We’ve never seen it before in mixed martial arts, but we will soon. Later this month, at UFC 170, will be the first time two Olympic medalists have competed for a UFC title. Undefeated UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who scored the bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, will defend her belt against the similarly undefeated Sara McMann, who won the silver medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

This is a quick turnaround for Rousey, who just defended her title against longtime rival Miesha Tate at UFC 168 in December. In fact, UFC President Dana White announced the match-up mere moments after Rousey’s convincing defense over Tate, yet another fight that Rousey won via armbar.

Unlike all of Rousey’s other seven professional fights that didn’t make it out of the first round, Tate was able to last until the third. We always knew the champion had incredible judo, but spectators were also able to see Rousey’s ever-improving striking game under coach Edmond Tarverdyan.

The MMA Corner’s Aline Bak had a chance to meet with Tarverdyan. He discussed Rousey’s win over Tate, her public perception and more.

“She did a great fight,” said Tarverdyan after UFC 168. “Ronda is a perfectionist, and she was a bit feeling like, ‘I didn’t do a perfect job,’ but you know she got some rounds in.”

While there is no doubt that Rousey trains extremely hard at Tarverdyan’s gym, the Glendale Fighting Club, there was a looming question of what a fight would look like with the champion if Tate could make it out of the first round.

“She showed the whole world that she can fight three, four, five rounds,” said Rousey’s coach. “It doesn’t matter, she keeps going. She showed her heart, and she showed her boxing skill. She caught Miesha with a nice right hand in the third round and Miesha was out on her feet, and then [Rousey] took her down, and the armbar was nice and simple. I’m happy with her performance.”

In Olympic judo, competitors have a short amount of time on the ground before the referee stands them up, so armbars or chokes have to be fairly instantaneous. This aggression has worked to Rousey’s advantage so far, but Tarverdyan has been working with his fighter to make sure she doesn’t rush into any bad spots. Striking becomes especially important when fighting someone with the wrestling credentials of Sara McMann, who could hypothetically defend Rousey’s takedowns, as well as score some takedowns herself.

“[Rousey] does everything great, and this fight,” Tarverdyan said, referring to the scrap with Tate, “she showed her boxing skills, but yeah, her mindset is to take that arm, and I love it. It makes my job easier. She wins, and it’s beautiful to have every fight finish with an armbar. She’s best at it.

“People don’t get that it’s not just a simple armbar. She can take it from any position, any angle. Anywhere she is, she’s going to take your arm.”

Tarverdyan went as far as to say that Rousey’s judo is the best he’s ever seen in the Octagon. It’s a pretty phenomenal compliment considering that Tarverdyan trains another UFC judo whiz in Manny Gamburyan.

Despite Rousey’s overwhelming talent, fans have seemingly grown to dislike Rousey’s attitude more and more, especially after the recent season of The Ultimate Fighter where the champion coached opposite Tate. Rousey would swear, she would cry, she would have tantrums, and she was generally…unpleasant. Her win over Tate at UFC 168 was met with an onslaught of boos.

Luckily for Rousey and her coach, neither of them really seems to care. Tarverdyan believes that the television show put his pupil in a very negative light, where, in reality, Rousey is very caring for her students and even had some of them living at her house.

“They’re training at my gym with her,” said Tarverdyan. “She gave a lot of opportunity to them to help out. For the show, she was there for these kids. She wasn’t there for herself.”

What’s important to Rousey and her coaches is that the champion continues to come with the same competitive drive that she had from the beginning and not worry about public perception.

“All the trainers you ask, they’re just impressed about how serious this girl is in the gym, and I just love it,” said Tarverdyan.

“I knew she was going to do all this before she came into the UFC. I said it. I said the UFC should take a look at her, and she deserves to be in the UFC. She deserves to be in the Octagon because she’s better than any man out there, and people were [calling me] stupid.”

About The Author

Zach Miller
Staff Writer

Zach is a Boston native and has had a fascination with martial arts since playing Mortal Kombat at five years old. He was introduced to MMA after watching The Ultimate Fighter 5: Team Pulver vs. Team Penn. A recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Zach seeks to one day become a full-time MMA journalist. In addition to watching the sport, he has also trained in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and tae kwon do. Zach has also written for NortheastMMA.