LAS VEGAS -- UFC president Dana White has heard the critics who have questioned why Ronda Rousey is going to headline a pay-per-view event in her UFC debut. And he has a simple answer: "She's the champ."
Rousey, the inaugural UFC women's bantamweight champion, will meet Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. on Feb. 23. Many within the industry felt it was a risk to put the first women's fight in UFC history in such a sink-or-swim position. But the way White explained it at the TUF 16 Finale post-fight news conference, he's not treating Rousey's title fight any differently than a if a men's title fight was on the card.
"She's the champ," said White. "You will never see a situation in any fight, whether men, women, the lightest weight division there is. If you're the champion, you're the headliner. You're the top of the card.
"I've seen some people talking s---, 'ohh, the women's fight is headlining,'" White continued. "Ronda Rousey is badass, she's a champ, her opponent stepped up to the plate and wanted this fight with her when no one, others didn't. I don't give a s-- what they say, that's a fact."
White compared the reaction the Rousey-Carmouche announcement received in some circles to his decision to headline UFC 35 in 2002 with the Jens Pulver-B.J. Penn lightweight title fight, won by Pulver on a majority decision.
"What people don't realize is there was a time and a day when we put the '55 pound division and headlined it with a title fight and people said, 'you can't headline a title fight, BJ Penn and Jens Pulver in a title fight headlining?' This is ridiculous. BJ Penn become one of the biggest stars in mixed martial arts and a huge pay-per-view draw."
White copped to the notion that Rousey was the first women's fighter to catch his attention and change his mind about his long-held stance against women in the UFC.
"I'll admit Ronda's the one who got me interested, but this is going to be done the same exact as the guys. Nothing different," White said.
But the UFC boss went on to empathically say that he considers the women's bantamweight division a deep talent pool, and that there will be other fights within the division.
"I'm looking at Ronda and all the other 135-pound women the same way I'm looking at the guys," White said. "They're UFC fighters, and they deserve all the recognition and perks and all the other things that go along with the men. Everyone keeps asking all this crazy s--, it's not f-- 1920 guys, there's women fighting in the UFC, there's a woman who's the champ, she's mean, she's nasty, she's badass, and there are other girls in that division who are tough. There are fights out there that will be interesting, and I'm going to treat them the way I treat the guys, no different."