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Ronda Rousey on the spot: When should she fight again?

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Ronda Rousey stands on the scale during a weigh-in for the UFC 175 mixed martial arts event at the Mandalay Bay, Friday, July 4, 2014, in Las Vegas. Rousey is scheduled fight Alexis Davis in a women's bantamweight title fight on Saturday in Las Vegas
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Ronda Rousey took just 16 seconds to win Saturday night, but she deserves a rest. (John Locher/AP Photo)

After defending her bantamweight title at UFC 175 with a 16-second knockout, Ronda Rousey was asked by commentator Joe Rogan if she might be willing to fight again in three weeks at UFC 176, in order to help fill the gap left by the cancelled Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes featherweight title rematch. Rousey explained that she would do it if the UFC asked her to, though she’d rather go through with a planned knee surgery and get some rest instead.

"If they needed me to step up, I would do it," Rousey said. "I would appreciate the rest, but if they really needed me to do it, they know I would do it."

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UFC president Dana White appeared furious at the question and explained later to the media in attendance that he was upset at the production truck for feeding Rogan the question to ask Rousey and put her on the spot. "I was upset with the truck telling [Rogan] to tell Ronda that she's going to fight again. That wasn't true. That was some [expletive] that somebody made up back there.

"It was the biggest idiotic move in the history of our production team."

The question, posed in front of a packed arena and a worldwide television audience no doubt put Rousey on the spot unfairly, but it was a question that had to be asked at some point, in large part because Rousey herself and White had set everyone up for it in the days prior. With the August 2 UFC 176 main event cancelled and no replacement bout yet announced, Rousey told press this week in Las Vegas that she would be willing to fight on 24 hours' notice if the UFC asked her.

White has quite often, publicly and recently praised Rousey for just that willingness to fight whenever he asks her and against whomever, calling her his “new Chuck Liddell.” In fact, it was White who asked Rousey to make the quickest title defense turnaround in UFC history just this year, when – before she had even had her December 28 rematch with Miesha Tate – he asked her to commit to fighting again weeks after against Sara McMann.

[Related: Weidman quiets any remaining critics with thrilling win]

White is no novice at rushing fighters into fights and leveraging moments of intense pressure to get them to agree to terms. Jon Jones was asked in the cage after beating Ryan Bader if he would fight again in six weeks for a world title.

White waited just a few minutes after a Mauricio “Shogun” Rua fight to offer the Brazilian a fight against Chuck Liddell. Sure, all these fights were opportunities for fighters (as would Rousey getting to bank some more cash three weeks from now by fighting again), but they were presented in ways that could reflect poorly on the fighters if they refused White’s offers.

And, of course, White has shown that he isn’t above mocking and bashing his own fighters, even champions, when they don’t immediately agree to his terms. It’s likely that history that made White so sensitive to the appearance that he and the UFC were pressuring a fighter unfairly to fight sooner than the athlete would want.

The question to Rousey and White’s angry response to it make one thing clear – putting fighters on the spot and pressuring them to fight soon and often is fine, as long as White is the one leaning on said fighter. Anyone else does it and it is idiocy.

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Dana White took exception to Rousey being put on the spot after UFC 175. (MMA Weekly)

Dana White took exception to Rousey being put on the spot after UFC 175. (MMA Weekly)

Fortunately for Rousey, who has already fought three times in about the last six months, it would appear that a nasty cut she suffered on a right knuckle from knocking Davis out, will keep her from getting medically cleared to fight again as soon as August 2 at UFC 176. Unless Rousey were to do nothing with her hands for the duration of an extremely abbreviated training camp for UFC 176, the stitches in her hand would likely get torn out in the process and her cut wouldn’t heal well.

Rousey has said repeatedly that she could use some time off after a torrid couple years of fighting, television and film work and a non-stop public relations schedule. Now that we know she also needs knee surgery, she’d best get that well deserved rest.

It’s not as if there would be a compelling opponent for her to face in three weeks' time, either. Other than Cat Zingano – who has not said she is completely ready to fight again after her torn ACL – Rousey is out of credible challengers for the moment.

Better, then, to have her rest, heal and let new contenders fight their way into a title shot against her than to rush a last-second circus fight to fill in for Aldo vs. Mendes II. Bouts being cancelled due to injury at the last minute is just one of the reasons that being a UFC matchmaker is one of the hardest executive jobs in sports.

The UFC will have to find something to replace UFC 176’s featherweight title feature, but if it doesn’t, it certainly shouldn’t be Rousey’s responsibility to pick up the slack. Rousey probably would take another fight – injured knee, hand and all  but warriors like her can also be a bit too “Rowdy” for their own health’s good.

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