Ronda Rousey has proven herself to be more than a manufactured creation, put forth to exploit her pleasing aesthetic package, if one judges by the trail of mangled arms she's left in her wake over the course of seven professional mixed martial arts contests.
The UFC women's bantamweight champion was in New York on Wednesday afternoon at the Beacon Theater with some of the brightest talents in the organization, and she overshadowed the skilled practitioners there, such as Ithaca's Jon Jones and Canadian ace Georges St-Pierre, if one judges by the clamor of fan attention.
The event was open to the public and meant to hype the UFC's upcoming slate of cards, which includes UFC 165 (Sept. 21 in Toronto), pitting light heavyweight champ Jones against challenger Alexander Gustafsson.
UFC president Dana White and the fighters taking part answered queries from the media and then fans. The dais included: Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, who clash at UFC 166 on Oct. 19 (in Houston); GSP and Johny Hendricks (who meet at UFC 167 Nov. 16 in Vegas; and Rousey and Miesha Tate, who tangle in a rematch at UFC 168 in Vegas on Dec. 28). Once the Q&A finished, a large portion of the several hundred fans surged toward Rousey and begged her to sign shirts, pictures and the like.
Rousey, a 26-year-old California resident with a 7-0 record, showed a level of directness and straightforward combativeness that has served her well in the Octagon, as she took the baton from White regarding the issue of the inability of professional mixed martial arts to be made lawful in New York State. The sport was banned in NY in 1997 following a spate of negative publicity, which attracted political opposition.
After White announced that "the most powerful politician" in the state was responsible for being the impediment to allowing the state's legislature to vote and allow professional mixed martial arts shows to run in NY, he was asked to clarify on who that politician is. After a slight pause, he answered that it is Sheldon Silver, the Democrat speaker of the NY State Assembly.
Rousey then talked to NYFightblog about the warm reception she received in NY, and her take on the legalization issue. "New York has awesome fans, they're awesome, they really deserve to have the sport here," she said. "Look at them! How does democracy work? This looks like a majority to me!"
She delivered some potent wording to any and all keeping her sport from being kept out of the state. "The message from Ronda Rousey to the people keeping MMA from being legalized in New York is you got elected for a purpose, you need to do your job and represent your people instead of your own interests." She said that MMA could provide a revenue boost to the state, but more than that, "It's what the people want. It's a f---ing democracy. ... It could be everybody, the majority of the state, wanted every convenience store to carry already chewed gum with feathers in it -- who f---ing cares, if they all want it? The political process should be, 'OK, you guys got f---ing feather gum.'"
She said she's visited Albany a few times to lobby for the sport and knows that if the issue is brought to vote, it would pass. No politician approached her and gave their reasoning for opposing MMA in New York, she said. "No one has the balls to tell it to my face, but everyone has balls on the Internet," she said. She exhaled deeply and expressed dismay at the logjam which keeps her from fighting in New York. "I'm not a politician, I'm too f---ing honest to be a politician," she said, when asked what she thought the motivation was to keep the 1997 ban on pro MMA in place.
White was asked if Rousey's candor could provoke some blowback. "I don't fear or love [her candor]," White said. "It is what it is. She is a smart woman, she speaks her mind, she has very little filter.
"History has shown people with little filters get in trouble sometimes, and I'm sure her day will come," he added, with a grin.
White believes Silver is so pro-union that he's holding up allowing an up-or-down MMA legalization vote in sympathy with the Las Vegas Culinary Union, which is locked in a longtime battle with UFC co-owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who own Station Casinos with some partners in Nevada. Local 226 wants to unionize Station Casinos, and that effort has been rebuffed.
A call to a Silver spokesman for a response on the issue has not yet been returned.