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Ronda Rousey will put her newly christened UFC bantamweight title on the line against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157, promotion president Dana White announced Thursday. It will be the first women’s bout in the history of the Las Vegas-based organization.
At Thursday’s UFC on Fox 5 news conference, White officially introduced Rousey as the promotion’s inaugural women’s bantamweight champion. After he presented her with the belt, White revealed that Rousey would defend her crown against Carmouche in the UFC 157 headliner.
UFC 157 takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The organization’s confirmation of the contest comes after it was mistakenly announced that Rousey would face Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos at the Feb. 23 event. Santos quickly shot down the booking, however, stating that while her team had been negotiating with the UFC, she would be unable to make the cut down to 135 pounds in time for a February meeting with Rousey.
Nevertheless, “Cyborg” did reveal that if given more time to make her weight cut that she might be able to trim down to bantamweight in order to challenge for Rousey’s title, contradicting previous reports asserting that such a cut could cause health complications for the former Strikeforce featherweight champion.
While White stated that the Rousey-Santos contest was his first choice for the UFC 157 headliner, he also revealed that Carmouche was the most willing alternative opponent for the champion.
“[Rousey-Santos] was obviously the fight we wanted to make. We wanted to do that at 135 pounds, and we worked hard to make that fight. I believe that this fight will happen. I truly believe the next one will be the Cyborg fight at 135 pounds,” said White. “Let me put it to you this way: [Carmouche is] who wanted to fight [Rousey]. People aren’t kicking the doors down of Zuffa to fight her.”
A 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist, Rousey has made her name in MMA by hyperextending elbows seemingly at will, submitting each of her first six opponents in the first round with her patented straight armbar. The 25-year-old captured the Strikeforce bantamweight crown from Miesha Tate this past March and defended it successfully in August, stopping former titlist Sarah Kaufman in just 54 seconds.
“[The Santos fight] is going to happen eventually. I can’t make these girls fight me when I want them to fight me,” said Rousey. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Liz. She’s the only one that stepped up and said she wanted this fight right now. It speaks a lot to her. When the other girls actually want to come to the big show, they know where I’m at.
“I didn’t know about this until this morning. I don’t even know what to make of it. It means a lot, and I feel like we have a lot to prove at this event. No one is going to be disappointed. I think the women are here to stay and we’re gonna prove it.”
Carmouche, 28, began her pro career in 2010, rattling off five straight wins before earning a shot at then-Strikeforce bantamweight queen Marloes Coenen. Though “Girl-Rilla” gave the champion all she could handle, the experienced Coenen pulled out a fourth-round submission win to retain her belt. A decision loss to Sarah Kaufman would follow for Carmouche, who then rebounded with a pair of wins in her last two outings under the Invicta FC banner, finishing Ashleigh Curry and Kaitlin Young in April and July, respectively.
Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate will defend her title for the first time when she meets Ronda Rousey in March.
The rumored title fight was made official Saturday night by Strikeforce and Showtime on the broadcast of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine. The fight will take place on March 3 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The promotion returns to the venue for the second straight year to coincide with The Arnold Sports Festival.
Tate won the 135-pound title against Marloes Coenen in July. Ironically, that was a fight that was pushed from last year’s Strikeforce event in Columbus when Tate suffered a training injury. Now she’ll fight there, but to defend her new belt.
But on Saturday’s Strikeforce broadcast, Tate was not shy about saying she doesn’t believe Rousey has yet earned a title shot against her. She believes former champ Sarah Kaufman has, though. Kaufman is the last fighter to beat Tate, who has since gone on a six-fight winning streak. There has been a good amount of back-and-forth between the three fighters on social media, making the potential for fireworks when any of the three of them are paired up.
“(There will be) more (fireworks than you’ve seen online). I can guarantee it – more,” Tate said about the fight with Rousey. “Honestly, I just don’t think she was next in line. I think she’s done great so far. She’s had a really impressive career. But I think she’s still new. She’s only a year into her career; I’m about six (years). Kaufman’s about six (years). Kaufman’s 14-1, I’m 12-2. We’re kind of veterans of the sport and coming in, (Rousey) kind of talked herself into a title fight. I’m going to be very excited to send her where she belongs, and that’s the back of the line.”
Rousey (4-0, 2-0 Strikef0rce) has been on a tear, winning all four of her fights by armbar submission, and all of them in less than a minute. In November, she submitted Julia Budd in 39 seconds on a Strikeforce Challengers show, and in her promotional debut in August, she submitted Sarah D’Alelio in just 25 seconds. Both of those fights were at 145 pounds, so she will drop to 135 to challenge Tate.
Tate (12-2, 5-1 Strikeforce) has four finishes in her six-fight winning streak, including a fourth-round submission of Coenen to win the title in July. She was a high school wrestler and trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Calif., with the likes of Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and her longtime boyfriend, UFC fighter Bryan Caraway.
Even though the Tate-Rousey fight is one Tate thinks should wait, at least until Rousey has some more wins under her belt, Zuffa president Dana White on Saturday said he’s excited for the fight.
“I’m very much (looking forward to it),” White told Showtime play-by-play man Mauro Ranallo. “Two talented fighters, and I say it all the time: Mixed martial arts is so respectful and everybody loves each other. But when they don’t, it makes it a lot more fun. And I’m really looking forward to that fight.”
Tate-Rousey is likely to take co-main event positioning on the card. Though a main event has not yet been announced, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has said the promotion is targeting that date for the heavyweight tournament finals between Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier. Cormier is awaiting clearance to fight for a broken hand.