Ronda Rousey said that heading into her UFC 168 bout with Miesha Tate on Dec. 28, she had ring rust working against her and criticized her performance, but she still managed to finish her rival with an armbar in the third round of the fight.
The fact that she finally had to go outside of the first round in any of her eight trips to the cage as a professional fighter might lend some credence to her self-flagellation, but she still holds the UFC belt heading into her UFC 170 fight with Sara McMann on Feb. 22.
The question now, however, is does that bode well for Rousey heading into the fight with McMann, who is one of the most accomplished athletes that she has ever faced.
Like Rousey, McMann is an Olympic medalist, winning silver in freestyle wrestling in 2004, and amassing a professional record of 7-0 in mixed martial arts.
Rousey certainly seems to think that the level of opposition and the short turnaround time since her fight with Tate play in her favor.
“I rise to meet the level of my opponent, so I expect to be better than I’ve ever been in my whole career,” she said during a media gathering on Monday.
“I started this camp still in shape from the last one. The last fight I came in coming off of two movies, I did the best I could to come in shape. I started this one in shape.”
That’s something she is certainly putting a lot of stock in as she prepares for McMann.
“My coach was going through all his notes from the last fights and we realized that all my best performances were when I had the shortest amount of time since the last fight,” said Rousey.
“I really did have some problems with ring rust in the last fight and I really don’t think it’s gonna be an issue at all [against McMann].”
Leading up to the fight with Tate, Rousey hadn’t fought since her Octagon debut opposite Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 last February. She followed that fight with a stint opposite Tate as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, and then filmed her roles in the Hollywood features Expendibles 3 and Fast and Furious 7.
Heading into the fight with McMann, there’s been nary a moment of down time.
A brief respite after the fight with Tate has been followed by workouts with her teammates and the camp for the fighter that she has paralleled for much of her career.
But she knows the parallels make McMann a dangerous opponent, particularly her similar Olympic background. While Rousey medalled as a judoka and McMann as a wrestler, it’s the mountains of pressure that accompany the Olympics that concerns Rousey, not their respective disciplines.
“A UFC title doesn’t really compare to the Olympics because they have new title fights all the time, but the Olympics could be one day in your whole life. And there’s no amount of pressure that can really ever compare to that,” said Rousey.
“Just what it takes mentally to get through that, I don’t think you can recreate that in any other environment. So I expect [McMann] to be ready to go when it comes to the day of the fight.”
That doesn’t cause her any consternation, however, because as Rousey said she tends to rise to the level of her opposition, and knowing in the back of her mind that she’s been destined to meet McMann in the cage at one time or another has prepared her to relish the opportunity she’s now facing.
“We started at the amateur level at the exact same time. We’ve both been aware of each other since then, and I’ve been sure that our paths were gonna cross sometime,” said Rousey.
“I’ve been excited to fight Sara for a while because I feel like I’ll really be able to show more of what I’m capable of than I’ve shown against some of my other opponents.”