“I was rowdy before rowdy was cool!”
- WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
LAS VEGAS — It was the first time sitting down with Ronda Rousey and the second time interviewing her.
Without a shred of doubt, she said she would make UFC President Dana White take notice, she would fight in the UFC and she would be a champion.
This is all paraphrased because it was never written down.
Once you've talked to enough upcoming athletes, particularly fighters, you know they all think they’re going to make history, they're all going to become champions. Alas, Ronda Rousey wasn't just any fighter back in the summer of 2011 during that interview at the Glendale Fighting Club and she certainly isn't now in the summer of 2014.
With full confidence, just two fights into her professional career, she proclaimed she would be the first to have a job that did not even exist — a UFC women's fighter. Since then, not only has she done just that, authoring a textbook's worth of history along the way, but she has become the most dominant and compelling fighter in mixed martial arts.
Unbelievable as it is to fathom, amazing as it all is to take in, yeah, Ronda Rousey is that damn good.
In the time it took you to read that, you probably could’ve rewatched the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC card. Maybe more than once, maybe you’re a slow reader.
Following 16 seconds that were anything but sweet and everything amazing, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey once again had the mixed martial arts world buzzing.
Her fast-forwarded UFC women's bantamweight title defense against Alexis Davis on Saturday night in Las Vegas at UFC 175 could not have ended in anymore emphatic and conclusive fashion. She made her now-iconic walk to the octagon, stomped her feet, slapped her arms, came forward, landed a nice right, then a knee, then a throw, then about eight punches that looked like 27 and it was over. In 16 seconds. From the talk between media members at the postfight press conference to casino goers later that late night and early into the hazy morning, she was the buzz, she was the highlight. Alas, she was also the cause of many more questions.
Is she really that good? Yes. Alexis Davis was ranked No. 2 for a reason, with wins over top-tier competition like Liz Carmouche, Jessica Eye, Amanda Nunes and others. She hadn't been stopped in a fight in more than five years.
Is she really getting better? Yes. Having used her Olympic-level judo to dominate in startling fashion to begin her MMA days, she’s progressively improved her striking to its current point, where it’s downright impressive — and downright dangerous.
Is there anybody on the UFC roster that can seriously challenge her? Maybe, it's just not likely. She has defeated five of the UFC's top-10 women's bantamweight fighters and has victories over competitors who have defeated another three. The only two exceptions are No. 1 contender Cat Zingano and No. 10-ranked Bethe Correia — both undefeated, though against a far less impressive resume of opponents.
Of her 10 fights — all of them finishes — only one has extended past the opening round. An astounding 60% of her bouts have been championship fights and yet the 14 minutes 48 seconds of total cage time she’s put in isn’t even long enough for three whole rounds, much less the five-round championship limit.
Aside from Zingano (who is now set to fight Nunes in September) and the just-signed Holly Holm, the bouts the media and fans are clamoring for are against the likes of Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Justino. Problem is, neither of them are under a UFC contract. Still, with the possible exception of Justino, Rousey would be a big favorite as Carano’s been out of the game for half a decade and, though Zingano is ranked No. 1 and Holm is regarded as one of the greatest female boxers of all-time, they’ve never faced anyone in MMA like Rousey. Nobody has.
Therein lies just why the undefeated Rousey is that dang good. There’s never been anyone like her before.
While people long ago ran out of superlatives to describe her - this writer included - the adjective that most often and correctly lends itself to Rousey is first.
She was the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in judo. She was the first female fighter signed to a UFC contract, the first UFC women’s champion and the first to win a UFC women’s fight. She was the first in women’s mixed martial arts to talk smack and about sex appeal. She was the first to have a segment on this show or to be on the cover of that magazine and on and on.
At this point, if she was the second woman to do something in the UFC it would likely warrant more astonishment.
In every one of her bouts, Rousey had made her opponents appear as if they had shown up to a gunfight with nothing but their bare hands.
For that reason, she has drawn comparisons to Royce Gracie, a UFC Hall of Famer and pioneer who was victorious at UFC 1, 2 and 4 when the organization was defined by one-night tournaments pitting fighters from different disciplines. With the term of mixed martial arts not yet uttered, Gracie’s mastery of Brazilian jiu jitsu was so foreign to other combatants that, despite most often being the physical underdog, he was a one-man gang of fighting superiority.
As the game of MMA moved on, though, Gracie’s jiu jitsu base remained and the sport and its competitors advanced. Rousey has done anything but rest upon her judo laurels — dominating as they were and still are.
While some might think it’s folly, it’s not outlandish to compare Rousey to sports figures as celebrated as Babe Ruth or Wilt Chamberlain. Ruth was so far ahead of the rest of the baseball world that his individual home run totals were greater than any other team. Chamberlain was so individually dominant that he once average more than 50 points a game, a number so eye-popping now it’s only fathomable if you have a Playstation controller in your hand.
But that’s Rousey: ahead of her time and ahead of those trying to dethrone her.
It’s not just her judo, her ridiculous athleticism or her ever-improving striking game. Her greatest weapon might well be her confidence.
For all that is written championing her accomplishments — like what you’re reading right now — it is the doubt that exists with some that there are foes or tasks that can still stop her that motivates her to add to an already illustrious legacy.
For most mixed martial arts sites, one of her interviews leads to at least three stories: stories with a quote for a headline and a couple of sound bytes for a story, but these are the days of Rousey, in which she puts butts in front of computer, TV and movie screens alike. She does more media than Comcast, from www.ijuststartedthismmasite.com to Time Magazine, rubs elbows with “The Rock” and “Rambo,” has three movies set to debut, has the brawn, brains and looks and you could go on and on, and at 27, there’s no reason to think she won’t.
The whole of it is that she's the complete package and the most amazing thing seems to be that she never ceases to amaze.
Perhaps the most emblematic moment Saturday night was in the aftermath of Rousey’s destruction. As referee Yves Lavigne had stopped the fight and cradled Davis, the semi-conscious beaten contender tried to grab onto Rousey, who effortlessly pulled away, as seemingly nobody can hold her back.
More often than not, the best of the best in the sports world rarely sit back to drink in the weight and brevity of their accomplishments. More often that not, Rousey fits into that category.
But at the very least, we should. Because there’s only going to be one first UFC women’s champion. And there’s most assuredly only one Ronda Rousey, because, yes, she is that damn good.
That's just the way I see it, playing second string.
Grant Gordon is the sports editor for Times Community Newspapers North. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.