Ronda Rousey to headline UFC 157

After weeks of speculation turned into confirmation that Ronda Rousey had indeed signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world's preeminent mixed-martial-arts league, verification finally came on Thursday as to when, where and who the face of women's fighting will fight in her octagon debut.

In Seattle ahead of Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 5 event, Rousey was officially presented with her UFC bantamweight title at a prefight press conference and it was then announced she would make her promotional debut on Feb. 23 in Anaheim, main-eventing UFC 157 against challenger Liz Carmouche.

“I didn’t even know about this til this morning,” she told of being presented the belt. “I don’t even know what to make of it. It means a lot and we have a lot to prove. I think the women are here to stay and I think we’re going to prove it.”

Rousey, who trains at the Glendale Fighting Club, will now go down in the history books as the first female fighter to sign with the UFC and its first female champion, as she won the Strikeforce featherweight title in March and will make her debut as the UFC champion.

Boasting a 6-0 record that’s seen her submit every opponent in the first round with her signature armbar, Rousey’s prowess in the cage, her sharp wit and good looks have made her a superstar in the sport. It’s also helped to gain the good graces of UFC President Dana White, who has opened up the doors to women fighting in the UFC for the first time with Rousey, a former U.S. Olympic bronze medalist in judo, leading the way.

As for Carmouche (7-2), by most reports, she was one of the few contenders who would step up and face Rousey in February.

Many had pined for a showdown between Rousey and former Strikeforce 145-pound champion Cris “Cyborg” Santos, who is currently serving a suspension due to performance-enhancing drugs. That fight didn’t materialize, nor did a rematch with former champion and archrival Miesha Tate or a bout against Sara McMann, a former U.S. Olympic silver medalist in wrestling.

“It's going to happen eventually,” Rousey said at the news conference of a fight against Santos. “I can't make these girls fight who don't want to fight me. [Carmouche] was the only one who stepped up, and it speaks a lot to her. When the other girls come around, they know where I'm at.”

Tate stated she was never actually offered a bout with Rousey to her knowledge and there was much speculation about Santos, who White said turned down the fight because her manager, Tito Ortiz, said it was unhealthy to make the weight cut. Nonetheless, Carmouche is not going to be taken lightly, according to Rousey’s striking coach and lead corner man, Edmond Tarverdyan of the Glendale Fighting Club.

“She was the one that was willing to be the first to face Ronda in the octagon,” Tarverdyan said. “She’s a tough fighter, but Ronda’s gonna do what she always does.

“We’re not taking anything easy. Every fight is a hard fight.”

Rousey is set to headline a card that will also feature former world champions Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida and Urijah Faber.

With magazine covers aplenty, talk show appearances and constant media attention, Rousey’s star has been on the rise and she’s seemingly always busy. But Tarverdyan said that even without a fight ahead of her before Thursday’s announcement, she’s been training as arduously as ever.

“Ronda’s been training harder than ever, I’d say,” said Tarverdyan, who’s also preparing for his second MMA bout when he takes on Dominic Gutierrez on Dec. 22 and has sparred with Rousey as part of his preparation. “She trains six days a week.

“I don’t take it easy on her. She’s tough, man. She gave me a black eye.”

And of course, she continues to open eyes, now as the first UFC women’s champion and the first woman to headline a UFC card.

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