Going into a lunch meeting with no preconceptions about mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey proved to be a good idea.
Assisting Rousey, the first female prizefighter for Ultimate Fighter Championship, was the president Dana White at Morton's Steakhouse in Burbank, Calif. It was an introduction to his newest star.
Rousey (6-0) becomes the first female prizefighter to headline the UFC 157 fight card when she fights Liz Carmouche (6-2) for the UFC bantamweight championship on Feb. 23, 2013. The MMA fight card that also features Dan Henderson takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim. It will also be televised on pay-per-view.
Like a revved turbine race engine Rousey fires words out in piston-like fashion allowing little time to gauge why and where the thought process begins and ends. Her engine is cranked and ready to engage at a moment's notice. It's difficult to imagine she once had a speech problem especially when talking about potential opponents.
“They really don't like me at all,” says Rousey about her growing group of antagonists. “But I'm not here to make friends.”
And boy, does she know it.
Before press conferences Rousey digs up intelligence information on her opponents like a C.I.A. operative ready to battle wits with counterparts during the Cold War. War of words, war of wills or war in the Octagon, the former U.S. Olympic medalist is ready.
During the press conferences with Miesha Tate the propaganda war was one-sided.
“With Miesha she hated doing press with me,” said Rousey of press conference battles with Tate. “She kind of got used to me schooling her.”
From her first years in Riverside to her years in South Dakota then back to Southern California, Rousey has walked the road of the dedicated Olympic athlete and looks back on it with fresh eyes. Winning an Olympic bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics was a fond memory but her experiences after that moment have changed her viewpoint on that world.
It's not a pretty picture.
After the Olympics the 25-year-old Rousey traveled to Japan to enhance her judo skills but the experience left her feeling miserable and she departed. It was a break up that left a wide chasm between her former world of judo and her new world in MMA.
“He basically told me to screw myself,” Rousey says of her former Judo mentor. “I lost a lot of friends. It was hurtful.”
Once Rousey entered the world of MMA, it's been her opponents receiving the hurt. None of her six opponents have survived a round. All have submitted willfully or otherwise via the arm bar. It's a trademark that she developed as a child and remains her weapon of choice.
UFC's White is amazed at Rousey's dominance.
“Everybody knows what she's going to do and they can't stop her,” said White. “She's definitely a finisher.”
Finding female fighters that can offer more than 1-minute resistance is the trick that UFC's White has to circumvent. But one thing is certain, Rousey is a real fighter.
“When she goes out and fights, she's mean,” White says. “And that's what I like to see in any fighter.”
And if you doubt her because she's a woman, then you have two people ready to prove you wrong.
“So many people frown on women fighting,” said White. “It's ridiculous.”
It doesn't bother Rousey.
“I love proving people wrong,” she says.
You knew that statement was on her mind from the start. She's always revved.