UFC’s Rousey stays motivated by exceeding expectations

MELBOURNE, Australia — The way Ronda Rousey has dominated the women’s bantamweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship has left her seeking motivation beyond simply winning fights.

The undefeated 28-year-old Olympic bronze medalist is no longer just dispatching challengers. She’s chasing history every time she steps into the cage.

“Part of staying motivated is topping what you’ve already done,” she said. “There’s a difference between meeting expectations and exceeding them, and exceeding them is much more motivating. Proving people wrong is much more motivating than just doing what’s expected of you. I’m constantly trying to think of new, creative ways to prove people wrong.”

Her next challenge is to break the organization’s all-time attendance record, which she will attempt to do when she headlines UFC 193 in a title defense against Holly Holm, an unbeaten former world boxing champion, tonight (PST) at Etihad Stadium.

The UFC’s attendance record is 55,724 for UFC 129 in 2011 at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Rousey admits breaking the record is important to her, but she said she has done all she can to sell tickets.

“Right now, the only important thing left is beating Holly,” she said.

Winning has been the easy part for Rousey. She has been taken out of the first round once in her 12 professional bouts, with the majority of those fights ending in the first minute.

The challenge has been blazing this path. Not only were women not allowed in the organization, UFC president Dana White had famously said his organization would never include women.

Not only did she force that barrier down, Rousey has become the sport’s biggest star.

Now, she will headline an event in a massive stadium halfway across the globe in Australia before what probably will be a record crowd.

She concedes she will take the opportunity to cherish the moment, but only after the final bell.

“I only pinch myself afterward,” Rousey said. “I’ll kind of take in everything all at the same time right after I win, and then it’s all just kind of so overwhelming. I think that’s the moment where I’ll probably, like, tap Holly on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, it’s OK. You lost, but this is awesome.’ Those are the moments you kind of think about how we are doing something amazing. But I don’t think about it until the job is done.”

In that scenario, Holm isn’t likely to accept the invitation.

“I’m going to look back on it later because I’ll love this part of history as long as it’s a victory,” she said. “I don’t want to just be part of it, I want to do well with it.”

Rousey thinks Holm’s better chance at winning the belt will be when Rousey retires, which she continues to hint will be sooner rather than later.

One of her long-term tasks has been to build women’s fighting to a point in which it can be sustained after she has retired.

She has long spoke about how she wants to leave a legacy so that it’s more than just the “Ronda Rousey” division once she’s no longer competing.

Rousey raves about the potential of women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk to perhaps ensure that dream becomes a reality.

“I’m extremely proud of her,” Rousey said. “If she had way more people over there talking to her than were talking to me, I’d be super stoked. She’s one person that makes me worry less. I used to worry so much about what’s going to happen when I’m done. I don’t want this all to be for nothing. She’s the glimmering hope right now for me that if I got hit by a car tomorrow, everything would be OK.”

Jedrzejczyk said she thinks the possibility of a card with two female fights atop the marquee breaking an attendance record is beneficial to more than just female fighters.

“It’s very important for all of us, not just for females but for the whole beautiful sport,” she said. “I’m happy for all of us. It’s huge, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Rousey takes seriously her goal of firmly establishing a legacy of ensuring a platform for the female fighters of the future.

“This is a mission that was given to me,” she said. “I really feel like I have found my place and what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel like it’s better for all of us. This is my role for all the women in the division. It helps them all out that they get to all take their turns losing to me. They’ll all make a lot more money that way after I retire. If anything, I feel like they’ll appreciate me when I’m gone.”

Plenty of fans already appreciate her. She has received massive ovations everywhere she has gone in Melbourne this week, just as she does in the United States.

Rousey has been tabbed for commercials, TV and even major motion pictures.

There’s not much Rousey can’t do, including becoming the UFC’s highest-paid fighter.

Interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor recently came out and said he’s in search of a $100 million contract, which would be unprecedented in the sport.

Rousey said she would be just fine with that because she already made the history she was seeking.

“I hope he sets the bar that high,” she said. “That’d be awesome. I’m not quite there yet. That would be nice. I was really only happy to say I was the highest-paid fighter in the UFC because it was the first time a woman’s been the highest-paid athlete in a professional sport. I was proud of that. Now that it’s been done, I don’t care. I’m happy with how much I make and my lifestyle. My house is paid off, my car is paid off. I just have to pay for taxes and dog food now.

“I could retire tomorrow and chill out if I wanted. I’m not the put on python skin and roll around in a Ferrari type.”

If she did have a taste for sportscars and snakeskin, Rousey undoubtedly would want to procure only items nobody else possessed.

Based on her track record, it would be a surprise if she couldn’t make that happen.

The main card, which includes Jedrzejczyk defending her belt against Valerie Letourneau, airs live on pay per view at 7 p.m. today. Four fights from the preliminary card will air live on Fox Sports 1 (Cable 329) at 5, with the rest streaming on the UFC’s online platform, Fight Pass, at 3.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj

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