Rousey takes on Hollywood

Rousey's Hollywood career kicks off with a role in "The Expendables 3." Courtesy Lionsgate

Ronda Rousey needed just 16 seconds to trounce her last opponent, Alexis Davis, for her fourth straight UFC title defense. But the acting newbie will need a few more rounds to earn her Hollywood bona fides. Of course, roles in "The Expendables 3" (Aug. 15) and next year's "Fast & Furious 7" and "Entourage" aren't a bad opening combination.

Alipour: I don't have backup for this claim, but I'd bet $10 that you're the first active athlete to unspool three movies in an 11-month period. How did you pull it off?

Rousey: A lot of coffee. Actually, I'm drinking coffee right now as I pace around my house.

Are you nervous? I'm the one who has to interview a lethal weapon.

[Laughs] Not at all. I'm just addicted to caffeine, and I have a problem with resting. I'm back in the gym two days after a fight. I'd rather fill my calendar in between fights than go on vacation.

Did you actively seek out an acting career, or did Hollywood come to you?

I didn't grow up wanting to be an action star. I just didn't think it was in the cards. Now that it's a possibility, I'm like, "Screw it, I don't give a s---, if The Rock can become the world's highest-grossing actor, I can have that same goal." I want to be the highest-grossing actor in the world someday.

That's your goal? To top Dwayne Johnson?

I never aspired to be second. I was taught as a kid that you can do whatever you want in this world, so why not be the best in the world at it? Even when I was bartending, I wanted to be the world's best, most efficient and charming bartender. That's how I do things.

Your first step in that pursuit: "The Expendables 3." After Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren, was there any ass kicking left over for you?

[Laughs] There's plenty of action to go around, but there are so many stars in this franchise, you have to share space. Everybody gets their moment. Stallone is the star, and we're the characters around him. My character is part of the new generation they brought in.

Who left you the most starstruck?

Harrison Ford, by far. Nobody has affected me like Harrison. I was obsessed with "Star Wars" as a kid. I'd watch it, rewind it, then watch it again. Han Solo was my guy, and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" was actually the first action movie I watched, so I was super starstruck. When I saw him, I was like, "Do I introduce myself? Do I go out of my way to do it? Do I pretend to not notice him?" I just lost it. I'm sure I made a total dork out of myself. But he was so nice. Very, very cool.

Upon first meet, do you think any of those tough guys sized you up and thought, "Yeah, she's a pro fighter, but she's a woman -- I can take her"?

If they did think that, they didn't mention it to me. [Laughs] Actually, they made jokes all the time about how I could beat them up. Everybody on set was really respectful.

During filming, did you ever slip up and smack one of those stars in the head -- and is that person still alive?

[Laughs] No, but there was this one stunt guy -- our timing was off. At one point, he stopped, I kept going and I hurt my back picking him up. Nice guy, but a couple of days later, I was off balance, wearing heels in a fight scene, so he really took it in the head. It's in the trailer: The guy that I smashed in the face with a bottle was bleeding all over the place after that. I felt bad, but what did they expect? They had me doing a fight scene with heels and fragile glass.

So they let you do your own stunts?

I did all of my own stunts, except for a couple of falls. I had a fight that December, so Dana White wouldn't let me do anything too dangerous, but nobody else could do a lot of those fight scenes, so it fell to me. I'm an adrenaline junkie, and I love jumping off of stuff, so they promised to let me do my own falls if I don't have a fight next time.

What's the best piece of advice you got from one of those action-movie legends?

Stallone really pulled for me and took me under his wing. The best advice he gave me was to never be embarrassed. He said, "Start out over-the-top because it's a lot easier to tone it down than to rev it up."

Next April we'll see you in "Fast & Furious 7." The action in that series mostly happens on wheels. How are your skills as a wheelwoman?

Honestly, I can't even drive an automatic. I'm not very convincing in a car. But tell you what, if I ever have to learn how to drive an automatic for a scene, I'd be the most amazing race car driver ever. There's no way I'd let myself look bad at anything.

