UFC 193 Preview: Ronda Rousey Mastering Many Tools To Win
MELBOURNE -- Regrets, Ronda Rousey has had a few. Thursday afternoon (local time here in Melbourne), she wanted to crowd surf the few thousand fans who had braved the whimsical spring weather in Southern Australia -- and the incessant flies! -- to attend her open workout at Ethiad Stadium in advance of this weekend's UFC 193 card.
Crowd surfing is something Rousey does whenever possible, despite the protests of her nervous team and UFC organizers. But this time it just wasn't going to be possible. Jumping from the stage at Federation Park wasn't safe, so Rousey told the crowd "she was going to go over there anyway," so long as they promised not to "knock the fence down."
These are the sorts of things Rousey can't do right now in her burgeoning career. But everything else seems possible. Movie stardom, crossover fame, record-breaking pay-per-view and attendance records -- these are done, done and the last one's a sure bet this weekend from Oz.
Maybe I can't do it all before my prime, before my body is done. But f--- it, maybe I can.Rousey
About the only thing missing is a real challenger, so she's taken to creating her own.
"I've always wanted to sweep every sport and be like the greatest of all time in everything," she says with a smile. "Who knows if I'll be able to juggle it all, but I think I'm capable of it. I have an Olympic medal in judo. I can set a match with the jiu-jitsu world champion ... and beat her. I can set one boxing match with the boxing world champ, beat her. Go swoop in and get the WWE belt. Just like, get everything. I have an interesting take on what I would do with the diva's belt.
"Maybe I can't do it all before my prime, before my body is done. But f--- it, maybe I can."
She laughs as she says that last part. Obviously, she's got to beat Holly Holm in her bantamweight title defense this weekend before she starts collecting title belts in jiu-jitsu, boxing and the WWE.
And as usual, she's taking her training for the fight seriously. Holm is a 19-time boxing champion -- she presents a different kind of challenge than any of the 12 other fighters Rousey has defeated.
"She's got one-punch knockout power," Rousey says respectfully. "And she's the first runner I've fought."
In other words, Rousey doesn't expect Holm to rush in and engage her quickly, as some of her previous opponents have tried in spectacularly unsuccessful fashion. Rushing in on Rousey is how your fight ends in 34, 14 and 16 seconds.
"This will definitely be longer than that," Rousey says. "Definitely. Holly is the kind of fighter that likes to play on the outside and counts on opponents to rush in so she can counter and take advantage, and I'm not that person."
If everyone's being honest, Rousey could beat Holm if she only did judo or only did jiu-jitsu or only did kick boxing. But instead of playing to her strengths, Rousey has used the matchup to hone her boxing skills, and she wants to beat Holm that way -- just to prove she can.
She spent her training camp for this fight sparring with Lissett Mendel, a champion boxer, and Helen Kolesnyk, the Ukranian champion in Muay Thai kickboxing. After a recent workout at Glendale Fighting Club, Rousey got an excruciating massage on her right thigh from one of her coaches, Jessie Forbes.
Why just the right thigh? Because that's her back leg when she gets into boxing stance, and during this camp, she's spent so much time working on her boxing technique.
"I'm still growing with every fight," she says. "There's always a body part that feels it when you do something new. This camp, it's my whole right leg."
It's a shame that she's yet to find an opponent capable of keeping her in the Octagon long enough to show off all these skills. In a way, you see more of what she's got during training sessions and even the open workout she held here in Melbourne. Most of the other fighters who took the stage hammed it up for the crowd, broke a sweat and then got on with the rest of their days. Rousey went through a full, intense workout with the four men who train her in the diverse skills of mixed martial arts. First she rolls through a wrestling session with Martin Berberyan. Then a judo session with her longtime judo coach, Justin Flores -- whom she promptly throws hard to the mat three times. Then jiu-jitsu with Brazilian master Rener Gracie.
"I've always said that Ronda is the most spectacular athlete that I've ever trained of every weight class or gender," Gracie says. "When it comes to physical gifts, her flexibility and her strength is unprecedented. The one thing she has that you can't train is her tenacity. She really is willing to die in there, and her opponents know that, so they're at a disadvantage right from the start."
Part of this drive to master each art of mixed martial arts is just what's inside her in the first place. Part of it, though, is staying fresh.
"Her bread and butter is her grappling and her judo," says her head trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan. "But I don't overdo it with that. I do it just enough that she's still excited to do it. If I give that to her every day, she'll be like, 'I can do this s---, I'm tired of it.' So I put it in the schedule at times in the week when she's motivated to do it.
"She told me that she hated judo at one point. When she told me that, I was like, 'Holy s---, we've got to be careful how we use this."
During one camp when they were working on her striking, Tarverdyan said he promised Rousey $2,000 if she dropped her sparring partner. That's not normally kosher; sparring partners are there to help a fighter train, not get dropped. But Tarverdyan had a counter: He made the same deal with the sparring partner if she could drop Rousey.
"I knew it would bring the best out of Ronda," he says. "And she dropped her with a body shot. I told her that wasn't a clean shot and I'd only give her $1,000 for it. Rousey got the other $1,000 from UFC president Dana White after he heard and laughed at the story."
"Even now when she gets in there with me to spar, she literally wants to kill me," Tarverdyan says. "It's intense. The sparring session is intense, like, 'Holy s--- I've got to throw down with this girl.'
"I see it in her eyes."