GLENDALE, Calif. – A sound like a thunderclap boomed off the walls of the Glendale Fighting Club on Monday afternoon, startling a few onlookers who were paying attention to their smartphones instead of what was in front of them.
Ronda Rousey was standing in the ring in this converted retail space just outside Los Angeles city limits and was using a male sparring partner as her human guinea pig. One time after another, Rousey's partner ended up on the mat, the victim of swift and brutal judo throws.
It was as if the UFC bantamweight champion was making a point to the media assembled for an open workout promoting her UFC 170 title defense against Sara McMann on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas: Rousey, the 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist, is first and foremost a fighter.
You might think otherwise, given that Rousey, who's attracted more mainstream crossover attention in her short time in the sport than most fighters can hope to attract in a lifetime, has just announced a pair of new movie roles, in "Entourage" and "The Athena Files."
But Rousey will have none of that talk.
"I'm a fighter," she told reporters. "I enjoy fighting. I was doing judo for a decade and a half for pretty much no money. If money was really was important to me, I might be a stockbroker right now. I just want to have enough money to do what I enjoy for a living. Right now what I enjoy is fighting."
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She made the point during a workout session that was far more grueling than most fighters display in an open workout. Usually, fighters chat with reporters, then put on a halfhearted show of hitting the mitts for the benefit of photographers. But after Rousey got everyone's attention with her judo demonstration, she followed up with a spirited boxing workout, one in which she nearly leveled coach Edmond Tarverdyan with an uppercut that just missed.
For his part, Tarverdyan knows Rousey is the star of the show, so he chooses to build camps around the champion – the way, say, boxer Floyd Mayweather might conduct his, rather than a typical mixed martial arts gym, in which there could be a dozen fighters preparing for a bout all at once.
"That's why I put so much attention on her and so much focus on her and work with her six hours a day," Tarverdyan said. "I know there are other gyms out there that have classes going on, but we put one-on-one attention on the fight and we put so much into that."
Perhaps that's why Rousey has so much loyalty to Tarverdyan. Rousey famously refused to shake Miesha Tate's hand after Rousey submitted Tate at UFC 168, because Rousey perceived that Tate and her team had disrespected her coach.
"I'm a little wary about talking about how great of a coach he is," Rousey said, "because I'm wary more people will come in and take my time from him. I'm selfish like that. He's amazing. He really is. He's my secret weapon and my not-so-secret weapon."
Rousey finished her workout with a session hitting various punching bags until she was sweating from head to toe. If the message hadn't sunk in before, it was clear by then: Rousey, who will be fighting for the second time in eight weeks (the shortest turnaround for a defending UFC champion since 2006), is in ridiculous condition heading into the fight.
And she's ready for the inevitable comparison between judo and wrestling. As you may have heard, the UFC 170 main event is the first-ever UFC matchup between Olympic medalists, as McMann won silver in wrestling in 2004.
"It's funny, judo and wrestling," Rousey said. "The throws you have to muscle through are wrestling. The throws that happen effortlessly are judo. And so I didn't use any strength to throw Miesha in that fight. I did have to use strength to throw Carmouche in that fight, and that's why it wasn't a pretty throw. But for Miesha it wasn't strength. It was just a decade and a half of trained reflexes."
It's hard to believe that this time last year, the decision to make Rousey's fight with Liz Carmouche a pay-per-view main event was questioned. Not only was the first women's fight in UFC history a success (Rousey armbarred Carmouche for the win at UFC 157), but since then, she's filmed a season of "The Ultimate Fighter;" filmed roles in "The Expendables 3" and "Fast and Furious 7;" and returned for a pair of title defenses in a quick period of time.
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One wonders how long the 28-year old resident of Venice, Calif. can maintain the pace. After all, the women's MMA star who blazed the path for Rousey, Gina Carano, lost once, started getting movie roles, and never looked back.
But, as Rousey's workout demonstrated, she's wired differently than her predecessor. As far as Rousey sees it, there's no reason she can't have it all.
"I have two fights now and I'm doing them back to back and I take a lot of focus and a lot of energy and it would be nice to do something a little different, and miss it. So by the time I do a lot of movie stuff, it would be, oh my God, it's cool and all, but I'm tired of getting my makeup done every day and they're destroying my hair and I just want to get into the gym ... They both make me miss the other and I feel they both make me better at the other."
Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter @DaveDoyleMMA
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