Friday, May 30, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Ronda Rousey planned to spend the past few days with relative relaxation before immersing herself in a fight camp.
The UFC women’s bantamweight champion at least didn’t expect to stray far from her Southern California home. Then executives from her second budding career came calling.
Hollywood types arranged for Rousey to get to France for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival two weeks ago, which she described as “a last-minute thing.”
“It was a big deal,” UFC President Dana White said. “A lot of strings were pulled with some heavy hitters in Hollywood to make sure she was there. Pretty impressive.”
Beyond calling the trip a valuable experience, however, don’t look for Rousey to offer any more insight. The moment she stepped off the plane back in the States, she transformed into fight mode.
Rousey (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) will attempt to defend her title for the fourth time against Alexis Davis (16-5 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in the co-headliner of UFC 175 on July 5 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“The only thing I care about is beating Alexis,” Rousey said last week at a press conference to kick off publicity for the event. “My whole fighting career and my whole Hollywood career depend on it.”
Rousey believes her star status is almost fully predicated on her impeccable fighting record even though it seems she’s started to transcend beyond mixed martial arts. If she’s as illustrious as White insists, then Rousey has nothing to worry about regardless.
Some questioned her appeal after the last event she headlined, UFC 171, reportedly saw a stark decline in pay-per-view buys from her first main-event assignment. But White disputes any notion of the Rousey hysteria tailing off, both in fighting and other avenues.
“Believe me, she’s pretty big outside of the sport,” White said. “It’s pretty impressive what she’s done in a short amount of time.”
Rousey has to put finishing touches on her scenes in the “Entourage” movie one day next week. Other than that minor task, she’ll have nothing to distract her from the International Fight Week date with Davis.
Not even the impending August release of “The Expendables 3” — the primary reason she wound up at Cannes — will get in the way.
“All July, I will be doing the song and dance to promote ‘The Expendables 3,’” Rousey said, deflecting questions about the film.
Rousey’s penetrating glare toward Davis a couple of times throughout last week’s press conference at the MGM typified her focus. The most evident example came in the middle of the event when Davis casually rebuked some of Rousey’s trash talk in past fights.
“Alexis, can you cite one thing I’ve said about you?” Rousey interrupted.
Davis immediately backpedaled as fast as a fighter trying to recover after getting rocked with a haymaker. She concluded that Rousey’s only offenses came before the two fights against archrival Miesha Tate.
“That’s been pretty much what we’ve heard from Ronda,” Davis said. “She’s been pretty much respectful of every other fighter she’s come across with, and grown with the game.”
Greeting confrontation with tentativeness won’t work in the fight. It would play right into Rousey's attacking nature.
But Davis says a different side of her will come out at UFC 175. She’s been outspoken about wanting the bout with Rousey ever since the UFC implemented the women’s division and won’t waste finally reaching it.
“I feel great,” Davis said. “I’m privileged to have this opportunity. Whether the fans are behind me or not, Ronda and I are going to have an incredible fight. Either way, something is going to happen that you’re going to be talking about for weeks on end.”
Davis is the first Brazilian jiujitsu black belt Rousey has ever faced, meaning perhaps she’s better equipped to defend against the armbar. Rousey, who got her first non-armbar victory at UFC 171 with a TKO over Sara McMann, admitted as much but welcomed the challenge.
These days, it’s easy to admire Rousey’s quick ascent in the entertainment world while forgetting she continues to do the same in fighting.
“The most intelligent thing I think she could do is try to elbow me whenever I come in for a clinch, push kicks to try to keep me away and knees in middle distance,” Rousey said. “So, I’m kind of more focusing on what she would focus on and working around that, not trying to limit myself to one particular kind of finish.”