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Judo Olympic medalist talks Ronda Rousey’s $30,000 donation, 'Rowdy' vs. Bethe Correia

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Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Ronda Rousey flew to Brazil to announce her UFC 190 bout with Bethe Correia for Aug. 1, and also had a surprise for a longtime friend.

Flavio Canto, an Olympic bronze medalist in judo and one of Rousey’s biggest idols from her judo days, created in 2003 a social project called "Instituto Reação," where he teaches martial arts to needy children in Rio de Janeiro. Rousey, who visited the institute in 2014, decided to help him.

"That was a huge surprise," said Canto, who received a $30,000 donation from the UFC bantamweight champion on March 21. "We were recording a story for my TV show with her and Rafael dos Anjos on Saturday and, when I told her I had one last question, she asked me to wait because she had a surprise for me."

"She got up and came back with a big check," he continued. "She auctioned the gloves she used on her last fight and said she had promised to give all the money to Reação. I started to sweat. I didn’t know what to say, how to thank her. It was a big surprise. I was emotional."

Canto sees Rousey as the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world, and doesn’t see anyone that could beat her today.

"I have a great relationship with Bethe. It’s a cliché to say that this is the fight of [Correia’s] life, but Ronda is a phenomenal athlete," he said. "It’s hard for anyone to beat her. Bethe is undefeated so she has that confidence, the same kind that Chris Weidman has, but Ronda is the favorite against her or any other fighter in the world. Ronda is the number one pound for pound fighter in the world, including men.

"[Cris] Cyborg would be the toughest fight for her, no doubt about it," he continued. "Cyborg can knock out Ronda or any other fighter, including men. But in her division, Ronda is the favorite against any other girl. I think Cyborg would have a chance of defeating Ronda or any man, but Ronda is the most dangerous fighter in the UFC today."

So what should Correia do to dethrone Rousey at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro? A better question would be what Correia shouldn’t do against the UFC star.

"How can you lose a fight to Ronda without giving her any trouble? Do what Cat (Zigano) did," Canto said. "She made a long list of mistakes.

"I lost a competition once and I would tell Cat exactly what my father told me that day. I was so aggressive, trying my best, but my opponent got like three or four yukos on me. When I left the mat, my father came to me and said ‘too much heart, but no head’. That’s exactly what Cat tried to do. She tried to grab and scramble with a world-class judoka."

A black belt in judo and jiu-jitsu, Canto has a great relationship with Rousey, but wouldn’t be opposed to helping Correia for UFC 190.

"I used to train with good friends that were also opponents," Canto said. "There was a guy that I fought all the time. One day, after one tournament, eh went to the gym and asked me how I got him on an armbar. My principles were more important to me, and I taught him how I did it. My coach was mad at me because I would eventually fight him again, but I didn’t care. Nothing can be more important than my principles. I never hid my game. I was always an open book.

"I wouldn’t root for anyone in a fight like that because Ronda is a friend, I have a great relationship with her from our judo days and I admire her, but I can’t say I wouldn’t help (Correia) because of my principles. Ronda would understand that. But working on (Correia’s) camp, I don’t have time for that. I don’t even think I have any technical knowledge in MMA for that, but I wouldn’t refuse to teach anyone anything."