Ronda Rousey is the biggest star in the known universe.
This may not be the most truthful statement ever written. But it feels that way, here in one of the many rooms that make up the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Rousey, clad in a gray Marilyn Monroe shirt, black leather jacket, designer Chuck Taylors and a gold Octagon necklace, is holding court on a small stage constructed specifically for her.
To Rousey’s left is UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. He is discussing his title defense against Lyoto Machida in the main event of UFC 175 on Saturday night. He has twice beaten the best fighter in the history of MMA. He is young, athletic and good-looking. He is a fight promoter's dream.
There are five reporters standing in front of Weidman's stage; Rousey is surrounded by so many journalists and cameras that it's difficult to see her.
Rousey is comfortable in the limelight. She is the UFC's biggest star, and her fame is growing exponentially as she moves into an increasingly busy action film career. The Expendables 3 hits theaters in August, and the seventh film in the Fast and Furious series releases next April. But Rousey is solely focused on her fight with Alexis Davis; she separates her fighting and film careers to such a degree that she would only allow herself to watch the trailer for The Expendables 3 one time while getting dressed for training in California.
It is this sort of intensity that sets Rousey apart, even from other top-level athletes competing in the UFC. An example: The UFC held a public workout session on Wednesday at Fashion Show Mall. The workouts are a staple of the fight week calendar. Many fighters view them as another public relations chore they must get through. They'll do some half-hearted shadowboxing or wrestling, talk to the media, sign some autographs and then go back to their lives.
Not Rousey. Arriving bundled in a winter coat and sweatshirt to maintain her weight cut, Rousey and coach Edmond Tarverdyan proceeded to thrill the fans with a display of judo throws, grappling and boxing. She deftly executed her signature armbar submission from multiple positions and angles, eliciting "oohs" and "aahs" from the fans.
Rousey knows how to put on a show. And that's exactly what she's hoping for when she faces challenger Davis on Saturday night.
"I just want to be exciting," Rousey says. "I want all the fans to want more when it's done."
The fans will want more, and Rousey aims to please. She has spoken of wanting to take a break after the Davis fight, to rest and then perhaps fight again in December. But an injury to Jose Aldo—who was scheduled to face Chad Mendes next month at UFC 176—has left the UFC with a main event hole to fill on short notice. The event takes place in Los Angeles, and the Staples Center is a short drive from Rousey's home.
Though she would like some time off, she says she would be willing to fight on the card if the UFC asked her to do so. She has told Dana White she'd be willing to fight on 24 hours' notice if he needed her to do so, and she plans on keeping her word.
"I would appreciate the rest, but if they needed me to do it, I would do it," she says.
First, she must get through Davis. Rousey is a massive favorite, and it is hard to imagine Davis pulling off what would be considered a historic upset.
The challenger is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but Rousey's world-class judo and athleticism are on a different level than just about everyone else in mixed martial arts. She exudes the kind of confidence that can only be attained through repetition, and she forces herself to believe that her back is against the wall with every new challenger she faces.
"Alexis clearly has nothing to lose. I care so much more, and I train so much harder," Rousey says. "I do better the more pressure there is. She seems like she does better with the least amount of pressure, and I do better with the most amount of pressure."
Rousey says that Davis is her most dangerous opponent but admits she feels this way because she's the current challenger. She felt the same way about Sara McMann and Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche, and then she went into the Octagon and dispatched all of them. In truth, Rousey doesn't think anyone can compete with her, though you'd never know it by watching her train with more intensity than what many fighters carry into the Octagon.
"I don't think anyone is better than me," she says. "That's the kind of attitude you have to have to be the best in the world."
All quotes were obtained firsthand.
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