Miesha Tate tapped to the armbar and stood, offering her right hand to Ronda Rousey. Rousey rose to her feet, glanced at Tate, turned her back and walked toward her corner where Judo legend Gene LeBell wrapped her in an embrace. A mixture of boos and cheers rained down on Rousey, the defending UFC women’s bantamweight champion. The boos, cascading down after the co-main event of UFC 168 came to a close, didn’t seem to bother Rousey in the least.
Those showering Rousey with derision couldn’t have been surprised that she refused to acknowledge them. After all, this is the woman whose walkout music is Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” a song whose first words are “I don’t give a damn about my reputation.”
Rousey was recently in Los Angeles for a media luncheon to promote her February 22 title defense against No. 4 ranked Sara McMann discussed her persona, saying, “I’ve never acted like a nice, sweet, young American girl. I always wanted to be the heel, and I’m sure people are still going to boo me. It’s not like they forgot about it and that’s fine. That’s the way it is. It’s like Saint McMann, they’re going to love her.”
Rousey did address the spurned handshake offering from Tate, comparing it to one of the more iconic moments in sports, “I had a couple people talking to me about the handshake thing, and you know what I think is the most iconic picture in all of sports? Ali standing over an unconscious Sonny Liston and taunting an unconscious opponent on the ground. How unsportsmanlike is that?”
That photograph from May 25, 1965 shows Ali standing over Liston screaming at Liston to “Get up and fight, sucker” after landing what, to this day remains the most famous “phantom punch” in combat sports history. It is an iconic image, and a favorite of many combat sports fans.
Rousey pointed out that the image of her refusing Tate’s handshake at UFC 168 had nothing on the image of Ali standing above the downed Liston, “If I knocked Miesha out and stood over her and I was like, “Yeah, that’s right you stupid f—ing b—h,’ you know what everyone would say to me? You know how much everyone would freak out and call me the worst person in the world? That is one of the most iconic images in all of sports, and it was an unsportsmanlike moment.”
Rousey also recalled a conversation she had with fighter Shayna Baszler. According to Rousey, Baszler told her, “Heels become legends.”
Hammering that point home, Rousey cited two boxing greats that seem to confirm Baszler’s statement, “Ali was the heel, he got a lot of boos, and now he’s the greatest of all time. Tyson, people were calling him an ear-biting rapist, and everybody loves Tyson.”
There were some shared smiles and laughs between Rousey and McMann when they faced off for their first staredown ahead of their UFC 170 meeting. The interaction between the two recalled Rousey’s dealings with Liz Carmouche ahead of their meeting at UFC 157. There was no visible discomfort or animosity evident from Rousey, a far cry from her past dealings with Tate.
Despite the lack of animosity, Rousey is fully aware that a number of MMA fans will not be rooting for her when she faces McMann in Las Vegas in the main event of UFC 170. However, don’t expect Rousey to lose any sleep over that fact, “I’m expecting a lot of boos for a while,” Rousey said. “Whatever, cheers don’t pay for my gas.”
For all her talk about not caring, for all her scowls, raised middle fingers, and refused handshakes there does seem to be a part of Rousey that does care, that does want to go down in the history books as a great champion and athlete. This fact was evidenced when Rousey said, “Hopefully people remember my athletic accomplishments more than anything else.”
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