Four hundred and ten days.
That is the number of days that have elapsed since Holly Holm sent Ronda Rousey crashing to the mat in Melbourne, Australia. In that moment, Holm did what seemed to be impossible to others – claim the women’s bantamweight title from the seemingly unstoppable Rousey. After that defeat, Ronda disappeared into the shadows after that loss, possibly to lick her wounds or possibly just exhausted from the demands of her 2015 UFC schedule. Or maybe even both.
When I previewed UFC 207 last night on Around the Ring, one of the things I felt would be very important to this bout is mindset. Rousey has been gone from the cage for over a year, and one would have to suspect that some of her skills are possibly rusty. After all and not unlike any other sport, sparring in a gym is far different than fighting under the lights in front of millions. But Rousey has come into this fight in stunning physical shape as witnessed in the Thursday ceremonial weigh in. The physical skill set is not likely going to be an issue.
But is she in mental fighting shape?
Edmond Tarverdyan, her coach, promised we would see the same fighter when she returned. Boyfriend Travis Browne admitted in an ESPN interview that he “felt bad” for Rousey’s next opponent. Rousey herself has said in an ESPN the Magazine interview that she wasn’t interested in promoting UFC 207 and all she cares about is “winning this f**king fight.” Shortly after losing to Holm, she said that she needs to “beat this chick.” On the surface, those all seem like the right statements of a confident ex-champion in search of returning to glory.
Yet what little bit of Rousey we have seen since that shocking UFC 193 loss says otherwise. She has been recluse, making few public appearances and picking and choosing her moments. She hasn’t talked much. Her interview on the Ellen Degeneres Show could have been considered a safe place for her, with a host that would likely not ask the pointed hard questions of the fight media and an audience waiting to applaud her. When she broke down and cried in front of that audience, they cared and consoled her rather than looked at her in judgement.
Rousey avoided the fight media this week as well – those people who would indeed ask the hard questions and seek the truth from her. Dana White took up for his superstar fighter it would seem when he hosted a media event on Thursday. The media immediately questioned Rousey’s mindset and White said that “her everything is good. She’s ready to roll. She’s ready to fight. She’s in a great mood. It’s all good.”
You can study the statistics all you want. Rousey has finished all twelve of her wins off without going the distance – three knockouts and nine submissions. She is the only women’s bantamweight champion to successfully defend the title, as both Holm and Miesha Tate lost the title on their first defense. Eleven of her twelve wins have come in the first round. Nunes has won nine fights by knockout and three by submission, asking the question if she has the superior striking to stop Rousey like Holm did. But the real story of this fight, in this writer’s opinion, is mental mindset.
Who is to say that Rousey won’t walk into the cage Friday night and decimate Nunes in 30 seconds? After all, talking doesn’t win fights – skill does. Her avoidance of the media, though, points to the fact that she really isn’t interested in being at this fight. I can’t help but question whether Rousey truly is there for redemption and revenge, or simply because she has to be there.
In a few short hours on this last Friday of 2016, we will find out if the Rousey we get will be the one that reeled off six straight title defenses, or the broken version that seemed so rattled by one shocking loss that it sent her into hiding. In this writer’s opinion, that ultimately will determine who walks out of UFC 207 with the Women’s Bantamweight Championship.