Ronda Rousey re­turns to re­claim belt at UFC 207

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LAS VE­GAS:

Ronda Rousey climbed on the scale and glared into the dis­tance while the crowd roared. Mo­ments later, she di­rected that with­er­ing gaze at UFC ban­tamweight cham­pion Amanda Nunes, who stared right back. Rousey then left the stage at TMo­bile Arena on Thurs­day with­out a word to Nunes or the thou­sands of fans gath­ered largely to sup­port her at the weigh-in on the eve of UFC 207.

Rousey (12-1) was ar­guably the most dom­i­nant mixed mar­tial arts fighter in the young sport’s his­tory un­til she lost her belt 13 months ago in a stun­ning knock­out. Af­ter de­vot­ing a year to get­ting back on top, Rousey is de­ter­mined to earn her re­demp­tion Fri­day night with her skills, not her words.

Her come­back fight against Nunes (13-4) is the main event in the UFC’s tra­di­tional end-of-the year show in its home­town, and few events in the pro­mo­tion’s block­buster 2016 have been more an­tic­i­pated.

No­body is cer­tain which Rousey will show up in the cage. Will it be the con­fi­dent judo ge­nius who thrashed a se­ries of over­matched op­po­nents while blaz­ing a trail into the main­stream for women’s MMA and the UFC in gen­eral?

Or will it be the shaky, dis­tracted vet­eran who stum­bled, flailed and even­tu­ally got stopped by Holly Holm’s head kick in Aus­tralia last year?

“I’m not sure how it’s go­ing to be, but she could do a lot of things,” Nunes said. “No­body knows, but I know I’m go­ing to be ready. We will see about her.”

Just don’t ask Rousey what she thinks. She has largely re­fused to pro­mote her fight, even de­clin­ing to speak to the UFC’s broad­cast team af­ter step­ping on the scale. The UFC re­luc­tantly agreed to Rousey’s me­dia black­out, re­al­iz­ing it could cost the pro­mo­tion un­told num­bers of pay-per-view buys.

“It’s def­i­nitely not ideal,” UFC Pres­i­dent Dana White said of Rousey’s de­ci­sion. “It’s what she asked for.” In­stead, Rousey ex­pressed her thanks in an In­sta­gram post mo­ments af­ter the weigh-in.

“Look­ing for­ward to prov­ing you all right to­mor­row,” Rousey said. “It’s go­ing to be the hap­pi­est New Year ever.” Rousey has a nascent act­ing ca­reer and in­nu­mer­able en­dorse­ments, but her celebrity still hasn’t out­stripped her ath­letic ac­com­plish­ments, as it did for fel­low women’s MMA trail­blazer Gina Carano. Rousey could have walked away from the sport al­ready, but the Olympic medal­ist’s will­ing­ness to re­turn un­der­lines her de­ter­mi­na­tion to get back on top. The women’s ban­tamweight belt has changed hands three times in the last 13 months, and no­body has suc­cess­fully de­fended it. Holm lost the belt when Miesha Tate choked her un­con­scious in March, and Tate lost the ti­tle when Nunes bru­tal­ized her at UFC 200 in July. Holm is now a feath­er­weight, and Tate has re­tired. Nunes is get­ting her ca­reer-defin­ing shot at Rousey, whose sta­tus as one of the world’s most fa­mous fe­male ath­letes has scarcely waned de­spite her de­ci­sion to take a year off from com­pe­ti­tion.

Rousey clearly doesn’t scare Nunes, even though the champ has three ca­reer losses to fighters who were beaten eas­ily by Rousey. “This is what I’ve been wait­ing for,” said Nunes, who has won four straight fights. “Every­thing I work for comes down to this. I don’t know what’s go­ing on with Ronda, but I know I’m ready.”— AP

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