LAS VEGAS, N.V. -- UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey knew she was going to be coaching on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. She just didn't know who would be joining her until undefeated Cat Zingano roared to a vicious third-round TKO victory over Miesha Tate at Saturday's The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale.
"The fight that I wanted the most was Cat, so I'm glad that we're going to be fighting," Rousey said after the dust settled. "On the show, you never know. I think I would've enjoyed tormenting Miesha, where as Cat seems pretty cool.
"Regardless of who I'm coaching against, it's a unique and historical situation, which seems to be coming up a lot these days."
Rousey always sees herself as the underdog, and was quick to point out that Zingano, at 8-0, possesses a better record than her own mark of 7-0. She referenced the fact that a battle of unbeaten fighters rarely happens at a championship level in the UFC, and because of that, she is just "happy to be a part of it."
As for the show itself, Rousey isn't worried about her role as head coach. The owner of an extensive history teaching judo, Rousey has coached teens crossing over into the sport's senior class for years, and she believes the process draws several parallels to TUF with people "looking to move up to the next level."
Critics are unsure what to expect with the advent of a co-ed cast, but Rousey isn't sweating it, even if it means overseeing a team comprised not only of prideful men, but also future female opponents.
"I'm used to teaching guys that want to learn," said Rousey. "I hope that the kind of guys that try out for this Ultimate Fighter are the kind that are willing to learn from women and are open minded, and don't give me a lot of trouble.
"As for coaching future competition, it doesn't really bother me at all. I feel like we need the rising tide to lift all the boats pretty much right now. I want these girls to get as good as possible and get as much exposure as possible, and if it ends up being a detriment to me in the future, well, I have to just be that much better of a competitor."
Rousey intends to bring in a high-level staff to surround her, including several of her own personal coaches. And while she was hesitant to ruin any surprises, she's confident that her mother, champion judoka Ann Maria Rousey DeMars, will make a cameo, as the show "would be incomplete" without a few live-action mom-isms.
Hearing Rousey speak about the opportunity, it's clear she's taking her chance at history seriously. Many have publicly questioned whether hormone-fueled decisions will cause the co-ed TUF season to erode into an MMA-themed version of The Real World. Rousey admits it's a possibility, but she also hopes to nip any excessive hijinks in the bud.
"I think the series itself has been going away from that kind of attention-grabby, reality TV-esque kind of genre, and more into just a documentary series on the toughest, most competitive tournament in martial arts," Rousey explained. "I think that it's going to be very similar in this season. At least [it will] on my team, because I'm going to have to remind these girls that these are the first impressions you're setting. It's the first impression you're setting for women as MMA fighters, because it's a lot of exposure that they're going to be getting.
"If they're the chick that's screwing around in the house, for the rest of their career they'll be known as the chick that was screwing around in that house. Sponsors are going to be looking at that, everybody's going to be looking at that. So if you think it's worth $100,000, that lay, then go for it. But I'm just going to remind them that there's going to be a lot of very permanent consequences to how they carry themselves in house."
While Rousey hopes the new experience is ultimately seen as a game-changer for women's MMA, she knows the final verdict will rely primarily on her fighters and their ability to exceed expectations.
"I'm going to be expecting them to hold themselves as professionals," Rousey concluded. "I would expect them to be eating as professionals and behaving as such. They're not going to be eating Ben & Jerry's. They're not going to be chugging down a bunch of Jack (Daniels). If they are, then I did a very poor job.
"I think that people need to see that we're serious about this, and we're not just a bunch of hoodlums."