Little is ever under wraps with Ronda Rousey. As quick as she is to reveal herself in the octagon as a force to be reckoned with, she the same outside of it when it comes to discussion of her life and craft. This being the case, it is always a treat to listen to Rousey talk Rousey especially if she’s got as exciting and challenging a match up as Rousey vs. fellow former Olympian Sara McMann at UFC 170. In true crackerjack form in a media gathering and public workout at the Glendale Fighting Club, Rousey didn’t let herself off the hook when it came to calling a spade a spade and admitting that her last UFC bout versus Miesha Tate was not her best work, resulting in a victory after an uncharacteristic three round contest. Citing ring rust and a little too much down time paired with some Hollywood style obligations in the embodiment of star turns in “Fast & Furious 7” and “The Expendables 3,” Rousey has course corrected. By her own admission, for now she has scratched the Hollywood itch and is buttoned down, focused and ready for battle with the lesser known but highly credentialed McMann. For UFC 170, it is all about training for the battle - straight no chaser:
Rousey:“I don't think it's good for my health to really be getting into the movies right now. I need to focus on the fight. Anything that would distract me from that, no matter how cool and amazing it is I just can't afford to give it that much of my attention right now.”
To be sure, Sara McMann should be no pushover and Rousey would be foolish to overlook or underestimate her. To date McMann is the one opponent who shares the closest fight pedigree with Rousey in that both women are not only former Olympians but also Olympic medalists with McMann having won silver in freestyle wrestling in 2004 and Rousey being the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in Judo at the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008. While Rousey is excited and energized by McMann as a worthy opponent who will allow fans to see some high level athleticism and ring knowledge, Rousey is unwavering in her belief that while McMann will be dangerous, Rousey herself still holds the edge due to their differing specialties and the training limitations inherent in those specialties:
Rousey: “I know I’m going to win. It’s definitely easier for me to prepare for it. My wrestling coach, Martin Berberyan he is an Olympic Medalist himself. We actually had a world champion wrestler - she actually won the world championships and had beaten Sara and she came in and trained with us. It's much easier in the US to find high quality wrestlers. It'd be very difficult for her to find someone in judo that's comparable.”
Another factor Rousey cites as ripe for exploitation against McMann would be the difference between their respective fight personalities. Styles make fights and it would seem that by Rousey routinely takes a cue from this old adage in her mental fight game plan for Saturday and beyond:
Rousey: “I think the personality of a fighter matters more than anything when you are inside there. Cause physically and skill wise, you get so close when you are at that level that the personality is really what sets people apart. Just from watching Sara's fights it seems that she's much more cautious when she fights. I mean she has a lot more decisions. She wins rounds and she gets points. That's just not really my style. So personality wise she is much more methodical and thinks things through a little bit more. So I would expect it to be very different from the Miesha fight who usually comes charging in. I wouldn't expect something like that from Sara.”
Whatever expectations Rousey or McMann have of the opponent who will show up across the octagon on Saturday night in Vegas, it would appear that neither expect an adversary who is unprepared to fight or shy when it comes to delivering their full physical and mental arsenal. McMann’s professional mixed martial arts record is a flawless 7-0. While the public to date hasn’t known quite as much about McMann as some of Rousey’s other rivals, Rousey and McMann have been quite aware of each other well before either turned professional. With their shared Olympic amateur backgrounds they have long been aware that if things ran their course it was only a matter of time before their paths would cross in an adversarial fashion. Additionally, with their shared Olympic education, any supposed pressure to perform under the lights of the UFC stage should have no real bearing on who shows up for battle that night on either side of the octagon. It should be a true test of mettle between two athletes at the top of their game and ready to annihilate the competition for title, fans and country:
Rousey: “A UFC title really doesn't compare that much to the Olympics. They have new title fights all the time. The Olympics could be one day in your whole life. And there is no amount of pressure that can really ever compare to that. And just what it takes mentally to get through that I don’t think you can recreate that in any other environment. So I expect her to be ready to go when it comes to the day of the fight.”
While Rousey is more than happy to be fairly candid about her fight methods and philosophies going into UFC 170, something that she is curiously uncomfortable divulging is the enduring success of her working relationship with her coach, Edmond Tarverdyan. It would seem that he alone is one secret that Rousey would very much like to keep close to the vest:
Rousey: " I'm a little wary about talking about how great a coach he is because more people might be coming here and be taking my time from him. I’m selfish like that. I'm like Satan at his sweet sixteen. I’m like, ‘ it's all about me! Me! All attention on me!’ But he's amazing. He really really is. He's my secret weapon that is quickly becoming my not so secret weapon.”
Tarverdyan for his part would seem to give Rousey the highest compliment that he can bestow on a fighter by seeing her as the problem that cannot be solved:
Tarverdyan: “I love solving problems. Fighting for me is like a problem when I get into the ring with my fighter. It’s a big problem that needs to be solved correctly so I love solving problems. There's a lot of talented fighters out there who in the cage or in the ring they do 20, 30 percent of what they are capable of doing. Ronda Rousey is a fighter who does 100 percent of what she does. She just gets in there and she does it. She's a unique fighter. I’m young. I’m 32. I want to have special fighters, but I’m going to be honest – it’s going to be hard to find another Ronda Rousey and after she retires it might be like what the hell do I do now? I love having dominant fighters and she’s amazing.”
But however amazing and unique Rousey is as a fighter, to their credit between Rousey and Tarverdyan there is always the understanding that no matter how dominant Rousey becomes or how many titles she holds, there will always be a problem to be solved. This knowledge, along with the unspoken agreement that this endeavor must be undertaken with an unwavering concentration, ferocious drive and humility, has come to define the core relationship between Rousey and Tarverdyan. It is what makes them both unique and special as a team. It is only fitting then that the problem du jour that Tarverdyan was willing to discuss in connection to Rousey was that of pacing:
Tarverdyan: “The hard part is of being a trainer is you are learning and you are teaching and you've got to make sure the fighter learns also. You've got to know how to push the fighter's buttons to know how to bring out the best in the fighter. There are positions that we've been working on where if she takes her time a little bit more I think she'll be a little more dominant. In judo, she had the matches quick paced. But here, we've got that time that we could keep the pin on the ground and soften them up a little bit and then go for an arm bar or something like that. So there are some times that she needs to let the opponents stay in a position where they should be and she should take advantage of that and go for a submission when instead she rushes it a little bit. So that's it."
With McMann looking to stake her claim and topple the Queen of the MMA castle, and Rousey looking for a personal best after a less than picture perfect win over Tate in her last fight, it should be an epic headlining battle royal in the octagon on Saturday night.
So that’s it.
Rousey goes for the Gold
at UFC 170
by Kylie Krabbe