Then in June, you'll appear as yourself in "Entourage." Some actors feel that's more difficult than playing a character.

I think it's easier. If anybody tells me, "You're doing it wrong," I'm like, "What the f--- are you talking about? How are you gonna tell me that my 'Ronda' is terrible? I'm the world's top expert in being Ronda, so you can't tell me s---."

Once you got up close and personal with the cast, what surprised you the most about the people we'd been watching on TV for so long?

When I got there, I was expecting that I'd get a lukewarm reception. I thought I'd be the new kid who nobody wants to sit with in the cafeteria. But everybody was so welcoming, kind and genuinely interested in me. I was so surprised. Hollywood is a lot nicer than I was led to believe.

All three films are guy movies. What are the chances we'll see you in a rom-com smooching Ryan Gosling someday?

[Laughs] You never know. At first, I leaned toward what I knew I could do well: the physical stuff. Then "Entourage" had me doing comedy -- now I have to walk and talk and have timing and be articulate. It's a bit more difficult. Maybe next time I can take a baby step to a more female-oriented movie. After that, maybe I'll do the romantic comedy thing. It's about progression. No rush.

Both in the ring and on screen, your career runs parallel to Gina Carano's. As an actress, do you see her as a competitor?

Not at all. I see her as a pioneer who really opened doors for me. She embodies qualities that people want to see, even if they didn't know that they wanted to see it. Until Gina came around, people didn't know that they wanted to see a full-bodied, tough girl who actually knows how to be feminine. No, I don't see her as a competitor at all. I see her as a partner in all of this.

If Gina signs with UFC, Dana White has pegged you two for a December bout. But there might be a scheduling conflict, as this year she's planning to film a movie, "The Opium War," which could interfere with training. Do you empathize with her and her dueling ambitions, or should she put a fight with you before her acting career?

I know how hard it is to juggle a schedule of fights and movies. If she wants to delay the fight a couple of months for a movie, I'd totally understand. If I had a similar situation, I'd hope she'd do the same for me. I take both careers extremely seriously. I don't see why she shouldn't.

You'd be the favorite in that fight. How would Rousey vs. Carano go down?

Well, I want to win, of course. That's how every fight goes down. But my coach said from the start that Gina is the worst style matchup for me. I'm not just saying that. I don't have to worry about fighters outmuscling or overwhelming me or catching me on the mat. The only thing I have to worry about is the one-punch knockout. And out of all of the women in MMA, Gina has the best feel for distance and timing. That's not something you lose because you made a couple of movies. You'll always have that. And she was the first girl I ever saw that had a one-punch standing knockout. The other chicks who are known for knocking people out, those are really TKOs: They got overwhelmed on the ground, and then the ref stopped them. She's the one who can knock you out while standing on her feet with one punch. That's what makes her the most dangerous.

I really do believe that she's the hardest competitor I could ever find to fight. Even if you don't believe that, even if you think she took too much time off and it'd be a quick fight, to be honest, that fight would be too hot not to watch. It doesn't really matter if it'll be competitive or not. And if you do watch it, you're going to be surprised: It'll be one of greatest fights to ever happen in the history of women's MMA.

Even as your star rises, Floyd Mayweather recently said he doesn't know who "he" is, and "he" is you. Do you feel he was talking trash or just terribly misinformed?

I'm not going to make any assumptions. He said he really didn't know, and he apologized if I was offended. I thought that was sweet of him.

So what's next? I bet you're ready for a vacation.

Well, I'm taking a forced vacation. I've been putting off arthroscopic knee surgery for years now, and I finally let myself believe that I've had enough. So I took care of my knee, and I'm doing amazing at my therapy. I should be 100 percent in two more weeks. And I've got a lot of time until my next fight, so I'm ready to take a rest. Well, maybe. Knowing me, I'll find more work to do.

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