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Ronda Rousey curbs trash talk, lauds fellow Olympian Sara McMann

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Don't expect much trash talk out of Ronda Rousey before her tilt with Sara McMann. (USA Today)

LOS ANGELES -- When Ronda Rousey discusses her next opponent, Sara McMann, the lack of trash talk immediately becomes obvious.

"I couldn't be more excited than to have an athlete on Sara's level to test myself against," Rousey (8-0) said at a media event promoting UFC 170. "It raises the whole level for everyone. I don't have a bad thing to say about her."

It's clear the UFC women's bantamweight champion considers it an honor to fight her main event opponent at UFC 170 on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas. After all, McMann (7-0) is a fellow Olympic medalist: she took silver in wrestling at the 2004 Athens Games, while Rousey claimed bronze in judo in Beijing in 2008. The bout marks the first time two Olympic medalists square off in a UFC title fight and it also coincides with the Sochi Games.

And after months of melodrama driven by "Ultimate Fighter" reality hype leading up to Rousey's third-round submission victory over rival Miesha Tate at UFC 168, Rousey relishes the opportunity for a fight which will be built instead around world-class athletic credentials.

"It's hard to sell the same thing over and over and over," Rousey said. "I think the dynamic of the [UFC 170] fight is so different that it makes it easier to get people interested so soon. I approach every single fight differently. I think this is the perfect fight at the perfect time."

It may seem etched in stone at this point that Rousey simply goes from fight to fight trash talking everyone in sight. But that was mainly due to several months of focus on the one fighter who legitimately gets under the champion's skin in Tate.

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Sara McMann def. Sheila Gaff via first-round TKO in her UFC debut. (Getty)

Those who have been following Rousey since she first broke into the sport understand it's a bit more complex than that. As light heavyweight contender Daniel Cormier points out, Rousey has been respectful to all her opponents aside from Tate.

"Those of you who say Ronda is disrespectful, you have to understand one thing, it's only been one opponent who has brought that out in her," said Cormier, who meets Rashad Evans in UFC 170's co-main event. "They fought each other twice and you saw the animosity twice. But every other time Ronda has fought, she's been highly respectful."

Of course, if you wanted to expand the circle a bit and include non-opponents, Rousey has had some tart comments for Cris Cyborg, who chose to go to Invicta and fight at featherweight rather than attempt to cut to bantamweight and challenge the champ. But Cormier's point has merit.

Rousey won the Strikeforce championship from Tate in March 2012. In fights since, Rousey showed respect for the skills of Sarah Kaufmann, whom Rousey defeated in an Aug. 2012 Strikeforce bout; praised Liz Carmouche before their UFC 157 fight for living her life as an openly gay athlete in a macho sport, then afterwards for giving Rousey a tough battle; and now she's clearly respectful toward McMann.

The lesson to be drawn here? Get on Rousey's bad side and you'll likely never get off it, but if you don't give her a reason to talk trash, she won't.

"'I've been following Sara's career since the very beginning," Rousey said. "We pretty much started around the same time, and I always thought this will be the perfect fight to bring up on the big venue. This is the perfect time for everything coming together."

Up until this point in her career, Rousey has overwhelmed everyone in her path. While she's met tough fighters along the way, her world-class judo skills have trumped anything her opponents have stashed in their toolbox. This time, Rousey's facing someone with a world-class wrestling pedigree, something she isn't afraid to acknowledge.

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Ronda Rousey tossed around Miesha Tate for most of their second fight at UFC 168. (USA Today)

"I'm absolutely positive that the way I threw Miesha when she came in for her shots, it will not be possible to do that against Sara, just because of the time she's put in and the level of athlete she is and the technique she has," Rousey said. "I'm going to have to approach her completely different than Sara, the level that she's at, she has to be approached entirely differently."

Given that, is Rousey finally biting off more than she can chew? The champion is defending her title twice in an eight-week span. That's the fastest turnaround for back-to-back title defenses by a reigning UFC champion since former welterweight champion Matt Hughes also put his belt up twice in 56 days in 2006. In the first fight, he defeated B.J. Penn at UFC 63. Then he came back at UFC 65 and lost the title via second-round TKO to Georges St-Pierre.

Of course, Hughes was well into his 30s and had more than 40 fights to his credit by the time he lost to St-Pierre. Rousey has eight pro fights under her belt, and her third-round armbar finish of Tate at UFC 168 marked the first time she was ever pushed beyond the first round.

If anything, Rousey insists she prefers the quick turnaround to a prolonged period of inactivity.

"I want to fight back to back," said Rousey, who indicated that Dana White initially approached her about the idea of fighting in February three weeks before the Tate fight. "In judo, we would have tours and we would go four weeks in a row. It's a format that I'm used to."

Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter: @DaveDoyleMMA

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