Fighters throughout the years have found unique ways to promote a coming bout, but Ronda Rousey’s turn inside the pages of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue is a new standard.
Rousey, 28, of Venice, appeared in a four-page SI spread earlier this month. That package was supplemented by more photos on the magazine’s website shot by well-known photographer Walter Iooss Jr.
The photos precede by weeks Rousey’s Feb. 28 Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight title defense against No. 1-ranked contender Cat Zingano at Staples Center.
“There wasn’t any hesitation at all,” Rousey said. “I was stoked from the very beginning. Why would I hesitate? … Walter Iooss is a genius.”
Why? Well, Rousey (10-0) didn’t grow up as a girly girl. She admitted to a gathering of reporters this week at her gym in Glendale that she didn’t wear makeup until she was 21.
“Because I was bartending and I needed tips,” Rousey said.
She’s talked about being tomboy-ish as a youth, developing combat skills that would make her an Olympic bronze medalist in judo in 2008, while showing past disdain around the UFC octagon for ring card girl and Maxim magazine cover girl Arianny Celeste.
“I couldn’t even smile not awkwardly for a photo” as a child, Rousey said. “I had that Chandler Bing smile. I couldn’t do it right. You had to surprise me.
“You never know. I just followed where everything went. I’m really happy with where I am now, and I’m glad I had no clue growing up, and I’m happy that I grew up a little slower and wasn’t into that stuff in high school. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Now, Rousey is a veteran of three major films, including “The Expendables 3,” and the coming “The Fast and the Furious 7,” and “Entourage.”
She graced the SI pages under the headline, “A Pair of Knockouts,” with tennis champion Caroline Wozniacki.
“If you were asked to be in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, I bet you’d do it,” Rousey said to The Times’ male UFC reporter. “Don’t blush. I don’t know, Walter Iooss is a genius, I think he could make you look rockin’.”
As she braces for the main event at Staples Center, Rousey said she remains driven while relishing the trappings of her success.
“I’m happy to have been one of the unpopular kids back then, because it makes everything so much more satisfying now,” she said.
Before participating in the shoot, Rousey fell back on an agreement she had made previously with her mother about such pictorials.
“Whatever you’re not willing to show in public, you won’t show in a magazine,” Rousey said. “If I’m going to tan on a beach with my top on, or top off face down, how is that different?”
She was happy with the finished product, joking that readers couldn’t see her “cash and prizes.”
“I try to promote a healthier body image,” Rousey said. “I think that does a lot more to change what women expect of themselves than not doing anything at all. Changing the media images at men changes what women expect of themselves.”