In the end, Ronda Rousey did not have to survive just Liz Carmouche’s submission attempt in their UFC 157 main event. She had to survive everything that built up to the moment. The unrelenting media demands, the reduced training time, the weight of history. It all built up into a pressure cooker, an all-or-nothing blip in time in which Rousey — and by extension women’s fighting in the UFC — would either sink or swim.
We know now that Rousey did survive it all, continuing her amazing streak of first-round armbar victories, though we’ll never quite know or truly understand what it was like to live through it.
Her manager, Darin Harvey, has some insight into it. He could see Rousey’s schedule fill up with 5 am wakeup calls for press obligations that dotted her day.
“I’m not going to make the pressure of the fight an excuse because Ronda didn’t show me she was very stressed out but I think the amount of press that she had to do was unprecedented,” he said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “She didn’t really get a complete training camp. And this is not anything Ronda said; this is just that I’ve seen what she’s gone through. She could not consistently train for anything. She’s a very mental fighter and puts her full heart and her mind into a fight. The focus was so broken up this time. Normally I’ll talk to the P.R. department, but we had a responsibility to build the most important fight, I think male or female, in history.”
While Rousey didn’t have the optimal camp, she did add an instructor who Harvey believes was instrumental to her victory and in surviving her worst moment.
Ryron Gracie, a fourth-degree black belt and grandson of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu creator Helio, spent a significant amount of time with Rousey focusing on her submission defense. That would become crucial early in the first round when Carmouche took her back and worked in a face crank.
For most of the fight’s observers, it was a tense, dramatic moment rife with the anticipation of a possible major upset. But not for Harvey.
“I was worried about her pretty face getting scratched up but I wasn’t really worried about her getting choked out,” he said.
Soon after, Rousey turned the momentum to her side and locked in the fight-ending arm bar.
According to Harvey, Rousey celebrated the win by eschewing a post-fight after party in favor of returning to her hotel room to eat buffalo wings. He said that’s about par for the course from a fighter who has raced to stardom without losing herself.
“She hasn’t lost any of her humility at all,” he said. “My dad says when you put someone on a pedestal, they’ll only look down on you. She’s been put on this pedestal but she’s not looking down on anybody. She’s maintained her humility. Of course, she’s a young woman and it’s an incredibly challenging, confronted with all this success and all this fame. And it’s happened — three years is overnight in this business — it’s happened very rapidly to make history, but she’s handling it very well.”
Business-wise, the world is Rousey’s to conquer. Harvey said in conjunction with her representation at powerhouse talent agency William Morris Endeavor, they are exploring major sponsorship opportunities, from apparel to cosmetics and beyond.
Sporting-wise, there are also options. Harvey said he expects Rousey to fight again sometime around July or August. While Harvey has a personal preference for a rematch with Miesha Tate, he acknowledges that someone like newcomer Sara McMann, who is, like Rousey, an Olympic medalist, would make for an interesting fight as well. A coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter also sounds intriguing.
He also won’t shut the door on Cris Cyborg, the former Strikeforce featherweight champ who requested and received a release to sign with Invicta. While he still maintains that Rousey won’t submit to a catch weight fight with Cyborg, he believes that eventually Cyborg will exhaust her 145-pound options and make the cut to fight Rousey.
“Ronda didn’t think she’d be able to make  until she tried it,” he said. “When she fought Miesha Tate at 135 pounds it was untested but she did it. It wasn’t easy but she made it. She’s a big, strong girl, too.
“To say anything’s impossible, it wouldn’t be the right thing to say.”
But for now, that all lies in the future. Rousey is looking to fall off the grid and out of the public eye for a little vacation time while the UFC moves on to ramp up its investment in her division.
And even though for the first time, Rousey on Saturday night truly looked vulnerable, Harvey sees things another way.
“I’ve heard all this stuff about holes and games,” he said. “I think as [Ronda] develops [herself] and stepping away from judo, you’re trying different things a little bit. It takes a little time to work it out. I don’t believe this was Ronda’s best performance, but I believe it was one of her toughest opponents to date. And even fighting not her best performance and fighting one of her toughest opponents to date, she still finished the girl off in the first round. So, watch out, girls, That’s all I have to say.”
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