Someone must have forgotten to tell Sara McMann that they call this game "prizefighting."
Or maybe the undefeated 2004 Olympic wrestling silver medalist simply chases after different goals that most of her mixed martial arts peers.
The 33-year-old native of Takoma Park, Md. is poised to make the biggest payday of her athletic career, as she meets UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in the main event of UFC 170 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
But McMann is resolute in her belief that mo' money equals mo' problems.
"I don't care that much about money," McMann said. "I just don't. It's not part of my value structures, it's not how I was raised. Money gets in the way of everything."
Regardless, the undefeated McMann (7-0) is poised to cash in should she beat Rousey (8-0), whom UFC president Dana White just last week referred to as the biggest star the company ever had.
McMann won't budge, though, when asked if the idea of stardom and riches appeals to her, even acknowledging competition is her primary motivation.
"From my earliest days competing in wrestling as a kid, even back then, I didn't care at all about the trophy I got at the end," McMann said. "For me, it's all about the journey, and the process, and what you learn about yourself along the way. That's what matters, not the shiny object."
Such stubborn determination is what has lifted McMann, the first American woman ever to win Olympic silver in wrestling, to such great career heights. Nor has McMann shown any signs of wilting under the intense glare of the UFC's main event media spotlight.
When McMann went to Athens for the 2004 Games, she was a part of the first women's wrestling competition. She says the intense media scrutiny has made her promotional obligations leading up to UFC 170 a piece of cake.
"I've been there before," McMann said. "No disrespect to the UFC, but nothing can compare to the Olympic experience. You work your entire life for one day, one competition. It's true that there's been a lot of attention on this fight, and each of my MMA fights, the attention has been more and more. But nothing will compare to what we went through those two weeks in Athens."
That's all well and good. But critics have said that McMann is being rushed into a title shot a little too soon, in order to capitalize on the hype of having two Olympians square off during an event which coincides with the Sochi Olympics. One could point out, however, that McMann has put in a total of 54 minutes, 8 seconds total ring time in her professional career, while Rousey's eight bouts have gone 28 minutes, 26 seconds. But McMann looks at things a different way.
"I mean, here's the thing with that," McMann said. "I keep hearing I got this fight too quickly. OK, so let's say I train for another year, 18 months, two years, whatever, have two or three more fights. I mean, Ronda is training and getting better during all that time too, right? It's not like I gain more experience during that time and the clock just freezes on Ronda. If you get an opportunity in life, you take it."
Rousey, for her part, isn't having any part of the talk that McMann is being rushed into a title fight.
"She's an Olympic medalist," Rousey said. "We're talking about an elite athlete. I plan on winning and I planning on retaining my title, but I know for damn sure I have to take her seriously, I don't care if she's had seven fights or 70."
It was just a year ago, to the weekend, that Rousey met Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 in the first women's fight in UFC history. Naysayers expected the event, and by proxy women's fighting, to fall flat. Instead, a year later, Rousey is established as one of the UFC's biggest stars and the company will soon add a 115-pound strawweight division to complement the bantamweights.
While McMann might not much care about the monetary aspects of the sport, she concedes she's been a part of something pretty cool.
"I think it's a very real thing," McMann said. "I encourage other girls at different weight classes to step into MMA if they're closer to the end of their wrestling career, or, any jiu-jitsu girls that I train with. I think that you can do it and you can continue to do combat sports. You can continue to do it professionally and make a living out of it that sets your family up for the future."
Just don't expect McMann to fall victim to those potential riches. She parries one last attempt to talk about money as easily as she's double-legged her opponents in the cage.
"I'm actually looking into something with my manager," McMann said. "In which my money will be put into an account, and then a certain amount will come out as a stipend every month to take care of my living expenses. I just don't want the hassles. You see what happens a lot of times when people who aren't used to having a lot of money suddenly have it, and they end up in a worse spot than where they were. I don't need that, I don't need money as a distraction."
Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter @DaveDoyleMMA.
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