Ronda Rousey seeks perfect film/fight balance

Esther Lin photo

GLENDALE, Calif. -- From the moment Ronda Rousey started to break out as a star, it seems, there has been speculation as to when she'd leave mixed martial arts behind.

Maybe it's because Gina Carano bailed at the first sign of Hollywood fame and never returned. Maybe it's because Rousey's charisma draws mainstream attention to a degree no one else in the sport can capture. Maybe it's because of that hard-to-define "it" factor. Perhaps it's all of the above.

But all this speculation misses that the UFC women's bantamweight champion, first and foremost, loves to fight. That's a point she went out of her way to make Monday at an open workout promoting her UFC 170 main event title defense against Sara McMann.

Rousey was emphatic when asked whether the promise of Hollywood riches will pull her away from the sport.

"I'm a fighter," Rousey told reporters gathered at the Glendale Fighting Club. "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."

Of course, it wasn't as if Rousey was being asked about a future outside the sport without reason. Just last week, her latest film projects were announced, as she'll have roles in both "Entourage" and "The Athena Project." Filming for the former begins in Los Angeles next month.

The way Rousey envisions an ideal life, she'll continue to bounce between fighting and film making.

"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," Rousey said. "It would be nice to do something a little different, and miss it. 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."

Rousey believes a bit of mental synergy helped forge her "Entourage" role. She says didn't watch the show during it's run on HBO, and only began watching it recently, when she was looking for a distraction from training leading up to her UFC 168 title defense against Miesha Tate.

"I wanted to watch something lighthearted, so I was like, you know what? I want to watch ‘Entourage,'" Rousey said. "Everyone talked about it, but I've never seen a single episode of Entourage. Let's start watching it. Being that I don't watch anything at all, so I was watching it and I was on the third season and it was after the Miesha fight and then I was asked about the movie. So it was funny, i was just, ‘I just manifested the s--- out of that.'"

Of course, Rousey can't get too wrapped up on her future movie roles at the moment, because she's got someone intent on manifesting the s--- out of her UFC title opportunity in less than two weeks.

On Monday, Rousey went through a workout far more intense than one usually sees at these sort of events, as if she was looking to prove a point. She tossed around a male sparring partner in the ring with crisp and violent judo throws that reverberated around the gym. In her boxing work, she got a bit out of control, just missing coach Edmond Tarverdyan with a left uppercut which would have cracked him in the jaw had it been an inch closer, and rocking him backwards with a left to the midsection.

The message was clear: Rousey's in killer condition as she gets ready for her second fight in eight weeks.

"I came into this camp still in shape from my last fight," Rousey said. "You know, I came in coming off two movies and I did my best to come out in shape and I was coming off 10 weeks without sparring or any of that. So, I started this one in shape and my coach is actually going through his notes from my last fight and we realized all my best performances are from when I've gone the shortest time from my last fight."

What Rousey says she won't do, however, is have a game plan, which on the surface seems strange, given the judo vs. wrestling storyline going into the bout.

"Fights are chaotic themselves," Rousey said. "You can't really expect much that's why we don't go in with a game plan. We plan out the first exchange, and we prepare of the tendencies of the other fighter, but we don't really know. So, that's hard to say, but, from what I've experienced in training is, the better the partners I'm with, the higher the skill level, the higher caliber of the athlete I spar against, the better I perform."

Dig a little deeper, though, and you see the Rousey has in fact thought the game plan through, as she discusses the subtle-but-profound differences in judo throws vs. wrestling takedowns.

"Throws you have to muscle through are wrestling," Rousey said. "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 [Liz] 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."

Rousey's eyes lit up as she discussed those difference. The "student of the game" type of excitement Rousey displays is enough to make you think that maybe she's in MMA for the long haul after all.

"I just want to have enough money to do what I enjoy for a living," Rousey said. "Right now what I enjoy is fighting."

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