LOS ANGELES — Decked out in a sharp business suit, Ronda Rousey looked to be all business on Tuesday.
But the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s women’s bantamweight champion and archrival Miesha Tate, as per usual with the adversaries, got personal as the UFC’s World Tour 2013 touched down in Los Angeles in front of a gathering of media and fans on Tuesday morning at Club Nokia.
“How is it not a rivalry?” said Rousey (7-0), the Glendale Fighting Club-trained champ who will face off once more with Tate (13-4) on Dec. 28 at UFC 168 in Las Vegas live on pay-per-view. “I have everything that she wants in life.”
The centerpiece, of course, as to what Tate wants and Rousey does not want to relinquish is the UFC title, which Rousey will defend for the second time after she was crowned champion before successfully defending her belt on Feb. 23 against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 in the organization’s first-ever women’s fight. Rousey previously bested Tate on March 3, 2012 to wrestle away the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight strap.
“She has a lot of things that I want, but that’s not what makes it a rivalry for me,” said Tate, who was on the receiving end of a Rousey middle finger on two occasions on stage Tuesday. “It’s really more of a personal thing.”
Tuesday was the second day of the five-day, 11-city UFC World Tour, which is no doubt the organization’s most ambitious media tour ever, serving to build up four pay-per-views that will conclude the calendar year.
It began Monday with stops in Las Vegas and the Bay Area and will continue through New York, Montreal, Houston, Sweden, Dallas, Chicago, London and Rio de Janeiro. Tuesday’s L.A. stop and Wednesday’s New York presser at the Beacon Theatre are the only two featuring the entire eight-fighter cavalcade. After Wednesday, Rousey and Tate will conclude their tour on Friday in Chicago.
In addition to Tate and Rousey, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, light heavyweight titlist Jon Jones and welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre were on hand, along with their respective opponents, Junior dos Santos, Alexander Gustafsson and Johny Hendricks.
“This is a special time. We’ve never had this many huge, great fights to end the year,” said UFC President Dana White of the impetus for the tour. “It was a unique opportunity, something we’ve never done before.”
Rousey and Tate are no strangers to harsh words fueling the build-up to their fight, as the aforementioned Strikeforce showdown was marked by plenty of contentious talk. For Tate, at least, therein lie the roots of a rivalry that, for all intents and purposes, has only grown stronger.
“It’s the level of disrespect that I feel like I’ve always felt and that’s what makes it personal,” Tate said. “I’ve faced a lot of people, I would say everyone, but Ronda, that I don’t have any beef with.
“She just has a way of irritating me and I think vice versa, so I think that’s where the rivalry thing comes in.”
Further fueling the rivalry fire was the recently concluded tapings for the upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” in which Rousey and Tate were opposing coaches. After six straight weeks of seeing each other on a daily basis, the heated rivals are now engaging on a tour in which they must interact yet again.
Hence, when White was asked what it was like having a quartet of future opponents engaging with each other, he said there was no reason to keep anybody apart except for one set of combatants.
“Just Ronda and Miesha,” White said.
Roughly 15 minutes into Tuesday’s press conference, with many in the crowd yelling for reporters to, “Ask Ronda a question,” the former two-time United States Olympian fielded her first question as to how the two interact around each other.
“We’ve been involved with each other long enough where we kind of have a rhythm of how we deal with each other,” Rousey said. “She mostly just doesn’t look me in the eye or talk to me, a lot of the time. Which I like to relate to Mike Tyson’s speech about seeing the chink in the armor when you won’t look an opponent in the eye. That’s pretty much how it goes all the time.”
“Like I said, just these two,” White interjected amid the crowd’s oohs and ahhs.
Added Jones: “What do you got to say about that Miesha?”
“That’s not what happened backstage,” Tate replied.
As the rivalry has been a watershed moment in the growth of women’s mixed martial arts, aiding mightily in bringing it to its current high, one question came to be as to whether, years down the road, the rivalry would be put to the side, enabling the combatants to focus on history rather than histrionics.
“I highly doubt it,” Tate said.
Following the media’s questions, White had a microphone passed around for fan questions. The first to ask Rousey a question was a little girl wondering if the champion would look to end her bout with Tate just as she did their first — and every other MMA fight she’s had — by applying her signature armbar.
“If I see it, if it happens to be there, then I’ll go for it. I like to see everything ... not just focus on one thing,” said Rousey, an Olympic bronze medalist in judo who’s used the armbar to submit all seven of her opponents inside of the first round. “I keep my mind open and if it’s there, I try it.”
One final question was for Tate, who was asked why she wouldn’t look Rousey in the eye.
“I’ll look her in the eyes right now,” Tate said. “Where you at Ronda?”
As Tate looked down the two tables, Rousey met her stare with a middle finger.
It was the first of two occasions on the day in which Rousey would toss the bird in her opponent’s direction, the next coming after they posed for a staredown.
While Rousey and Tate were at odds as usual, the former was one of the last fighters remaining, along with Hendricks, signing autographs and posing for pictures before she was finally whisked away by UFC personnel.
Following the whirlwind world tour, Rousey is set to leave for filming of “The Expendables 3,” where she said she’ll have many of her camp members so as not to impede her training.
Along the way, “The Ultimate Fighter 18” is set to premiere on Sept. 4 on Fox Sports 1, serving to further build up the anticipation for Rousey and Tate’s Dec. 28 showdown.
Until then, there’s likely to be plenty more middle fingers and smack talk tossed about.
Said White of Rousey: “She’s not afraid to tell you what she thinks and she’s not afraid to tell you what she thinks of Tate.”