LAS VEGAS — One of the entertaining signatures of a Ronda Rousey fight is the menacing glare she maintains on her ring walk from her arena dressing room to the octagon.
Rousey, in an exclusive interview with The Times on Friday less than three hours before her weigh-in for Saturday night’s UFC 170 pay-per-view fight against 2004 Olympic silver medalist wrestler Sara McMann, said the focus intensifies on fight day.
“When I start putting my hair in fight hair, and put my outfit on … it’s fight time. We walk, and we go,” Rousey (8-0) said from her Las Vegas suite. “It’s not a good time to talk to me.
“I don’t know why everyone thinks I’m angry. I’m not going around bubbly when I’m about to go fight. I’m focused on what I’m doing. I’m not playing around. This is a fight. I have to be entirely present and focused.”
She said she expects to make weight at Friday’s 4 p.m. weigh-in after working with nutrition expert Mike Dolce. McMann told The Times on Thursday she too is fine for the 135-pound limit.
Rousey said she appreciates the “tiny window” of rest after the weigh-in and “the second eye of the storm,” of the fight.
For Rousey, the bout comes less than two months after her third-round armbar victory over Miesha Tate on Dec. 28 at MGM Grand.
She said McMann, 33, “is her toughest fight yet. … I rise to the occasion when the opponent is better. I have a high-level opponent and a short layoff. That really brings out the best in me.
“She’s an Olympian, a different level of athlete, like [UFC debut opponent and U.S.
military veteran] Liz Carmouche … that level of mental capacity, that level of
pressure you’ve already been trained to deal with is special.
“Sara will not come in having already defeated herself. I’m not counting on her to beat herself. I’m counting on me to be the fighter that’s more technical, more skilled and wants it more. I know I want it more than her.”
Rousey, having sharpened her body-punching this camp in Glendale to complement her armbar skill and 2008 Olympic bronze-medal judo discipline, said she believes she believes she’s superior to McMann (7-0) on the canvas or in stand-up.
“All the throws that exist in wrestling exist in judo,” Rousey said. “There’s a lot of things in wrestling that don’t exist in judo -- submissions being one of them. Those are brand new to her. Transitioning from a throw into a submission is new to her. The gripping in judo translates more to the clench work in MMA than wrestling does.”
Rousey has won all eight of her mixed martial arts fights by armbar, where she grips, pulls, contorts the arm of her opponents until they tap out. In an earlier meeting, Rousey broke Tate’s arm.
Her mother, a world champion judo fighter, taught her the skill.
“There’s certain points where I know, ‘I got it,’ ” Rousey said. “A person might not even know they’re caught yet, but I’ll know I’m on the path.”
Rousey said her armbars happen with such regularity because she can produce one from “every single position I have. … Same thing with throws. It’s never-ending, a chain.”
She said a “mom-ism” is that once she’s settled holding an opponent’s arm, “If you lose the armbar from there, you deserve to lose the whole fight.”
That’s why the clutch tightens so painfully, Rousey said.
“I know that I have it, but I get hyper-focused, thinking, ‘Don’t get too happy.’ I have such confidence at that point, I could wave to my mom, say, ‘Hi everybody,’ and then finish.”
She said her feeling at victory is “a sigh of relief and cry of victory at the same time.
“It’s a judo thing. I don’t jump on cages, run around, scream. I try to make sure the person’s OK and give some hugs. Even Miesha, when I broke her arm, I didn’t smile. I made sure she was OK.”
Rousey took heat for not shaking bitter rival Tate’s extended hand after beating her in the rematch.
She explained, “That’s how I show respect. I might not show respect in the way other people want me to, but I show respect in the way I was taught.”
Rousey said she expects to feel the itch to fight again in late summer after beginning filming for the “Entourage” movie in Los Angeles in mid-March.
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