Ronda Rousey was in the midst of the toughest week of her training camp preparing for a December bout with archrival Miesha Tate when she got a phone call gauging her interest in a future fight.
She didn’t necessarily want to think about it at the time, but Rousey, the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight champ, isn’t one to say no.
So when Rousey took that call from UFC president Dana White asking if she wanted to defend her belt again less than two months later — provided she defeated Tate — against fellow Olympic medalist Sara McMann, she had only one condition.
“I was, like, honestly, if you need me to do it, I will do it for you, but at the moment I’m thinking about Miesha, and I’m on my hardest sparring week and I don’t even want to think about another fight that soon. I told him, ‘I’m totally down to do it. Just let me call my coach and ask him what he thinks,’ ” Rousey said. “So I called Edmond (Tarverdyan) up, and he was, like, ‘You call Dana back and you tell him we’ll (expletive) up any bitch he wants in February.’
“I’m like, ‘All right.’ So I called back and I gave Dana that exact quote, and he was pretty stoked about it.”
White is enthused by all things Rousey, and with good reason. He said during a lunch with media at the UFC offices last week that after just two fights in the organization, the 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist already has established her place in UFC history.
“I’m going to go out and say she’s the biggest star we’ve ever had,” White said.
He said he expects Rousey’s title defense against McMann in the main event of UFC 170 on Saturday at Mandalay Bay Events Center to be a “home run” for the company, just like each of her first two fights.
White’s gushing over the organization’s only female champion doesn’t just come from her domination inside the cage or even her apparent crossover stardom with several movie roles on the horizon. He is just as impressed with her toughness and work ethic.
“She’s a world champion who has not only defended her (expletive) title, but I asked her to go back-to-back and she (expletive) did it,” White said. “Coming straight off filming two (expletive) movies, a training camp. The other thing with this girl? She gets the (expletive) flu, gets sick, run down, (expletive) like she’s going to die, and she still (expletive) trains through camp. I’ve got a big 6-foot-8-inch (expletive) musclehead (Alistair Overeem) whose rib hurts and won’t (expletive) fight (Junior) dos Santos. This chick does two movies back-to-back, fights, comes back in (expletive) camp, films ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ (expletive) does all these appearances and all this other (expletive).
“She’s a (expletive) rock star.”
In reality, she’s on the verge of becoming a movie star.
Rousey filmed roles in upcoming sequels in the “The Fast and the Furious” and “The Expendables” franchises before her win over Tate. Her time on the set limited her training camp, but she has drawn rave reviews, even though the films have yet to hit the big screen.
The word-of-mouth was enough for Warner Brothers to cast her as the female lead in “Entourage” and to acquire the rights to potential franchise “The Athena Project,” in which she will star.
Despite all the opportunities and accolades coming her way, Rousey said she still knows what got her to this point.
“I’m a fighter,” she said. “That’s why anyone in Hollywood is interested in me at all. That’s really what I am.”
While reports indicate she is a potential breakout star as an actress, there is already evidence of her immense ability as a fighter.
She has submitted all eight opponents via armbar, a maneuver that is essentially synonymous with her at this point.
Now she will have a full training camp to prepare for McMann, a 2004 Olympic wrestling silver medalist who also is undefeated in mixed martial arts.
That’s a luxury Rousey didn’t have for the Tate fight. She spent 10 weeks in the mountains of Europe filming “Fast &Furious 7” and had just six full weeks of training camp.
Jumping right back into training camp for this fight so quickly helped her carry over that momentum.
“Because I’d taken all that time off running around and doing movies and all that stuff that I wasn’t exhausted by the time the last fight was over. I’d only been training for six weeks, and so I was happy to get back into it,” she said. “After this fight, on the other hand, I’ll be happy to take a little break and go sit in a makeup trailer for a minute instead.”
McMann’s outstanding wrestling ability makes her quite possibly the most difficult opponent Rousey has faced. There’s no doubt it’s the most high-profile fight for McMann.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.