bout is likely a loss, as she nearly upset then-Strikeforce champion Marloes Coenen in March of 2011, winning the championship bout’s first three rounds before she was caught in a triangle choke and was submitted in the fourth. Carmouche brings an 8-2 record into the cage, with seven wins by stoppage — five via knockout and two by submission. However, the best aspects of her game are seen as her clinch work and ground-and-pound, which, at least going off pedigrees in comparison to Rousey’s past as the first American female to win an Olympic medal in judo when she took bronze in 2008, don’t seem to bode well for the San Diego-trained former United States Marine.
Rousey, 26, and her camp, though, believe it’s Carmouche’s unpredictability that makes her most dangerous.
“She’s very unpredictable,” Rousey said. “There’s nothing predictable about Liz. I have to be extremely versatile and be able to adapt to any situation.”
Added Tarverdyan: “She’s dangerous because she’s excited for this fight. When a fighter’s excited they might try anything. She could do things you don’t expect, so we have to be ready for anything.”
But Tarverdyan’s convinced that Rousey has emerged from her camp as dangerous and as prepared as ever.
“I believe she could realistically beat two Liz Carmouches in the ring with her at the same time,” Tarverdyan said, “that’s how ready she is.”
And so it is that on Saturday in Anaheim, Rousey will emerge from a whirlwind of media from the likes of Time Magazine, HBO, ESPN, the New York Times and countless other outlets. She will look to continue the rapid rise that has seen her leave a collection of touted opponents lying in submission. She looks to make history in the dominating fashion in which she’s so quickly made a name for herself.
“So far, yeah, things are going well, but I’m still far from achieving everything I wanted in the beginning,” Rousey said. “I have unrealistically high expectations. I think that’s a good thing because my work is never done.”
Standing in Rousey’s way is an opponent in Carmouche who asked for the fight and the opportunity, and vows to enter the bout ready to steal the show and shock the world.
“We pushed for it and it definitely turned out better than we expected,” said Carmouche, who, according to previous comments from Rousey and UFC President Dana White, was the only fighter willing to take the bout. “I can’t just focus on the armbar. If I do that, all I’m doing is giving her the opportunity to implement her game plan.
“I have to implement my game plan. I can’t freeze when I go in there.”
And so it was on a Saturday past in Glendale that Rousey sat with her eyes frozen straight ahead.
Still in front of Rousey was an open workout on Wednesday in Torrance, Thursday’s press conference in Anaheim and the weigh-ins on Friday. But her gaze has long since been focused ahead of all that, with her eyes firmly on the prize of becoming the first woman to have her hand raised in the octagon.
“I picture the entire fight, from the walk-out on. I always picture it different. ... I picture all of it,” Rousey said. “All the hard work’s done. It’s all coasting until the night of the fight. Then I’m gonna do what I’m the best in the world at.”
For more comprehensive coverage of Rousey-Carmouche through their main event, visit glendalenewspress.com, where you can view the last installments of UFC Primetime: Rousey-Carmouche.