Mike Tyson's fanboy take on Ronda Rousey may surprise you

GLENDALE, Calif. – His jaw agape, his brow furrowed, Mike Tyson watched almost in astonishment as Ronda Rousey went through a workout Wednesday at the Glendale Fight Club in preparation for an Aug. 1 defense of her bantamweight title against Bethe Correia at UFC 190 in Brazil.

In the early part of the workout, Rousey repeatedly slammed training partner Justin Flores with judo throws, the sound reverberating loudly throughout the small gym as Flores’ back crashed down onto the mat.

Ronda Rousey and Mike Tyson chat after her workout at Glendale Fighting Club on Wednesday. (AP)
Ronda Rousey and Mike Tyson chat after her workout at Glendale Fighting Club on Wednesday. (AP)

Later, she showed off her ever-improving striking technique, firing off blazingly fast combinations.

At one point, as the sound of her combinations thudded against coach Edmond Tarverdyan’s body protector, Tarverdyan shouted to Tyson, “How does she look?” Tyson seemed to wince and then said, “That doesn’t look like much fun.”

Rousey grinned impishly and said, “Well, it’s fun for me.”

This was a sight that was impossible to even conceive in 1986 or even 1996, when Tyson ruled boxing as its heavyweight champion and was able to invoke fear in many opponents with just a sneer and a threat, let alone a punch.

But these are different times and Tyson is an avid mixed martial arts fan who left his seat frequently to cheer and applaud during the spectacular main card of UFC 189 on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Rousey is the biggest name in the sport, much as Tyson was decades ago. She won the ESPY as Best Fighter later on Wednesday, beating out boxers Floyd Mayweather, Terence Crawford and Gennady Golovkin and UFC lightweight contender Donald Cerrone.

Tyson said he can understand why she’s so highly regarded. He is close friends with UFC president Dana White and desperately wanted to watch Rousey train in person.

He said he had a difficult time believing the metamorphosis Rousey is able to make.

“Ronda is a lady and she’s bright, kind, sweet and adorable,” Tyson said. “But her whole barometer [as a fighter] is, she’s the killer. She has that killer aura, meaning anything is capable of happening. Whoa! That’s exciting before the fight even starts.”

He was most impressed by her striking, considering she came to it late in life. She represented the U.S. in the Olympics in judo in 2004 in Athens, Greece, and in 2008 in Beijing, where she won a bronze medal.

She then turned to MMA and relied heavily on her grappling ability when she first began.

On Wednesday as she trained, her hands were fast and fluid and she easily moved from combination to combination, clearly impressing Tyson.

White told Yahoo Sports he’s not worried that she’ll walk away from fighting early because she loves it so much.

He projected 2 million pay-per-view buys if he can ever make a fight with arch-rival Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.

“That fight would be so [expletive] huge, it’s crazy,” White said. ‘I’m not [expletive] you. I really believe it could do two million if we get it done.”

Mike Tyson, right, watches as Ronda Rousey, works out at Glendale Fighting Club. (AP)
Mike Tyson, right, watches as Ronda Rousey, works out at Glendale Fighting Club. (AP)

Tyson said he can see why that fight would be so big. He said some fighters have what he called the "It Factor,” and said Rousey is unquestionably one of them.

But he’s amazed by her grace and poise and how she handles the spotlight.

“All of us are here to see her, and how does she stay focused with all of this?” Tyson said. “How does she not say, ‘I am the [expletive]. I am beautiful. I am a god.’ I’m serious. Listen, if you want to become anything close to being a god, the first thing you’ve got to know how to do is know how to decimate. If you’re a god, you have to know how to decimate, and that’s what she does.

“It would be very easy for her to have a big head: [Speaking as if he were Rousey], ‘I can beat anybody in this world.’ I don’t know. Maybe she’s a likeness of a god.”

White was also blown away as Rousey worked out, and it was hard not to be. She won her last two fights in 30 seconds combined, and on Wednesday, she looked as if she’d improved since February when she needed only 14 seconds to successfully defend her belt against Cat Zingano at UFC 174.

She may be the best pure athlete in the UFC, and her technique is improving each day. But White said what separates her from most of her peers is her mental approach.

“For all the great things about her, the most significant in my opinion is her mental game,” White said. “She’s so mentally tough and so psychotically competitive. The other thing is that she’s super talented, but she’s incredibly durable. This woman is never hurt. Think about how many injuries we have in this sport. Well, this woman trains like an animal, fights like an animal and is never hurt ever.

“She is the most durable human being I have ever met. The physical, mental and emotional toll has to be great, or at least you would think it would have to be, but none of it fazes her.”

Rousey listened intently when Tyson spoke to her, but said as big of a deal as it is to have the boxing legend watch her, it won’t sink in for a few weeks.

“I’m really glad he was able to come, but it won’t be until after I beat Bethe and go home and go back to the hotel and look at myself in the mirror for the first time, like he was saying, that’s the moment it all hits you,” Rousey said. “He knows better than anyone what that moment is like. I think that’s the time it’s really going to hit me.”

There’s no doubt, though, when it hit Tyson: Only seconds after he walked into the gym.

“Am I impressed?” he asked in mock indignation. “Let’s see, is it extraordinarily impressed? Or should it be exceptionally? Or incredibly? One of those should be right. Or all of them. That lady is one tremendous fighter.”

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