(Bleacher Report) — Ronda Rousey is a fighter.
It started at birth, as the umbilical cord tried to choke the life out of her. It culminates this weekend, when Rousey, along with opponent Liz Carmouche, becomes the first woman ever to step inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s iconic Octagon. The two will square off at the UFC 157 pay-per-view event in Anaheim, Calif. on Saturday.
It’s something UFC president Dana White said would never happen. And he was adamant. As recently as 2011, the normally verbose White had a single-word answer to TMZ’s question about when he would promote his first women’s match: ”Never.”
For Rousey and other fighters on the burgeoning women’s circuit, that was a problem.
Founded in 1993, the UFC was the big leagues of mixed martial arts. While a fighter can make ends meet in smaller promotions, no one was going to get rich or even make a respectable living anywhere but in the UFC.
“I was always asked about Dana saying women would never be in the UFC,” Rousey told Bleacher Report. “And I just said ‘Look, he has no choice about it. I’m going to make him love me. There’s nothing he can do.’
“I was going to be so good and capture so much attention it’s going to be impossible for him to ignore me. It was something that had to be done if I wanted to have any future in this.”
While there had been other stars on the women’s scene, including Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Santos, who drew major television ratings for a UFC competitor on CBS, nothing seemed capable of changing White’s mind.
Nothing, that is, until he met Ronda Rousey.
The two had engaged in friendly banter in the past, and White was impressed with Rousey’s athleticism and skill in the cage. It was clear that women were capable of fighting at a high level. But he remained unconvinced that it was the right fit for his promotion—until a moment backstage in San Diego last August prior to Rousey’s title bout with Canadian Sarah Kaufman.
“I’ve been in the fight business since I was 19 years old,” White told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. “And I know real fighters when I see them. She’s a real fighter. She looked right through me with these eyes, like we’d never f***ing met and she didn’t give a f*** if we’d ever meet. I loved it. Loved it.”
Read more at BleacherReport.com.