Ronda Rousey spends some of her time posing for magazine covers, filming television ads and movies, sitting for interviews, winning awards, and generally continuing a rapid ascent to sports superstardom.
And, oh yes, since the start of last year, she has also stepped into the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon to defend her women’s bantamweight title three times. For a total of 1 minute, 36 seconds.
Only a few years after Dana White, the organization’s president, said women would never fight in the UFC, Rousey is the biggest mixed martial arts star of either sex. And she dominates her division by a margin associated with Tiger Woods in his prime, vintage Wayne Gretzky or, most aptly, the young Mike Tyson.
Rousey is 11-0 in her career, and 5-0 since joining UFC. Ten of those fights were stopped in the first round. Eight lasted less than a minute. Two fights ago, she knocked out a top contender, Alexis Davis, in 16 seconds. In her most recent bout, in February, she beat Cat Zingano by submission in 14 seconds.
In Rousey’s longest fight, in 2013, Miesha Tate managed to take her to a third round, only to succumb as well.
On Saturday, Bethe Correia is next up at UFC 190 in Rio de Janeiro.Though Rousey is highly skilled in just about every aspect of mixed martial arts, nine of her 11 wins were by armbar, her signature move. Once the fight is on the mat, Rousey uses her legs and body for leverage and hyperextends her opponent’s arm. Her foe, almost certainly, will quickly tap the ground, signaling that she submits and ending the fight.
Tyson told the Associated Press this month: “She has that killer aura, meaning anything is capable of happening. Whoa! That’s exciting before the fight even starts. I think of myself when I watch her.”
Tyson won his first 37 fights, all but four by knockout. In 1985, he won six fights in a row in the first round, including fights of 37 and 39 seconds. Things slowed down a little by the time he was fighting for the championship a year later, and his bouts began to go four, six or even eight rounds before the inevitable knockout.
But the most memorable quick KO in Tyson’s career was yet to come.
In June 1988, and already the holder of all three major heavyweight titles, Tyson faced Michael Spinks. Few expected a short bout. Spinks was undefeated, and although he technically did not hold a belt, he was considered by the Ring magazine and others to be the heavyweight champion because he had beaten Larry Holmes, the previous acknowledged champion.
Tyson charged out, knocked Spinks down, then knocked him down again. The fight was over in 91 seconds. Spinks, was 32 years old and had a record of 31-1, but he never fought again.
Watching a Rousey fight is a similar experience, though often an even briefer one. Rousey took Davis to the ground in seconds, wrapped her arm around Davis’s head and began pounding it until the referee mercifully stopped the fight. In Rousey’s next fight, Zingano tried a kick, Rousey brought her to the ground, flipped her over and put on an armbar that led to an immediate submission.
Lots of fighters use the armbar as a weapon, but Rousey can get into position to use it faster than almost any of them, male or female.
Rousey got her start in judo and was an Olympic bronze medalist in 2008. She cites her mother, AnnMaria De Mars, a world judo champion herself, as her greatest influence.
“She was the example that I followed that made being the best in the world so attainable,” Rousey said this week.
“It’s easy to think you are capable of anything when there is a world champion walking through your living room.”
Her ascent to the pinnacle of the sport has been aided by recent setbacks of some of the bigger male names in UFC. Light-heavyweight Jon Jones has won 12 straight UFC fights, but was stripped of his title after a failed drug test for cocaine and a hit-and-run crash. Anderson Silva, known as the Spider, had been unbeaten since 2006 before losing twice to Chris Weidman. At age 40, his comeback prospects are uncertain after a positive steroid test.
Rousey’s winning personality and media savvy have been factors as well. After winning an ESPY award as fighter of the year, she took aim at one of her fellow nominees, Floyd Mayweather Jr., who has a history of domestic abuse and who in 2014 said that he did not know who Rousey was.
“I wonder how Floyd feels being beat by a woman for once; I’d like to see him pretend to not know who I am now,” Rousey said to the approval of many on social media.
Her opponent Saturday, the Brazilian Correia, will have a home country advantage in their fight in Rio. She is undefeated and ranked No. 5 by UFC. But Rousey has beaten Nos. 1-4 and is at least a 15-1 favorite.
No one is going to be surprised if this fight also does not make it to the 1-minute mark.