Conference call with Ronda Rousey, Cat Zingano, Raquel Pennington and Holly Holm before UFC 184
UFC 184 is less than a week away, and the fighters in the main and co – main events took part in the media conference call couple of days ago. Here’s a transcript of the same.
This fight was originally scheduled to take place late last year and it was canceled on about two weeks' notice. For both of you, do you feel like you're at the same level of preparation that you were at that point last year or has the layoff given you extra enhanced time to prepare for your opponent in a way that you weren't already prepared?
Raquel Pennington: When it came to my last fight camp I had a phenomenal camp. I prepared, I took myself to a whole new level as a fighter and as a person. And within the time from going out and performing against Ashlee and then going back into another fight camp I mean I feel like it's only made me progress that much more and prepared me to become that better fighter and be even more prepared for the fight that I'm going into next week.
Holly Holm: I mean for me I felt great going into that fight you know already putting so much time into training for a fight and asking to pull out. I guess I kind of can understand where the fighters get very frustrated with injuries and stuff, first time I've ever had to do that. So it has given me more time to put into training. I did have to take the time off from my injury but I do feel like I was able to put more of 100% in now that I've been healthy. So I do feel like I'm better now than I would have been in December.
Ronda, I know your autobiography is set to be published in May; has the book already been completed? Or will we see the events of weekend after next included like as a final chapter in the book?
Ronda Rousey: Me and my sister submitted the first draft right before New Year's and I have suspended working on it at all until after I beat Cat. So as soon as I'm done dealing with her then I will go back to dealing with the book. And I'm really happy with how it looks so far. Yes it's going to be interesting.
Obviously Ronda you've got to get through Cat Zingano first at UFC 184 but I wanted to get your reaction to Dana White kind of joking that if you beat Cat you've kind of cleaned out the division. Obviously Holly's on the line, Raquel, there's other fighters. But do you feel like Cat is the last great challenge for you? Or are there still other challenges for you at 135?
Ronda Rousey: No I definitely think that there are many more challenges. At this point Cat is definitely the greatest challenge, but Dana was making a joke that I'm making his job a little bit difficult for him. But it's not my job to make his easy; it's my job to give my mom as less stress as possible, so I win as quickly and efficiently as possible or I just want to be unscathed. Even the last fight when my knuckle exploded I spent the whole time after the fight trying to hide my hand from my mother.
But no there is definitely, I think, a lot of competition at 135 and this card's evidence of it. We have women at the main and co-main event because we have that many high quality fighters that are worthy of the honor.
Obviously you had the injury that kind of forced you to take a little time off but I mean do you feel refreshed? Do you feel kind of refreshed now going into this fight more than kind of that constant ‘bam bam bam’ streak you had there for a while?
Ronda Rousey: Well definitely. You have to remember I pretty much have been fighting all of my UFC fights with one leg. Now I feel better than I did even when I was 16 years old when I got my first knee surgery. I really feel rejuvenated, like I just molted or something and I have a brand new body and I allowed myself to rest and recuperate. Even my mom who is like the biggest into work hard all the time more than anyone you would ever know in your life was telling me that you need to rest; your body is telling you something.
I'm very glad that I did because when I cleaned up everything in my knee we found out that I had spurs literally rubbing on my ACL and it would have ruptured at any time. And so we did - we took care of everything just in time. I'm perfectly healthy and better than ever before and I can just feel my body itching to fight again.
You mentioned that this card has both women's main event and co-main event. What do you think the next step is for the women's sport? More weight classes? Where do you see the next progression?
Cat Zingano: I think there's a lot more to see from the 115'ers for sure. You know I think that with The Ultimate Fighter we got to see how much a fit fighter they can be but I think there's obviously a lot more to do with that weight class. The bantamweights have been doing really good and progressively gotten better so you know I think that we'll probably sit tight for a while. I don't know if they'll open up surrounding weight classes any time soon, I have no idea. But if they do I'm sure it will be powerful.
Ronda Rousey: Yes, I actually agree that spending time developing the women's 115-pound division would be the wisest investment of time. I would really like to see them develop the division to a point where they can headline their own card. And I think that's entirely possible within the next year or two.
Do you think there'll be a time in the next few years that we'll see an all-women's UFC card? Could that happen?
Ronda Rousey: I mean it could happen, but I don't really see any reason why it should. I don't see any reason why there should be all men's cards either, unless they just don't have enough fighters. I think that every card should try to appeal to as much of the audience as possible and it doesn't really make sense to limit them.
Holly, I think it seems obviously to me that women's MMA and its use in terms of acceptance and popularity has already surpassed anything you've experienced in 13 years as a boxer. How exciting and how satisfying is that to you as a combat sports athlete?
Holly Holm: You know I'm super blessed and super proud of everything that I got to experience in boxing. But it is sad that there isn’t enough following behind it. If you're a female boxer you're in it truly because you just love it and I feel like there should be more following behind it. I feel like now that I am in MMA my want to come to MMA was just the same as in boxing. I wanted to do it because I was passionate about it and you know I did boxing because of passion and now I'm doing MMA because of passion. But it is amazing to see how much more attention and how much more following and support there is with women's MMA.
And you know I'm just - I'm so happy to be a part of it while it is at a high and I think it's going to stay there. I don't feel like it's going to have its ups and downs. I feel like women's boxing has had its ups and downs. I mean they've had big fights on television before with women's boxing and you just don't really see it anymore. But it's had some times where it's been high.
I feel like women's MMA is at a point now you almost can't ignore it and I think that it's great. I think that’s what the athletes deserve. They work just as hard and train just as hard as the men. I think it's great that the recognition is out there and these women have skill; It's not just a catfight out there and I think the more that people watch it the more people are even getting into it because they start to really see what these girls have.
