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All eyes on Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey has proven to be the most marketable female mixed martial artist.
The reigning UFC women’s bantamweight division champ, however, tells FOXSports.com that she doesn’t want to be the only one, a major factor in agreeing to coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter.
“I have to kind of take a lot of the work now and try to get exposure for women’s MMA,” Rousey said. “For me, taking this project is one more thing I can do so I don’t have to do all the work later and risk (over) exposure. I don’t want all this to be dependent on me.”
UFC president Dana White announced during the FX Networks prelims for UFC 158 on Saturday that Rousey will be one of the two coaches on the first mixed gender season of TUF. She will be opposed on the reality show by the winner of Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano, a bout that will take place as part of this season’s TUF finale in Las Vegas on April 13.
White laughed off a question as to whether the UFC is leaning too much on Rousey’s name to carry a division that made its debut just last month when Rousey submitted Liz Carmouche in the title fight.
“She just started,” White said. “If that overexposes somebody, holy (expletive) we’re in trouble. By the time she fights again, you wouldn’t have seen her in a long time.”
As is tradition, Rousey will fight her opposing coach after the show’s done airing later this year. White has said the fight will be on pay-per view, something that was cemented after the success of UFC 157. Rousey's headlining fight at the event is the most purchased women's PPV bout in history, with about 500,000 customers reportedly purchasing the event.
Viewers of The Ultimate Fighter expect a certain amount of coach and fighter drama — but the potential for fireworks this upcoming season is unsurpassed. Mixing genders, at least on other reality shows, has led to much more than the standard TUF pranks and fisticuffs.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” White said when asked about the possibility of sexual encounters in the house. “We have never done it before. I don’t know, man. You can’t hide (from the cameras). You pretty much give up all your freedom to be in the house.”
Added Rousey: “I don’t think anybody knows what’s really going to happen.”
Rousey already has a plan to at least attempt to thwart any liaisons.
“I am definitely going to have a long talk with my team and let them know how they compose themselves here in the house will be the first impression anybody will have of them,” Rousey said.
Reputations have certainly been cemented on the long-running show that has launched several careers. UFC fans will never forget the drunken antics and outbursts of TUF 1's Chris Leben, despite him being eight years removed from that inaugural season. TUF 16 finalist Mike Ricci has gotten as much attention for his carefully coiffed appearance as his fighting ability and that same season's champion, Colton Smith, will likely never escape the stigma of attacking his initial TUF opponent who was offering a glove touch.
“This is the beginning of their MMA fighting careers,” Rousey said. “This isn’t just some reality thing. It is one of the toughest things in MMA. It’s a tournament and training camp. If they compose themselves like they’re on Jersey Shore or the Real World, that’s the opinion the fans are going to have of them from then on. If you become a UFC champ later, you are still going to be known as the person screwing around in the house.”
The UFC will hold open tryouts — for 135-pound men and women — in Las Vegas on April 15. White said while there weren’t enough women to create an exclusively women’s household, the UFC already has scouted enough women to fill out the female portion of the house.
Rousey said she’d welcome either Tate or Zingano as a fellow competitor, first as an opposing coach and then in the Octagon.
“Miesha and I already have history, so that would be entertaining,” said Rousey, who beat Tate in Strikeforce last year. “Then again, Cat has an undefeated record. A fight between me and Cat would be pretty awesome. How many times do two undefeated fighters face each other for a title?”
But, in the end, Rousey punctuated her comments with one of her trademark blasts.
“It doesn’t matter because the same thing is going to happen in the end.”