SEATTLE - Wearing a little black dress and a shiny championship belt, (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey was ready for her UFC close-up Thursday.
UFC president Dana White used a news conference for Saturday's televised card in Seattle to announce Rousey's UFC launching pad. He bounded on stage with a spare championship belt, declining to say why until he ended the mystery some 20 minutes later.
"Bring the champ out here," White said.
A smiling Rousey (6-0) emerged from behind the curtain to receive her championship belt while White announced her debut fight in his organization.
The 25-year-old California fighter will meet Liz (Girlrilla) Carmouche (6-2) in the main event of UFC 157 on Feb. 23 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
"She's like Chuck Liddell, that's who she reminds me of," White said of his new poster girl champion. "She just wants to fight and fight and fight ... She's definitely better looking than Chuck Liddell."
"She's a mean, nasty fighter and she likes to finish people and that's what I look for and that's what I care about," he added.
Rousey's success and appeal prompted the UFC boss to change his mind on women's MMA. He previously had argued that there wasn't enough depth of talent to warrant women fighting in the UFC.
The five-foot-seven Rousey has single-handedly changed that. White moved her from Strikeforce to the bigger UFC stage and signed her to an eight-fight deal.
"It means a lot," Rousey said. "I feel like we have a lot to prove at this event. And no one's going to be disappointed. I think the women are here to stay and we're going to prove it."
For the time being, however, the UFC is focusing its female spotlight on Rousey and the 135-pound bantamweight division. Should Rousey lose, the UFC will have a void to fill.
While Rousey has already shown significant star power — she has been profiled in Sports Illustrated, and appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine as well as visits to the "Conan" and Jim Rome on Showtime" TV shows — other female fighters have yet to join her in the spotlight.
"I don't know how the whole women's thing is going to go, how it's going to go over or what it's going to do," said White. "But I can tell you this. She's the champ. The (UFC 157) card's going to be stacked with serious fights and she deserves to be the headliner."
"This could last for years," he added. "This could last a year."
Cris (Cyborg) Santos, the Strikeforce 150-pound champion, is perhaps the only other marquee name and she has been slowed by a drug suspension and questions over whether she can make 135 pounds
White says Cyborg will feature in the next 135-pound UFC women's fight.
"It's going to happen eventually," Rousey said of the Cyborg meeting. "I can't make these girls fight me when I want them to fight me. And I've got a lot of respect for Liz. She was the only one that really stepped up and said she wanted this fight right now.
"It speaks a lot to her. When the other girls come around, they actually want to come to the big show, they know where I'm at."
Said White: "Believe me, people aren't kicking the doors down at Zuffa (which owns the UFC) to fight her"
Rousey was dismissive of Cyborg now saying she can make 135 pounds.
"I wasn't the least bit surprised," she said. "I now she can make 135 pounds and so can she. It just takes her a little while to realize this is the only option that she has and it took her a little while because I don't think she's that bright."
Asked whether drug-testing would be an issue before meeting Cyborg, the charismatic Rousey showed she doesn't have a self-edit button.
"I don't care if she's sticking horse semen in her eyeballs as long she weighs 135, I'm cool," she said.
White likes what he hears.
"Do you hear the way this girl talks? She is a Diaz brother inside," he said, referring to the trash-talking Nick and Nate Diaz.
"She's the real deal. She's a fighter. She likes to finish people," White added.
Rousey made her pro MMA debut in March 2011 and has needed a total of just seven minutes 39 seconds to finish her opponents. Every one has tapped out to a vicious armbar that has seen Rousey cranking their arms at impossible angles.
Three Canadians are on her list of victims: former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman, Julia (The Jewell) Budd and Charmaine (Not So Sweet) Tweet.
It's been a rapid rise for Rousey. Before signing her deal with Strikeforce, she was juggling her training with working overnights in a gym, pulling down day shifts as a canine physical therapy assistant and teaching judo.
While she has yet to fight in the UFC, she has already added to its talking points.
On Thursday, she was asked about whether she would date another fighter — she said it might be awkward. She has also been asked on TV about her thoughts on sex before fights — she's all in favour of it.
Answering candid questions aside, Rousey acknowledged it is more difficult hanging on to her privacy these days.
"I just have to be more wary of who I talk to and what I say," she said. "I need to know who I can trust and who are just around. Making that distinction about people who are trustworthy or not has been the biggest change."
She says she gets recognized "everywhere" in Las Vegas but "no one had a clue" who she was when she returned home to Jamestown, N.D., where she grew up.
Away from the gym, Rousey lives in a "hippie house" in Venice, Calif.
She trains in Los Angeles and Stockton, Calif., home to the Diaz brothers. But she leaves the hippie house in the final weeks before a fight, to move into an apartment to focus on her preparations.
Rousey calls it "Rocky-IV style cabin training."