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UFC’s first female Ronda Rousey: ‘Women are here to stay and we’re going to prove it’

Rousey headlines UFC 157 in title fight against Liz Carmouche

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ronda Rousey shows off her UFC bantamweight championship belt, on Thursday Dec. 6, 2012. UFC president Dana White handed out the belt, saying the former Strikeforce title-holder will make her UFC debut on Feb., 23 against Liz Carmouche.

The first woman to ever sign with the UFC now has her first scheduled fight.

Former Strikeforce champion and Olympic judoka Ronda Rousey will usher in a new era in the UFC on Feb. 23 next year in Anaheim, Calif., at the Honda Center. Rousey (6-0) defends her women’s championship belt in the main event of UFC 157 against Liz Carmouche (7-2).

UFC President Dana White made the announcement Thursday during a press conference in Seattle, where the promotion will stage Saturday’s FOX card.

“I don’t even know what to make of it,” Rousey said. “It means a lot. I feel like we’re going to have a lot to prove at this event. No one’s going to be disappointed. Women are here to stay and we’re going to prove it.”

For years, White vowed that women would never fight in the octagon. But Rousey, who’s arguably the most dominant mixed martial artist in the world, changed his mind.

Rousey has won all six of her fights by first-round arm bar, breaking at least four of her opponents’ arms. White said Rousey’s combination of talent and charisma made it a no-brainer to sign her to the UFC.

Carmouche is the surprise. She was cut from Strikeforce last year after losing consecutive bouts to Marloes Coenen and Sarah Kaufman. Although she’s won two in a row since, Carmouche wasn’t considered a likely opponent for Rousey’s debut.

“That’s who wanted to fight her,” White said. “Believe me, people aren’t kicking the doors down to fight her.”

White tried to book Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (12-1), who’s ranked as the second best female fighter in the world but currently serving a suspension for a positive steroid test, against Rousey. But Cyborg initially resisted dropping an extra 10 pounds to make the 135-pound limit where Rousey reigns.

The Brazilian has since come around on the idea, but said she would need additional time. White said Cyborg would face the winner of Rousey vs. Carmouche.

“I knew she could make 135 and so did she,” Rousey said. “It just takes her a little while to realize this is the only option she has. It took her a while because she’s not that bright. When she does sit down and think about it or whatever, we’ll actually have the only fight that really makes sense.”

White grinned while Rousey unleashed that bit. Rousey’s attitude is part of the reason why White referred to her as a “superstar” and sees massive potential in the pay-per-view market.

Other fights slated to co-headline around Rousey vs. Carmouche at UFC 157 include a light heavyweight title fight between Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson and a bantamweight scrap pitting Urijah Faber against Ivan Menjivar.

Rousey momentarily paused from the celebration to issue a stern message to every other female fighter.

“When the other girls come around and want to fight in the big show,” Rousey said, “they know where I’m at.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or case.keefer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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