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Ronda Rousey, Iron Lady of the UFC, Sees Iron Mike in Herself

Ronda Rousey wants to perform her own stunts in the movies. She believes she participates in not mere cage fighting but in a “cultural revolution.” She says that fans crowding into bars or onto couches to catch her fights are “watching history.”

Pride cometh before the fall. But at 28, and a gym rat rather than a party animal, pride cometh because of the rise.

Ronda Rousey comparing herself to “Mike Tyson in his prime” on the UFC 190 conference call struck as the type of talk that came out of Iron Mike’s mouth immediately before a kneeling Jello Mike fumbled to shove his mouthpiece back into his face in Tokyo a quarter century ago. The less humble Tyson’s talk, the less he humbled opponents. Like the all-business, “bad reputation” Ronda Rousey, the no-robe, no-nonsense Kid Dynamite was unbeaten. The high school dropout mistook unbeaten (a mistake surely more common than the malapropism “fade into bolivian”) for unbeatable. Does another high-school dropout make the same mistake?

Perhaps the most hubristic, Tysonesque comment delivered by Rousey on Monday’s UFC conference call involved her stated intention to prolong her pay-per-view bout to teach her opponent a lesson. “My mom’s pissed,” Rousey says of her family’s judo world champ matriarch. “She doesn’t want me to do it. She chewed me out.” Surely, Cus D’Amato threw overhand rights at his casket lid once Tyson loaded up for knockouts at the expense of combinations. But even after Ronda’s Cus D’Amato told her no, the Olympic judoka discussed the possibility that she “could still drag it out and make the finish a little more thorough” and spoke about “punishing her more.”

Her? Oh, yeah. That would be Bethe Correia, an afterthought whose first name, especially when uttered by Ronda Rousey, sounds like the title of a Rolling Stones song or a word for a female dog. On the UFC 190 conference call on Monday, Rousey talked for a good half hour before a writer acknowledged the existence of her undefeated opponent through a question. And one could argue that Correia answering with a promise to beat Rousey outranks in the out-to-lunch category anything coming out of Ronda’s rift. After all, the champion disposed of her three latest challengers in an average of 32 seconds a piece. Two of the velociously vanquished trio boasted undefeated records just like Correia when they faced Rousey. What makes the Brazilian different?

Ronda remains far from the lone passenger on the Ronda hype train. Sports Illustrated called her—not Serena Williams or LeBron James (who says Ronda intimidates him)—the “world’s most dominant athlete” on its cover in May. ESPN awarded her a “best fighter” ESPY over Floyd Mayweather earlier this month. Even considering that she competes against a very small portion of women compared to Serena Williams or Abby Wambach, one gets the idea that the former Olympian would still dominate even if more girls dreamed of becoming like Ronda Rousey than ring-card beauty queen Arianny Celeste. She’s got it, and she knows it.

Aside from graceful throws that put the “art” in mixed-martial arts and perfected submission techniques that make elite women’s cage fighting a thing of beauty more than a thing of brutality, Ronda Rousey shows up to fight. In a period when the cream of the men’s crop pulls out of matches over injuries or pops positive for drugs, Ronda Rousey appears more reliable than rowdy. Perhaps her nickname better fits 1990-era Tyson and Tyson’s better fits circa-2015 Rousey. With Jon Jones sidelined by legal problems, Brock Lesnar retired, and Georges St. Pierre on prolonged sabbatical, Ronda Rousey appears as the Iron Lady of the UFC. She shows up, and the crowds do too.

“What people are seeing is the absolute peak of an athletic woman’s potential,” Ronda says of Ronda. “That’s always worth the money.” Skipping Saturday night’s pay-per view means for fans “a moment they could have witnessed and didn’t.” “I do believe there’s a cultural revolution happening,” Rousey says of growing interest women’s sports. “I’m so proud to be one little part of it.” She called out her next opponent, promised to beat her like she beats Bethe, film a movie, and then beat “the next chick.”

Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. But who can gainsay her abundant self-confidence?

The pride is here. The fall does not appear near.

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