McMann: I want to be No. 1

Sara McMann thinks that female fighting in the UFC is good and entertaining. Jim Kemper/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Fans of the UFC who perhaps didn’t paid attention to female martial arts before have all learned a little something in 2013 -- women fight pretty hard.

Two female bouts have taken place in the Octagon this year, and both stole the show.

Ronda Rousey’s armbar victory over Liz Carmouche proved vital after a rather dull co-main event at UFC 157. Earlier this month, Cat Zingano and Miesha Tate claimed Fight of the Night bonuses at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale in Las Vegas.

It may be hard to believe that all-female fights can be that entertaining. Sara McMann, who meets Sheila Gaff this weekend at UFC 159, says actually, yeah. They can.

“I think that is what women bring to the fight world,” McMann told ESPN.com. “Everybody is like, ‘Oh, I’m so surprised. They stole the show.’ Every woman fight on the smaller cards I’ve fought on, they all do it.

“These girls will fight from the first bell to the last, and they are going 100 percent of their pace. You can’t help but like that kind of fight. The UFC fan base is just now seeing why people have been saying women need to be in the UFC for years.”

McMann (6-0) has made it clear she’s not in the UFC to provide a good headline. When it comes to interviews, she’ll only be herself. Turns out she’s pretty interesting that way. Check out her conversation with ESPN.com below.

Seems like you’re enjoying your first UFC fight week?

I am. I think that before, I kind of told myself there would be a lot of media and it would get on my nerves, and I thought I was going to have a tougher weight cut than I’m having. I just expected it to be a lot more horrible. Most of the media stuff has just been casual conversations.

What else were you expecting the media conversations to be?

I thought there would be more charged questions. A lot of them have talked to me about UFC jitters. That one kind of got to me a little. I thought, is this going to be like the Olympics? No, not a chance in the world. I probably will feel nervous, but I think these guys are trying to plant it in my head. Six interviews in one day and every one of them talked about it. I was like, ‘Did you guys form a group that meets on Wednesdays? The UFC jitter group? Maybe the fight will be more nerve-racking than I think, but whatever it is, I’ll work through it.

Have you thought about what media obligations would be like if you won the title?

I’ve considered it. Now, I just view it as part of my job. It would start to get difficult if it really interfered with my training. Having a 4-year old daughter [Bella] and having gyms farther away from me, I’ve had to do a lot of working around different schedules, so, I think I would be able to do it for quite a while without it being that bad. Then again, I don’t know. I don’t know if Ronda’s [Rousey] schedule is more horrible than I think. Maybe I’d hate it, and if I do, I guess they’ll have to find a new champion.

The UFC fan base has now gotten to see the aggressive style women fight with. Why do you think women are geared toward those types of fights?

I think it is a little instinctual. The women I wrestle against, these girls are mean. Some of them are dirty. They will smash your face into the mat and not bat an eye. They just have a natural meanness. I think for a lot of the women, it’s not personal, but we’ll do whatever it takes. Women have a very strong, combative survival instinct.

How has the financial aspect of being a female fighter been?

It’s been tough, and I think some of that is because it’s been nine months since I’ve fought. I wish I would have been able to fight once for Strikeforce and that would have bridged the gap more. It’s growing. It’s going to take time. The UFC is offering the pay people were getting with their Strikeforce contract. Strikeforce was a different beast. It had different viewership and different sponsors. All those contracts rolled over. When we renegotiate, once we’ve shown we are a brand to fans and that we’re entertaining, I think the money will follow.

Are you able to not have a second job and train full time?

Yes. I also stay at home and take care of my daughter, and I have an awesome boyfriend who helps support my dreams. When I was first trying to get a pro fight, I had to work at Starbucks, and that was also for the health insurance. I couldn’t get anybody to accept a pro fight, and the people who they would fight me had 13 fights, so no commission would approve it. I know other girls work at gyms or are personal trainers to make ends meet. Anybody thinks of fighter pay and they think of Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre. The reality is, there are other guys fighting for a lot less than that. It’s very difficult to make it on just a fighter salary, but it’s getting better, I think.

There are those out there who say, “Sara McMann will be the one to beat Ronda Rousey.” Do you feel that pressure at all?

I don’t really feel that pressure because since I started MMA, I automatically wanted to be No. 1. I’ve already been working to be No. 1 since the beginning. I don’t do sports any other way.

If you fight Rousey tomorrow, do you beat her?

I don’t know when that fight’s going to be put together, but I wouldn’t even be where I am now if I didn’t think, 'Yes, you tell me tomorrow my next fight is Ronda, I will train for her and I will beat her.' That’s just the way I operate.