Ronda Rousey, the Woman Who Wasn’t There

UFC can broadcast a card held on a Sunday afternoon in Australia to America on a Saturday night. But they couldn’t get Ronda Rousey on the telephone on Thursday’s UFC 193 conference call.

A reporter asked Rousey about her relationship with heavyweight fighter Travis Browne in the first question posed to the 12-0 mixed-martial artist. Rousey’s answer, such as it was, spoke loudly in its silence. Listen to the crickets.

Can you hear me now?

Several awkward hellos followed seven seconds of dead air. As the hosts proceeded to call on more questioners, tongue-tied reporters tapped out because they prepared questions for Rousey rather than the three lesser-known female fighters on the line.

“Yeah, is Ronda back on the line?” asked a Washington Post writer. Informed no, he instructed, “You might want to go to another questioner then.” An Australian reporter next up in the queue announced: “I also have questions for Ronda. I’ll just wait until she’s back on the line, thanks.”

They waited. Whether the result of the stated “technical difficulties” or because of personal difficulties in fielding a question (Sexist? TMZish? Turnabout for obsessing over Miesha Tate’s relationship? All of the above?) on dating just weeks away from her headlining a stadium show that may sell more tickets than any in mixed-martial arts card history, Rousey skipped the entire presser. She gave Breibart Sports slightly more respect earlier this year when she strangely responded to a question about women’s MMA by announcing: “You are what we need to change about this culture.” Ironically, Rousey claimed just days ago that losing suited her opponent better because the responsibilities (like dealing with a pain-in-the-neck press) of title holder didn’t suit her.

Maybe all this reads too much into the situation. Technical rather than temperamental difficulties caused it, right? Right?

The UFC’s 135-pound women’s champion remained present in her absence on the rest of the call. Holly Holm, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Valerie Letourneau fielded questions in Ronda Rousey’s stead on—what else?—Ronda Rousey (more or less).

“I’m very happy that I can fight on the same card as Ronda,” Jedrzejczyk, herself the 115-pound women’s champion, meekly offered. “I know Ronda is simply the best.” Her opponent Valerie Letourneau offered an amen. “It’s many dreams come true,” she explained, noting “fighting on the same card as Ronda” as the first of those realized aspirations.

“I don’t think she has too much attention,” Letourneau later explained. “She deserves all the attention she gets.” Holm added, “She’s in the limelight for a reason.”

When asked about Rousey’s appearance on the cover of Ring magazine, an honor never bestowed upon Holm despite a wildly successful professional boxing career, the Preacher Daughter’s praised her opponent and maintained: “I don’t lose any sleep over it.”

Rousey, ubiquitous on the covers of magazines (Maxim, Men’s Health, Self, Sports Illustrated, ESPN), in the movies (Entourage, Furious 7, The Expendables), and during commercial breaks (Carl’s Jr., MetroPCS, Reebok), appeared on the back of a milk carton on Thursday’s conference call. But even when Ronda Rousey dodges the attention, she can’t help but get the attention.

It’s all about Ronda.


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