In the afterglow of the historic and riveting UFC 157 main event Saturday night in Anaheim, Ronda Rousey’s grim prefight demeanor had drastically turned into a winning smile.
With Rousey, who trains at the Glendale Fighting Club, and opponent Liz Carmouche entering the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s octagon for the first-ever women’s fight, Rousey emerged just the same as she always has in her mixed-martial-arts career — with her hands raised in victory.
“I don’t know how many adjectives I have right now,” said Rousey of her emotions at the postfight press conference Saturday not long after she defended her UFC women’s bantamweight title. “It’s kind of odd. I’m very, very happy right now, it’s starting to feel normal a little bit.”
The win came with just 11 seconds remaining in the first round, but in the end, it concluded just as all of Rousey’s previous bouts, as she moved to 7-0 with a first-round submission via armbar.
“She had great technique and she kept alternating how she was trying to pull the armbar and ultimately she got it,” said Carmouche (8-3), who gave Rousey her stiffest test yet, taking her back at one point and applying a face crank. “She came out exactly how I expected.”
The bout was billed as “history in the making,” and indeed it was, as the first women’s bout in company history also drew media exposure for the UFC the likes of which hadn’t been seen prior to the event. Time Magazine, HBO, ESPN and on and on had stories on the fight or Rousey, which far outweighed naysayers prior to the bout who disputed that a women’s fight should headline the pay-per-view card.
“It’s 2013 and I never expected such goofy backlash from people about two women headlining a main event,” White said. “What was awesome was, for once I can actually praise the media. The way that the media handled this fight, mainstream, was awesome, I think this fight got the respect it deserved — and then some.
“And then those two women delivered tonight.”
Of course, as in the aftermath of any UFC fight, one of the biggest questions that looms is, “What’s next?”
In addition to Rousey and Carmouche, the UFC also had a bevy of newly signed female fighters on hand for Thursday’s pre-fight presser and Saturday’s fight, including the likes of Alexis Davis, Sarah Kaufman, Sara McMann, Cat Zingano and Miesha Tate. Tate, Rousey’s former rival, and Zingano are scheduled for the UFC’s second women’s fight on April 13 in Las Vegas at “The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale.”
The winner could likely challenge Rousey for her title.
“That would make sense,” UFC President Dana White said Saturday.
Zingano is undefeated at 7-0, while Tate brings a 13-3 record and is the former Strikeforce champion, a title she lost to Rousey in a blockbuster fight fueled by smacktalk aplenty.
As for Rousey, her stock is on the rise in terms of mainstream notoriety and respect bestowed upon her in MMA circles.
In the UFC’s rankings, which debuted this year, Rousey was ranked by 15 of 53 panelists who submitted votes in the organization’s pound-for-pound top-10 poll. Of the 15, she was previously unranked by all but two voters prior to Saturday’s fight. It’s quite a statement given many journalists have been hesitant to vote a women’s fighter in a pound-for-pound vote with men.
The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer also reported that the pay-per-view buy rate for Saturday’s event was likely 400,000-450,000, which he said the UFC was “absolutely thrilled” about. He also mentioned that Rousey has “been offered a role in the next ... whatever it is ... the next Hunger games movie.”
In the days leading up to the bout, Rousey’s Twitter followers were at roughly 188,000 and have since climbed to more than 240,000.
Rousey’s fame has also increased the notoriety of the Glendale Fighting Club, of which her lead trainer Edmond Tarverdyan is the proprietor.
Rousey said after the fight that following a whirlwind of media she wanted to get away for the current week.
“For the next week, I’m probably going to fall entirely off the grid as much as I can,” Rousey said. “There’s no more talking about me for a whole week in my house. I don’t want to talk to anybody, I just want to have a week off to be alone and private if that’s OK with everybody.”
Tarverdyan, however, said Saturday night that although the gym wouldn’t be buzzing with the never-ending media swarm that engulfed it in past weeks, he had plenty of new fighters to train, including some with UFC experience and Marina Shafir, Rousey’s close friend and training partner, who is 2-0 in amateur fights. Consequently, both of Shafir’s wins have come in the first round via armbar.
“Busy, busy,” Tarverdyan said. “I get to rest a little bit, but I won’t have much.”
After that, though, Tarverdyan is pleased with the outlook of the UFC women’s division going forward.
“It’s exciting,” Tarverdyan said. “Now we have some fights in front of us and that’s what we need is some competition.”
It was the culmination to quite an eventful weekend for Tarverdyan and the Glendale Fighting Club, albeit one that could have started better. Glendale’s Art Hovhannisyan lost a close decision to Alejandro Perez on Friday night on Showtime’s “Shobox” in a 10-round main event. Tarverdyan said he couldn’t take any emotions from that bout into Rousey’s, though.
“I came and told Ronda, you better make me happy and she did,” Tarverdyan said. “We did it and I’m so happy for her.”
It was a common sentiment for the fight in general, even though there’s bound to be critics still, no matter the success of the card or the excitement of the main event.
“From the sound of what the crowd was like tonight, it seems like everybody was really happy and they liked the show,” Rousey said. “The critics are gonna criticize regardless, that’s why we call them critics. All the people that had a good time tonight, I’m happy you were entertained.”
The prevailing theme Saturday night was that — despite myriad questions about what’s next for Rousey and the women’s division in the UFC — the two women in the main event emphatically delivered.
Said White: “These two girls went out tonight and showed everybody what it’s all about and what they do.”