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Saturday, 07/21/2012, 09:00 am

EXCLUSIVE | Ronda Rousey: Kaufmann Is Tough But Not On My Athletic Level (Interview Part 1)

The term “blowing up” may have been created specifically for Ronda Rousey. The outspoken and popular female athlete has her image or name on display seemingly everywhere now. No one can doubt her stardom or her skill in the cage anymore.

When she won her Strikeforce Championship from Miesha Tate in March it had the feel of a UFC main event. From the mainstream press coverage, UFC level pre fight hype, and the surprising levels of casual fan interest, and sheer amount of forum threads dedicated to their fight – it was incredible. Her first round armbar finish is one of the most memorable in recent years.

The wild ride was just starting for Ronda. Shortly after having the Strikeforce belt wrapped around her waist she was approached by ESPN Magazine with an offer to appear in their popular “The Bodies” issue. Not only did she accept the offer to appear, but she was also boldly placed on the cover.

“That offer kind of came out of the blue”, Ronda said. “It was a little bit after I won the title if I recall. I was a little bit hesitant at first, but Serena Williams, Gina Carano, and Jon Jones had all done it before so it couldn’t really hurt. It’s a very respectable publication so I figured it would be okay. I gave it a try”.

In the past Dana White had been outspoken about his feelings against women fighting in the UFC. The mindset was that it might possibly take away from the legitimacy of the UFC or that the skillset of women fighters are inferior in general. In recent years this has been proven wrong and White finally hinted there might be a future for women in the UFC…if they were all as good as Ronda Rousey.

“That’s really encouraging to hear that for me and women’s MMA in general”, Rousey stated. “Before that he was saying women fighters would never be in the UFC, and now it’s more like a “I would do it if” thing. It’s progress being made and I see a lot of girls coming up who have a lot of potential. I think it shows Dana is a smart guy. He’s open to it and all we need is time to field the depth of talent he needs. I think it will convince them that amount of money is worth it to have a women’s division in the UFC”.

One MMA promotion making waves is an all female organization called Invicta Fighting Championships. While Rousey is not involved she does support it.

“I have no involvement with Invicta. In terms of what’s best for women’s MMA, I don’t think it has to be a one or the other choice between all of the organizations”, she said. “I think women’s fights should be on the UFC cards and have other feeder promotions like Invicta to develop well known fighters outside of Strikeforce and the UFC. They’ll help each other out in the long run”.

The consensus pound for pound female fighter up until her suspension was Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos. She was stripped of her Strikeforce Championship when she tested positive for anabolic steroid use. This was a little disappointing for Ronda who wants nothing more than to prove she is the best.

“Ever since I started in MMA I wanted to beat Cyborg and be recognized as the pound for pound best fighter in the world”, said Rousey. “There have been a lot of factors like her banishment of her title for a whole bunch of steroids. When she comes back from that suspension I plan to have a fight with her at 135 because that’s the weight I want it at. We’ll see though because I have Sarah Kaufman in front me right now and she has one hundred percent of my attention”.

Miesha Tate has never been accused of not being tough. She refused to tap out to Rousey, and she eventually paid for it when her elbow appeared dislocated. Sarah Kaufman is potentially a tougher opponent, but Rousey sees a lot of similarities between Kaufman and Tate.

“I think Miesha is a really tough chick trust me”, Rousey said. “I saw her endure a really painful situation in there with me. She is definitely tough for sure, but Sarah Kaufman is no slouch either. You can tell Sarah takes hits well and it doesn’t really bother her. She’s a tough chick, but I do not think her level of athleticism can compare to mine”.

Women’s MMA is not just a side show anymore. At one point, Gina Carano was widely considered the face of women’s MMA until she was demolished by Cyborg and, for the time being, moved on to acting. The torch was then passed to Cyborg and with her gone, many think Rousey is now inarguably carrying it. The sport has evolved and the fans have a changed view in regards to the validity of female fighters. Now women are in televised main events, and Rousey is often credited for boosting the rising popularity of women’s MMA.

“I would definitely accept a compliment or statement like that. I tried really hard to make that happen”, Ronda stated. “I know it wasn’t entirely me, but my hard work has had results and it’s not being cocky. That’s an accurate assessment of the situation. I’ve tried really hard to bring women’s MMA to the forefront and there are other girls catching on. You see a lot more showmanship from them as well. I just think if I could do a little bit to be a catalyst and be an example for the girls coming up then that’s awesome. I’m really happy with what I have done for the sport so far and where it’s going”.

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