SAN DIEGO - Calling Ronda Rousey the face of women's mixed martial arts is blatantly unfair by now.
The 25-year-old 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo has far surpassed such a patronizing tag. More than that, she is carrying fellow female fighters along with her in a sport long thought to be strictly a men's club.
Between her engaging, edgy personality and Hollywood starlet looks - in addition to her ruthless finishes in the cage - Rousey is a breakout superstar.
In recent weeks, she has appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's body issue, guest-hosted the popular syndicated TV show "TMZ" and appeared on Conan O'Brien's talk show.
Rousey defends her Strikeforce bantamweight title tonight in the main event of a Showtime card at Valley View Casino Center, in a state where less than six years ago the commission wouldn't even approve a female MMA fight.
Rousey's challenger, former champion Sarah Kaufman, is appreciative of Rousey promotional skills.
"She's doing those things to get herself there, and it's great for her, and I think it's really good for the sport, too," Kaufman said. "She's done a lot of great things for all of us. Being from (Los Angeles), she understands (how to get) that attention and what to do with it."
What Rousey has done is rise from an amateur fighter competing on Tuff-N-Uff cards in Las Vegas less than two years ago to one of the biggest stars in MMA - of either gender. Rousey credits her edge, which is a word just about everyone associated with the sport uses when discussing her.
"I like to consider myself like jalapeno dark chocolate ice cream," she said. "There's a lot of strong conflicting flavors, and some people are going to hate that stuff together and some people are going to be crazy about it. But you're going to have a very strong opinion about jalapeno dark chocolate ice cream."
Even Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White considers himself a fan, though he maintains his stance that there aren't enough quality women fighters to add a female division to his organization. White wore a T-shirt bearing the image of Rousey's ESPN The Magazine photo to a recent UFC weigh-in.
"I'll be there (tonight). If there was a girl that I had to say would probably be in the UFC in the (future), it would be Ronda Rousey," said White, who previously called her a rock star. "She's pretty popular. People are getting to know her, and people like her.
"I love Ronda Rousey."
White's organization owns Strikeforce, but a convoluted deal with Showtime means she is contractually obligated to the network and couldn't fight on a UFC card for now anyway.
For all of her promotional work, Rousey has been even better inside the cage.
In eight fights, three amateur and five professional, only former champion Miesha Tate lasted more than a minute with Rousey. Tate made it all of 4:27 in March before succumbing to Rousey's trademark armbar, which has finished all eight opponents.
"She's a fighter first," Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. "All that other stuff goes away if she can't fight, and she knows that. She's a superstar, though."
Rousey said she hopes she's helped advance women's role in the sport. While Strikeforce is the top organization for women, all-female startup organization Invicta Fights has hosted two cards.
"As an amateur I saw that women's MMA was not very encouraging, and so I took whatever responsibilities I could onto myself to make it possible for others," Rousey said. "That's one of my goals, and I don't casually walk after my goals, I sprint after them with an ax."
The card airs tape-delayed on Showtime (Cable 240) at 10 p.m. The preliminary card will air tape-delayed on Showtime Extreme (Cable 243) at 8.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.