SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — Whether it’s regarding her gracing the cover of “ESPN The Magazine Body Issue,” hosting an episode of TMZ, choice words for Kim Kardashian and Michael Phelps or myriad other topics, instances, interviews and appearances, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey has been no stranger to the spotlight since winning the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title.
Now, just under two weeks from her first title defense against challenger Sarah Kaufman, Rousey’s still got plenty of questions to answer and appearances to make, but she’s clearly focused on the task that lies ahead when she faces Kaufman on Aug. 18 at the Valley View Casino in San Diego in the main event of Strikeforce’s “Rousey vs. Kaufman” card live on Showtime.
“I just want to fight,” said Rousey on Monday at a Strikeforce-hosted media workout at the Glendale Fighting Club. “I just want her to walk in that door and get it on.”
Rousey (5-0) won the title on March 3 via first-round armbar submission — the exact manner in which she’s won all of her bouts — against Miesha Tate. The bout was preceded by an avalanche of build-up brimming with trash talk and harsh words from both parties. However, this time around, Kaufman (15-1), a former Strikeforce champion herself, hasn’t made a whole lot of noise leading into the bout.
“She’s content to sit back and let me do all the work [promoting the fight] and just trains. ... And I’m cool with that,” said Rousey before she was asked whether it was fair for her to take on the lion’s share of the media obligations. “It’s not fair that I have to do all the media work, but it’s not fair that she has to fight me.”
Never lacking confidence or unwilling to answer a question with complete honesty, the 25-year-old Rousey has done more than her fair share of media work. And, in the process, she’s grabbed plenty of headlines and limelight as she’s become a full-fledged mixed-martial-arts star since winning Strikeforce gold, with Dana White, the president of Strikeforce sibling company the Ultimate Fighting Championship, even tabbing her “a rock star.”
In July, she was on the cover “ESPN The Magazine,” “UFC Magazine” and “Fighters Only.” Rousey, a former two-time United States Olympian and 2008 bronze medalist in judo, grabbed further media attention with controversial comments about Phelps and Kardashian, stating that the former secluded himself from other Team U.S.A. athletes and the latter set a bad example for young girls having essentially gained fame for being in an adult movie.
Indeed, it’s become a media storm for Rousey, who in both cases was simply answering probing or hypothetical questions, but has gained notoriety to the point that her always-honest sound bytes are stories unto themselves.
“It’s still a little surreal,” said Rousey of all the attention, which she admitted can be tiring, but is now simply part of her job. “Everything is a distracting, but I have the ability to compartmentalize.”
Her Kardashian comments led to an interview on TMZ and a subsequent spot guest-hosting the show. And on Wednesday, she’s set to appear on TBS’"Conan” withConan O’Brien, which is set to air shortly after the premiere of Rousey’s “All-Access” documentary on Showtime.
“It gets exhausting [for her],” said Glendale Fighting Club trainer Edmond Tarverdyan, who is Rousey’s lead corner man and striking coach. “She’s handling it very well. She’s happy.”
As quickly as the fame has been gained — her first professional MMA bout was in March of 2011 — and as much as her star seems to be on the rise, Rousey said she’s still able to keep it all in perspective.
“It’s not like everywhere I go people are screaming and chasing me,” she said. “I’m not the Beatles.”
And, perhaps most importantly, just as Rousey’s eyes were previously on the prize that was winning the Strikeforce title, despite all the media attention, fan adoration and star status, she said she’s still supremely focused on Aug. 18 and defending her title.
“Two weeks out is kind of like that point of no return — there’s no turning back,” she said. “I’m counting the days.”