Holly Holm: Yes I'm just trying to take it all in as it comes. I always am at a point where I feel like I just want to ride the wave wherever it goes and this is kind of what's happening right now with my career then great, let's go with it. I definitely have to shut the phone off and just focus on training. But it has been busy and I'm just trying to make the most of it and enjoy it rather than dread it.
Regarding women's MMA, there have been doubters, Dana White at one time was a doubter, and one of the ways that the doubters have been converted too you know enthusiasts of women's MMA is that it's been on is that it's been included on the male cards.
Is there a danger that you have headlining - you have two headlining bouts, women's bouts, that's just going to throw off a lot of fans who might otherwise buy a card? Do you think this is a blessing for women's MMA or a curse that you have women at the top of the card? In other words is it something that you guys might actually be harmed by because the pay-pre-view buys may not be what they would be if you had men headlining the card?
Ronda Rousey: Well I think it's a great opportunity to be able to prove something but otherwise it is what it is. There were 46 UFC events last year. I think that's something like 20% to 30% more than they ever did the year before that. And this is not an event by event company or endeavor; they are looking at the entire fight as a whole. And there's a lot of factors that affect pay-per-view but I think that this card is going to perform extremely well and compared to the guys I think it's going to hang in there and be respectable and that's why they have enough faith to put us in there.
You know the UFC has been around for more than 20 years, they know how this business works and they're not going to put together a card like this if they think it's going to fail.
Cat Zingano: I'd have to agree with Ronda. I mean us women, we go out there and we've already proved enough. Women's MMA has come a really long way and in my opinion, I mean just from the people that I talk to or the responses that I get and the responses that I see from multiple people just everywhere, I mean people look forward to us fighting they get excited. When you can have a fight card full of male fights but yet when that woman fight comes on I mean that's what people watch, they're super excited by it. So I have to agree, I mean I think that UFC was smart with the choice that they're making and all of us girls are going to go out there and do what we do and prove why we're out there. It'll be exciting.
Ronda Rousey: And people even asking the question really proves that the inequality still exists. That they - I mean if they put up a men's 125 pound main and co-main event people wouldn't be asking the question like ‘oh if this doesn't sell very well we might just get rid of the whole men's division’. Why are we still even asking this question? Do you remember the last time you asked that question to a guy?
Have any of you been in the Octagon at a point and you thought that your opponent you're facing off with someone that they’re juiced up?
Ronda Rousey: You know what I really don't care, I assumed that a lot during the Olympics, I assume that every single one of these girls is probably on all kinds of juice and they've had every single opportunity in the world that I never, ever had, they had better development, they had better coaching, they had better scouting, they have better everything. And I assume that they have every single advantage in the world that I don't and I use that as a reason to beat them in spite of it because I need to be better on my very worst day than they could possibly ever be with every single advantage that possibly exists that I don't have.
Raquel Pennington: I do the same thing, I train against nothing but guys all the time and then we'll sit there and bring in females and yes I'll challenge myself because a woman works a different way. But I mean I've never been intimidated by any girl that goes into that cage as to whether they're on some type of steroid or drug or whatever it may be. I mean if that's what you want to portray yourself to be afterwards, the truth always comes out and it puts that damper on your career and what you look like. We're all professional athletes and you should handle your career as a professional and do things but I take it for what it's worth and I do pretty much what Ronda does. I'll build my opponent up to the fullest to where when I'm in the gym and I'm training. I want to get in there and when I know I beat you I beat you at my worst which you brought out my best because you had to go over and beyond to try to beat me.
Cat Zingano: I think that a lot of times if anybody out there if they have been on any kind of performance enhancing drug for me I feel like they may not mentally be as strong because they feel like they have to go there in order to be better. For me I think I'm just going to do it naturally because then I'm going to have mental confidence that I know this is really me and this is me at my best. So sometimes I guess I haven't really thought of it but if they are I feel like they might be mentally weak because they feel like they need help. So for me that's kind of where my mental edge comes from on that.
You talked about how resilient Cat is, how she came back in a couple of her Octagon fights. What's it going to take to finish her since you've got the 100% finish rate right now?
Ronda Rousey: You know I never plan out exact game plans for fights. I just walk out and I solve the fight as it happens. So I know that Cat brings so many weapons to the table that I will be ready to deal with every single one of them. And that's what makes it such an exciting fight; there isn't one clear quick cut way to go to finish it. And so I really think that's what makes it exciting, you don't know where it's going to go but I can finish her anywhere and I will find a way.
What is it going to take to beat Ronda? Because nobody's been able to find the - solve the Rousey code, why do you have the tools? And what's it going to take to be the one to solve the puzzle nobody's been able to solve so far?
Cat Zingano: Well I'm different. I know she knows that, I know the whole promotion knows that. I have things to offer that people haven't seen before and it's just I just have to be me, I have do me, go out there with my intensity and my aggression and I'm unstoppable, I know that.
Cat, you're definitely - a lot of the betting sites have you at about plus 800 as the underdog for your fight against Rousey. Do you think a lot of people are maybe underestimating you for this fight or do you not mind that position?
Cat Zingano: No, I don't mind, I mean it's what do I have to lose? You know I'm going out there and I'm at the top, there's nowhere higher to go and I'm just pumped to be here. And being the underdog, man I like that, I do. I think that it gives me a lot that I want to prove and a lot I want to show and it forces me to be authentic and to pull out my best stuff. So I think it's fun.
UFC 184 comes to us live from Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Tune in next Sunday at 8:30 AM (IST) to watch an exciting PPV, headlined by Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano for the women’s Bantamweight title.