A slew of A-list celebrities took to Twitter in the wee hours of Aug. 1 to tweet about UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who was defending her title that night in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, against Bethe Correia.
From the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant to the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, to part-time pro wrestler and full-time movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, from LeBron James to Demi Lovato and Sylvester Stallone, big-time stars were out in full force rooting Rousey on.
And Rousey, as is her custom, took it completely in stride.
But she wasn’t so calm and collected when she met a certain other movie star, though it might shock you to know who it was that made the champ swoon.
She loves the Star Wars movies and says she can barely keep it together when she sees Harrison Ford, who has played Han Solo in the series.
“I lose it around Harrison Ford,” she told Yahoo Sports, beaming. “I don’t know why, but I do. I was so obsessed with Star Wars. The first action movie I ever saw was Temple of Doom. Oh my God. Han Solo. I was in love with him for so long.”
Ford is friends with Star Wars creator George Lucas, whose daughter is an MMA fighter. So he was fully aware of who Rousey was when they met.
He might not have been prepared for her over-the-top reaction, though.
“I was just staring at him,” Rousey said. “And I kept looking at him and I’m saying to myself, ‘I’m blowing it. I’m blowing it.’ It’s an art, I’ve realized, to make people around you feel comfortable and that’s sort of what I’ve tried to learn to do.”
To this day, Rousey feels the same way about Ford. She joked that if UFC president Dana White ever invited him to sit cageside at one of her fights, she might be in trouble.
“If Dana ever did that, that might be the one that does it,” she said, jokingly, of her long winning streak potentially getting snapped.
In terms of fan interest, there is little doubt that Rousey is currently the UFC’s biggest star.
She’s already transcended the sport. On Saturday, Beyonce played a clip of Rousey speaking about her body from the UFC’s ‘Embedded’ series prior to performing a song at the Made in America Festival in Philadelphia.
Paparazzi stake out her Southern California home. So far, she hasn’t shied away from speaking with the celebrity gossip reporters, even though many celebrities of her stature go out of their way to do so.
Not long ago, Rousey was walking her dog after a visit to a local coffee shop when she was approached by a reporter from TMZ. The easy move would have been to speak while continuing to walk, but Rousey actually stopped and engaged the reporter.
Part of her appeal is her ability to relate to so many different types of people.
And instead of being bothered by the paparazzi and celebrity gossip reporters who are following her in increasingly large numbers, Rousey has embraced it. She understands, she said, what they’re trying to do and thus has chosen to take advantage of it.
“They’re trying to make a living, too,” Rousey said of those reporters and photographers. “And you have to know how to make nice, because they really know how to play mean. I think one reason certain celebrities have bad interactions with them is because there is no mutual respect. If you walk past someone like they’re invisible and try to pretend that they’re not there, how can you expect them to be nice to you? But if I give them some time and treat them normally, they have no reason to have any ill will toward me.
“I ran into this one guy the other day who was doing paparazzi work. My mom was giving him a hard time and it actually hurt his feelings. He told me this story that was amazing, that his baby died and his dog died the next day. He said he couldn’t get work as a regular photographer, so he took a job doing that so he could pay his wife’s therapist bills, because she was so upset about the baby. When you look at them as other people with lives and real jobs, it’s easier to relate.”
Rousey, though, never did find it in her heart to relate to meter maids. After the 2008 Olympics and before she got into MMA, she had very little money, not much of a job and was struggling day-to-day. A parking ticket was a catastrophe.
“I have this kind of vendetta against parking ticket people,” Rousey said. “I was so close to eviction so many times and I’d get a parking ticket [that I couldn’t afford to pay]. I’d burst into tears and just hate that person. But I’ve learned that there is a reason people do what they do. And so I guess I’m more tolerant and just don’t feel it’s the right thing to do to act like I’m some great thing and blow somebody else totally off just because they’re trying to do a job.”
She said she’s eager to prove herself against former boxing champion Holly Holm in her next fight, which will headline UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia, in Nov. 14.
And she’ll promote it in her own unique style, taking pieces, she freely admits, from the promotional styles of Nick Diaz, Chael Sonnen, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva.
Whatever she’s doing is working. Her fight with Correia at UFC 190 came on the heels of an amazing card at UFC 189, which many experts called the best main card in MMA history.
With McGregor relentlessly pushing the show, UFC 189 did a large pay-per-view number.
Somehow, though, without a strong undercard to help her sell it, Rousey made UFC 190 the year’s largest pay-per-view and one of the biggest in the company’s history.
It cemented her place atop of the UFC mountain as well as helped her to become a mainstream celebrity.
She takes a cue from former boxing champion Mike Tyson, whom she said she admires for his authenticity.
“People are drawn to him because of his authenticity and so I try to be as authentic as I can,” she said. “I’m not doing something for the cameras. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not. I guess the best way to say it is that I’m a more exaggerated version of myself.
“It’s a lot of work, but if this is the kind of business where you have to get out there and promote and market yourself. And so I work at trying to understand what works and what doesn’t. It’s no secret. It’s paying attention to what others do and seeing what works and applying that to my personal situation.”
And it works well.
Except, of course, if Harrison Ford comes around. Then, all bets are off.
Popular MMA video on Yahoo Sports: