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Ronda Rousey cool with swimsuit pics: 'If they can't see your cash and prizes, then I'm fine with it'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ronda Rousey was featured in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue recently and the photos were some of her most provocative yet.

The UFC women's bantamweight champion was on the cover of ESPN's The Body Issue three years ago fully nude, though Rousey was turned away from the camera in the photos. Some of the Sports Illustrated pictures featured Rousey with her top off laying on her stomach on a beach.

The transcendent MMA star explained Wednesday at her Glendale Fighting Club gym the pact she has with her mother AnnMaria de Mars regarding risqué photo shoots.

"Well, no one saw my vagina," Rousey said at the Los Angeles-area media day to promote UFC 184. "There's the one big difference. The agreement that me and my mom came up with was whatever you're not willing to show in public, you won't show in a magazine. So if I'm gonna tan on the beach with my top off facedown, how is that different than anything I've shot so far? If they can't see your cash and prizes, then I'm fine with it. If I'm gonna do that on a Saturday, then what's wrong with me doing it in a magazine?"

@si_swimsuit issue...

A photo posted by rondarousey (@rondarousey) on

Rousey's current position is a far cry from how she was perceived growing up. Competing in judo since she was an adolescent, Rousey has said she was always a tomboy and made fun of for not being feminine enough. Ironically, now she is one of the top sex symbol female athletes on the planet.

"I never wore makeup until I was 21, because I was bartending and I needed tips," Rousey said. "You never know. I followed where everything went and I'm really happy where I'm at now. I'm glad that I had no clue growing up. I'm glad that I grew up a little slower and I wasn't into any of that stuff in high school. I wouldn't have changed anything. I'm happy to be one of the unpopular kids back then, because it makes things so much more satisfying right now."

Rousey (10-0) defends her title against Cat Zingano at UFC 184 on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles. Then, two of her movies -- "Entourage" and "Fast & Furious 7" -- will open in the spring. With her excellence in the Octagon and crossover into the mainstream, Rousey has become an inspiration for young female athletes everywhere. She's embracing that role.

"I purposely, any time I do a shoot that's aimed for any kind of feminine or sexual purpose, I try to be a little bigger on purpose just to promote a healthier body image," Rousey said. "And it's kind of funny, I think that says a lot more to change what women expect from themselves than not doing anything at all, than withholding any sexuality at all. I think that changing the kind of media and images directed at men changes what women expect out of themselves."

Those are the kinds of things Rousey never thought she'd have to even consider just a few years ago. But as a role model, she understands she does now. Yet there remains some teen awkwardness in a woman who is obsessed with things like World of Warcraft and Pokemon.

"I couldn't even smile not awkwardly for a photo," Rousey said of the SI shoot. "I had like a Chandler Bing, like that smile. I couldn't do it right. You had to like surprise me."

With the Swimsuit Issue being an annual institution, turning down the opportunity never entered into Rousey's mind.

"I was stoked from the very beginning," she said. "Why would you hesitate?"