Ronda Rousey posted a video of her first staredown this week with Feb. 22 challenger Sara McMann, and the scowl that seemed painted on the UFC women’s bantamweight champion’s face for the last year was replaced by shared laughter with her opponent, even joking.
McMann, 33, wore a T-shirt reading, “Making People Smile.”
After the pressure of starring in the UFC’s first women’s fight last February and the months-long angst of filming “The Ultimate Fighter,” before finally getting a third-round armbar victory over her hated rival Miesha Tate on Dec. 28, Rousey is in an interesting situation.
She’s disarmed. Now can McMann, a 2004 U.S. Olympic wrestling silver medalist disarm the champion in the Mandalay Bay octagon?
“I know a lot of people don’t know me, but that’s a little bit by choice,” McMann (7-0) said. “I prefer to train in quiet and don’t seek out attention or say the things that come with that.
“But I’ve been wrestling for 16 years, have gone to the highest levels, so I think that has earned me the right to say I think I can win the title.”
McMann said her wrestling base equips her to deal with Rousey’s strength advantage and famed armbar ability — she’s won all nine fights that way.
“I’m very good at adapting, taking away people’s strengths,” McMann said. “The wrestling advantage — my temperment, my style — also transitions very well.”
McMann said the reduced drama around this Rousey fight will likely stay that way. She said she’s not apt to inflame any tension.
“Once you’re out there competing, it really doesn’t make any difference,” she said.
McMann earned the title shot with a first-round technical knockout of Sheila Graff in her April UFC debut, with an injury to other top contender Cat Zingano clinching the matchup.
Her only fight before that was in July 2012, with the collapse of the Strikeforce fight organization part of the reason for her hiatus.
“I train year-round, all the time,” McMann said. “I’m perfectly fine. When you’ve had thousands of competitions in your life, it doesn’t make a difference. You’re ready to go when you need to be ready to go. I haven’t been on the sidelines with an injury. I haven’t lost any of the sharpness that I’ve had.”