Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche are set to make history Saturday night as the first ever women’s combatants in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
They’ll compete for the bantamweight belt at UFC157 in Anaheim, Calif. It’s an event brimming with stories, and here are five you should know before the bout.
1. Women get their chance
Sure, boxing is brutal, but women still box. Taekwondo, judo and karate are just as demanding, yet women vie for Olympic medals in some of them, too. But mixed martial arts can be merciless.
Two fighters enter an eight-sided "ring" with little more than thin gloves on their hands as protection and begin beating each other using whatever technique befits their styles.
They can trade punches, judo tosses or submission holds like arm bars that can result in broken limbs. Is this something anyone, let alone women, really want to do?
“It’s bad enough when a guy is getting beaten up, but a woman?” UFC president Dana White once famously said.
Well, lots of women are fighting MMA now, and White won’t get in the way anymore.
“Then I met Ronda,” he told Yahoo! Sports.
2. Who is ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey?
“Rowdy” Ronda is a 26-year-old Riverside, Calif., native who won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
She was first American woman to win a judo medal, which follows in her mother’s footsteps; Ann Maria Rousey was the first American to win a world judo championship.
Ronda is 5-foot-7 and 135 pounds and retired from judo after the Summer Games. Realizing she needed more competition, she started training in MMA and won her six professional bouts all in the first round, all by submission.
“These are things that needed to be done for a very long time now, and I didn’t think that waiting for somebody else to do it was the wisest thing to do,” she told The Associated Press. “I feel like I’m the most capable person, and I should do whatever I can to make it happen.”
3. Who is Liz “The Girlrilla” Carmouche?
A retired US Marine, the 29-year-old Carmouche is UFC’s first openly gay fighter (calling fans Lizbos on Twitter). She completed three tours of duty in Iraq, Sports Illustrated reported.
She’s won seven of her nine professional fights at 5-6 and 135 pounds. Originally from Lafayette, Louisiana, she now fights out of San Diego.
“Fans have gone out of their way,” Carmouche told media before the fight. “They’ve called the gym … just to say ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Thank you’ and ‘Good luck.’ They’ve stopped by to give me hugs. It’s been great. It really has.”
4. Why does this matter to anyone?
UFC is a media superpower, generating multi-millions from merchandise, ticket sales and pay-per-view events. Little boys (and girls, it seems) are as likely to say they want to become mixed-martial artists as they are baseball players.
The Rousey-Carmouche fight is a first for the UFC. Not only that, the women’s championship gets top billing in Anaheim this weekend. The undercard is totally men.
“When I have to deal with media that hasn’t covered MMA before, there’s a lot of new interest in the sport now because of the first women’s fight,” Rousey said at UFC.com.
“I know they try to get me to say things like ‘I like hurting people,’ and things that are stereotypical ideas of what MMA is, and I try very much to steer the conversation away from that, and try to explain how beautiful a sport this is. It’s not some barbaric spectacle, it really is an art, and that’s why the word ‘art’ is in it.”
5. Who is going to win?
Carmouche is the underdog based on flimsy evidence, ESPN.com said. Rousey gets the edge from bookies because of her efficient 6-0 record and higher profile, but neither fighter has competed enough to give anyone a legitimate edge.
Carmouche's experience in the Marines won't scare her, but if she gets too close to her opponent, Rousey will punish her with one of those wicked arm bars.
So, a panel of Sports Illustrated experts predicts that Rousey will have no trouble.