LOS ANGELES — When “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey began her mixed martial arts career, it came to be in part due to the inspiration of Gina “Conviction” Carano.
“Thank God for Gina Carano,” Rousey told the Glendale News-Press in August of 2011. “I have so much respect for her. I'm grateful for what she's done.”
Rousey, the current and first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight champion, has long said that it would be an honor to fight Carano, though the latter has been absent from competition since the summer of 2009.
Now, however, following weeks of speculation on the Internet and among the mixed martial arts media, after a UFC media luncheon in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon, it appears more likely than ever that a Rousey-Carano showdown for the UFC title is imminent.
“She’s the reason I knew what women’s MMA was,” said Rousey, who trains under Edmond Tarverdyan at the Glendale Fighting Club. “It would be an honor to fight her.
“She’s the fight I’ve always wanted.”
And the feel Wednesday afternoon was that it might well be the fight the undefeated Rousey (9-0) will get.
“I think it would be the best thing for women's MMA,” Rousey said. “I think it would be the highest profile fight that could be done.”
UFC President Dana White was on hand for the media event along with Jake Ellengberger, who recently began training at Glendale Fighting Club, Ellenberger’s UFC 173 opponent Robbie Lawler and UFC 173 headliner TJ Dillashaw, who will challenge Renan Barao for the men’s bantamweight title on May 24 in Las Vegas.
Rousey wasn’t scheduled to appear and made an impromptu appearance shortly after the midway part of the event.
Talk eventually moved to the potential Rousey-Carano bout that first gained traction when UFC color commentator Joe Rogan told KROQ’s Kevin & Bean Show in early March that a “huge announcement” was coming up regarding Rousey’s next opponent.
“That thing got built on its own,” said White of the hype and speculation of the bout.
But not long after, White said, “I’d do that fight.”
White also confirmed he was meeting later Wednesday night to talk with Carano, 31, and, as the interview went along, indicated that a possible bout was close to coming to fruition.
Previously, Rousey, 27, had gone on record saying she would fight Carano at a catchweight of 140 pounds if needed, but on Wednesday, perhaps lending credence that more details had been formulated, White and Rousey talked about a title fight, which would need to be at 135 pounds.
“It’s gotta be at 135,” White said. “Gina wants to come in and make the weight and win the title.”
Previously, Carano (7-1) had fought in the 145-pound featherweight class and had, at times, struggled with the weight limit. But, White said he doesn’t foresee that being an issue.
“Have you seen her recently?” White said. “She’s smaller; she said she’s walking around way lighter than she used to be.”
While Rousey, 27, has been a trailblazer not just in women’s MMA, but women’s sports, in terms of gaining exposure, media attention and fame with a total package of dominance in the octagon, cover girl beauty and the eloquence and unfiltered nature of her sound bites, Carano was easily the biggest star in women’s MMA before Rousey.
Though she wasn’t as outspoken as Rousey, Carano gained plenty of attention with her beauty and skills in MMA, as she built a 7-0 record from 2006-08, before losing a Strikeforce title match to Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino in August of 2009. Since then, she has made a name for herself in the movie industry, with her most notable role coming in the action film “Haywire.”
Rousey, a two-time Olympian in judo whose professional MMA career began in 2011, has also caught the acting bug with movies such as “The Expendables 3” and “Fast and Furious 7” due out this year and she recently filmed a role in the movie version of “Entourage.”
Thus, if Carano is ready to come back, Rousey believes there’s no reason to wait any longer.
“I don't think it would make sense for her to come back and fight somebody else and take the risk of maybe losing and not being able to capitalize on the fight between me and her,” said Rousey in reference to Carano getting a title shot after five years away from competition. “I think it would make more sense to go straight to a title fight.
“She's one of the pioneers on the sport. She's the reason I fight at all. You can't say she's just coming in off the street. How can you say no to the woman that I owe everything to? I would bend over backwards to fight her.”
So it seems as though a women’s MMA superfight is in the works or, at the very least, closer than it’s ever been.
“She's going to come back when she wants to sign,” White said of Carano. “She's the type of person like [Rousey]; she's not coming back just because. She's coming back because she wants the title.”
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.