Ronda Rousey, the UFC's first women's champion
Ronda Rousey will defend her UFC women's championship belt against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 in Anaheim, California this weekend. Photo: Courtesy UFC
She's beautiful. She's smart. She's an Olympic bronze medallist and a magazine covergirl. And she's also the most feared woman on the planet in the toughest combat sport there is.
Meet the UFC's first women's champion, "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey.
As little as two years ago, to even suggest the UFC would have a women's division was laughable. The organisation's outspoken president, Dana White, was a vocal opponent of women's bouts, even when they were drawing solid ratings in then-rival promotion Strikeforce.
A memorable exchange occurred between White and a TMZ reporter outside Beverly Hills restaurant Mr Chow's in January 2011, when White was asked when fans could expect to see women in the UFC.
"Never," White replied curtly. "Never."
Then along came Ronda Rousey, and White had no choice but to change his mind. Her record in the sport speaks for itself — six professional mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts have resulted in six first round victories by armbar submission ... five of those inside a minute. Rousey won the Strikeforce women's championship in the fifth of those fights with a brutal armbar that dislocated the elbow of the champion, Miesha Tate, who entered the fight on the back of a six-fight winning streak.
Even with that record, White may still have resisted bringing women's bouts into the UFC following parent organisation Zuffa's purchase of the Strikeforce promotion. But to resist would have been poor business, as Rousey brings much more to the table than athletic excellence.
A Beijing Olympics bronze medallist in judo, she gave up the sport at just 21 to focus on her MMA dream — and those results speak for themselves. But Rousey is also a promoter's dream ... articulate, self-deprecating and engaging, she combines those traits with a beauty that's seen her grace the cover of ESPN magazine's The Body Issue, among others.
"I never saw a Ronda Rousey coming," White said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports.
"Obviously she's pretty. That's the first obvious thing. No. 2 is her fighting style, which is impressive, exciting. She won the same way every time even though they knew it was coming.
"And then when you meet her and I mean really hang out with her, you see that personality. I don't mean this the wrong way but she's a guy in a girl's body. She reminded me of hanging out with any other fighter.
"There is no way you can meet Ronda Rousey and not be interested in seeing her fight."
White duly installed Rousey as the first UFC women's champion, and has invested heavily in her first fight inside the UFC's famed Octagon. Her title bout against former US marines aviation electrician Liz Carmouche — the only openly gay fighter in the UFC — is not just a novelty act, it's the headline fight on a card that features some of the biggest draws in the sport, including light heavyweight title contenders Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson and former WEC featherweight weight champion Urijah Faber.
Rousey is a near unbackable favourite ($1.06 with Betstar, $1.07 with Centrebet) against Carmouche (8 wins, 2 losses), and the UFC will be praying she justifies that prohibitive quote by continuing her undefeated streak. Without Rousey, women's bouts could well be condemned to preliminary cards.
But Rousey herself said the pressure of carrying the women's division didn't compare to the pressure she put on herself.
"The pressure I put on myself, just from my own pride, really outweighs any kind of pressure I could put on myself for anybody else's motives or anything else," she said.
"It does seem like a very important fight and I know a lot weighs on it, but I really don't care so much about the pressure. I don't like anybody that much, so I care more about winning just for myself than I care about winning for everybody else."
UFC 157: Rousey vs Carmouche
Main card shown on Main Event and at Fox Sports venues from 2pm Sunday (Melbourne time)
Women's bantamweight title: Ronda Rousey vs Liz Carmouche
Light heavyweight: Lyoto Machida vs Dan Henderson
Bantamweight: Urijah Faber vs Ivan Menjivar
Welterweight: Court McGee vs Josh Neer
Welterweight: Josh Koscheck vs Robbie Lawler
Preliminary card shown on Fuel TV from 12pm Sunday (Melbourne time)
Heavyweight: Brendan Schaub vs Lavar Johnson
Lightweight: Michael Chiesa vs Anton Kuivanen
Featherweight: Dennis Bermudez vs Matt Grice
Lightweight: Sam Stout vs Caros Fodor
Preliminary card shown on Facebook
Welterweight: Kenny Robertson vs Brock Jardine
Welterweight: Jon Manley vs Neil Magny
Welterweight: Nah-Shon Burrell vs Yuri Villefort