Ronda Rousey: ‘Cheering don’t pay my bills’
The boos that washed loudly over Ronda Rousey seconds after she beat Miesha Tate by armbar submission on Dec. 28 -- and then decided not to shake the extended hand of the vanquished -- were deafening.
As Venice’s Rousey (8-0) now prepares for her next opponent, 2004 Olympic wrestling silver medalist Sara McMann (7-0), she isn’t losing sleep over it.
“The cheers were never anything that I developed an appendage to,” said Rousey, who’ll defend her women’s Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight belt Feb. 22 in a pay-per-view fight at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. “I never expected them to be permanent. People are fickle, they sway back and forth.”
Rousey was despised previously in athletics.
“When I was in judo, it was the same thing. I’d travel all over the world -- 30 different countries -- I’ve never been cheered for in my life,” Rousey said in a telephone interview with The Times. “I was always the villain, the bad guy. Everyone wanted the American to get her [rear] kicked.”
She isn’t working to suppress the bad reputation she gained in filming “The Ultimate Fighter” with Tate.
“Spending my time, energy and happiness on how the crowd is going to cheer is not smart, especially if I want to do this for a very, very long time,” Rousey said.
“Cheering don’t pay my bills.”
Rousey recalled a time when she was more in the sweetheart role, returning home from Beijing with the 2008 Olympic bronze medal in judo. “Miss American Olympian that never did no harm to anyone … I was broke.
“So if people hate me, I don’t have to worry about feeding my dog anymore,” she said. “Being liked did nothing for me. So I’m adapting and surviving. If the crowd comes around later, that’s nice, but as long as the people close to me that I respect know who I am, that’s good.”
Rousey said she and UFC President Dana White agreed two weeks before the Tate fight that if Rousey emerged victorious, she would make the rapid turnaround to fight Feb. 22.
That date was previously held for light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ title defense against Glover Teixeira, but Jones needed until March 15.
“Dana gave me a call, I appreciate him having so much faith in me,” Rousey said. “I told him, ‘Honestly, I was looking for a little more of a rest, but if you need me, I’ll step up for you on 24 hours’ notice.’
“I wanted to fight again soon, let me clear it with my coach, but I’m down,” Rousey told White.
“I talked to my coach, and he said, ‘You call him back and tell him we’ll [mess] up any ... you want in February!’ So I told Dana that, and he was like, ‘All right.’ But I said let me take care of this ... first.”
Rousey did that, by third-round armbar.
As for the challenge of McMann, Rousey said, “We’ve both known since we’ve started MMA that our paths are going to cross at some point, and this is absolutely the ideal time.
“To fight a real athlete, who’s made it to the pinnacle of her sport and understands what real competition is like … fighting for the UFC title is intense, but there’s nothing like competing in the Olympics: training your whole life and having one day to make it work.
“Somebody that’s been through that situation, and thrived in that pressure, is someone who deserves to fight for the UFC title.”
Rousey said she made “a couple mistakes” in the Tate fight “that had to do with ring rust” after her 10-month absence to shoot the latest “Expendables” and “The Fast and the Furious” films.
“I was trying to tell me it wouldn’t affect me, but it definitely did,” Rousey said. “You can’t re-create that environment in the gym. It’s one thing I won’t have to deal with for this fight that Sara will, since she’s been on the shelf for so long.”
Rousey said she’d like to do some training in the high altitude of Big Bear before returning to her Glendale training center.
Rousey said last month she’d prefer to have just two fights in 2014, but agreed that “everything’s a possibility … I can fight more and do less movies, or do more movies and fight less.” She said she’ll discuss the situation with her agency after the McMann fight.
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