Ronda Rousey, Chael Sonnen and fans star at rollicking UFC 175 news conference

Kevin Iole
Yahoo SportsMay 24, 2014
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LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 23: (L-R) Chael Sonnen and Ronda Rousey interact with fans and media during the UFC press conference at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 23, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS -- Seinfeld was one of the best situation comedies ever on television, even though it was a show about nothing.

And the kickoff news conference for UFC 175 Friday, ostensibly designed to announce that tickets are on sale for the July 5 show, could best be described as an event about nothing. But it left virtually everyone who attended with a smile on his or her face and set the bar even higher for other promoters, be they in boxing or mixed martial arts.

There was the almost now-obligatory segment in which UFC president Dana White talks about the outcome of a street fight between women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.

But this was far more than a recitation of that, though the several minutes that segment took up were highly entertaining.

Chael Sonnen, who was in full pro wrestling heel character, got upstaged by a fan who beat him at his own game.

Several male fans told Rousey how beautiful she was and asked about whether she has a boyfriend (she does).

Sonnen told a story of how he asked Rousey about a fight technique while they were having dinner together in a Los Angeles restaurant, only for her to get up and began to show him how to do a judo sweep. Security turned up, Sonnen said, to protect the woman from the man apparently assaulting her.

"Actually, I needed them to defend me," Sonnen said, grinning.

News conferences, particularly ones put on by boxing promoters, tend to be dull, staid affairs in which everyone tends to be politcally correct, most everyone tends to take themselves too seriously and there is a tremendous shortage of fun.

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The purpose of such news conferences are to provide information to media about an upcoming event, and hope the media relays it to the target audience. But most of them are dull, boring affairs in which the participants thank sponsors, say little of interest and all look like they're rather be anywhere else.

Such wasn't the case Friday for the news conference, helped in large part by the over-the-top personalities of Sonnen, Rousey and White.

A theme recently at UFC events has been a discussion with White about how Rousey would do in a fight against Mayweather, who is not only almost universally regarded as the best boxer in the world but is also considered one of the best ever.

A reporter began to ask Rousey about White's assertion that Rousey would hurt Mayweather badly when White interrupted.

"All right, wait a minute! Let's clarify this whole thing," White said. "I got all the boxing guys going crazy on me. So this is how this went down. [UFC TV analyst] Joe Rogan was on ESPN. They asked Joe Rogan, 'What do you think would happen if Ronda Rousey fought Floyd Mayweather?' And Joe Rogan said, 'It depends upon where the fight was. If the fight were in the cage or if the fight were on the street, Ronda wins the fight.' Right? So they asked me the same question.

"I said, 'Obviously, if she boxed Floyd, Floyd would tear her up in a boxing match. But in a street fight or in an MMA fight, not only would she beat him, she would hurt him badly.' OK? That's what I said. Now, Gareth Davies [of the London Daily Telegraph] and a lot of other uneducated boxing guys don't understand about judo and grappling. I was that guy once. I came from boxing. I used to laugh at this [expletive]. OK? I'm not laughing any more. Get hit with the first leg kick you've ever been hit with."

White then went on to describe how Rousey might hurt Mayweather.

"Ronda would kick his his feet out and then come down on top [of him with her body weight]," White said.

He was then attempting to explain how after a judo throw, the person completing the throw often lands on top of the person thrown. He made the mistake, though, of asking a woman her weight in public. She fights at 135 pounds, but since White was describing a theoretical street fight, he turned to Rousey without thinking and said, "Ronda walks around at what -- 160?"

That put a frown on Rousey's face, who immediately told White she woke up Friday weighing 148 pounds.

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White then said, "I'm not dissing anyone. Floyd Mayweather is this tall," and held his hand at about the middle of his chest. He then noted Mayweather weighs 135 pounds. Mayweather, though, is actually 5 feet 8 inches, or two inches taller than Rousey. And Mayweather weighs 147 and hasn't made 135 in more than a decade.

Those, though, were just details and White was just putting on a show.

When Rousey finally got the chance to speak, she beamed and said, "Why can't you guys bait me into saying something nice? Seriously. You would never report me saying something like, 'I think Floyd Mayweather is the best boxer who's ever lived, as an actual technical boxer. Because no one is going to buy me saying 'I like this person. He's really cool.' "

She then went into the specifics of the question.

"Of course Floyd would box the hell out of me if we were in a boxing match," Rousey said. "But boxing is a limited form of fighitng and we're in a much less limited form of fighting. I've trained my whole life to prepare for things that he hasn't been preparing for."

It got really over the top, though, when White took questions from a fan. One man got up and had clearly commited much of Sonnen's shtick to memory. He carried Sonnen's book with him and wore a t-shirt with Rousey's name on the back.

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He went down the fighters on the dais, making a comment to them, and had a brief banter with White about whether White remembered him.

"I meet a lot of lunatic fans, but yes, I remember you," White said.

He talked about Rousey's looks, but he didn't really get the place into an uproar until he came to Sonnen, who was seated at Rousey's right.

"You are the man of the hour, the man with the power, the man who's too sweet to ever be sour," the fan said, swiping a line that Sonnen had swiped from WWE legend Superstar Billy Graham. "You're the women's pet and the men's regret. The reflection of perfection, the man who got my attention. You're the one with the greatest arms, the one with all the charms and the one who's going to do a lot of harm. Right now, though, this ain't about me. It's about everyone standing here right now. How do they feel standing this close to greatness?

"Are they not mesmerized? Are they not getting chills up and down their skinny little spines for the first time ever witnessing Chael Sonnen in Chael's building with Chael's people. This man eats T-bone steaks, he lifts barbell plates. He is sweeter than German chocolate cake. All I've got to say is, when you're the greatest fighter in the world, they've got a name for you. They don't call you a great fight. They call you Chael P. Sonnen."

At that point, Sonnen, who had been laughing heartily along with the audience at the man's performance, grabbed the microphone. If he didn't end it, the guy would probably have made the weigh-in, set for an hour later, start late.

"Ladies and gentlemen! My brother," Sonnen exclaimed. "Give him a hand!"

The place roarared as White and all the fighters on the dais laughed heartily.

When it was over, it was obvious what this was: A master stroke by White and his team, putting together a near-perfect news conference. It was a lot better than hearing the fighters spew canned cliches about how much respect they have for their opponents.

There have been a lot of wild news conferences in the UFC's brief history, but few could possibly have topped this one.