There are basically two ends to the spectrum of promotional rhetoric in the fight game. One is the mumbled, disinterested, lifeless space full of monosyllabic answers and “best training camp of my life” chestnuts. The other is the carnival barking that builds a compelling match-up into the “fight of the year” with the same gusto that’s behind proclamations of the “trial of the century.” It’s easy to be inured to both, and that’s why the stuff that happens in the middle—the idiosyncratic, the unpredictable, and the genuine—stands out.
Leading up to UFC 170’s headlining bout between two Olympic medalists, Ronda Rousey had long been a proven commodity, equally adept at summoning charm or fury in the service of her vocation and drawing eyeballs. But how the self-admittedly media-shy Sara McMann would handle the duties incumbent when you occupy the top of the marquee remained to be seen.
Now that the liver shots have landed and very little has fundamentally changed between Friday and Monday, this much is clear: Sara McMann sounds like she's allergic to the overstatement we’ve come to expect.
In a media scrum, a reporter said he heard some of McMann’s old wrestling buddies say that she wouldn’t tap to Rousey’s armbar. Instead of saying “sure,” McMann said this: “… if you get there and somebody catches you and they get the better of you—I don’t feel like there’s any need to be an idiot. There’s no use losing and being injured. And that would be if it was any other submission also. I don’t look at it as like somebody is oh so brave and tough that they now have to get a surgery and they lost. That’s kind of foolish to me. There’s toughness and there’s foolishness.”
Besides prizing her orthopedic health, there was her head-shaking assessment of the venom Rousey has drawn from fight fans because of a reality TV show and a handshake that wasn’t. “I think people are getting way, way, way too worked up about her personality,” McMann said to Sherdog. “Some people are treating it like they hate her. I’m like, ‘Really? There are people in this world who you should hate and there are pedophiles or people who beat up old people and take their money. There are some rotten, despicable people who are orchestrating genocides in other countries, and yes, if you’re going to hate anyone, then by all means, hate them; but really to hate a girl just because what she says aggravates you?’ I just don’t think it’s worthy of hate.”
Think about those words and listen to the jeers raining down on Rousey in the cage after dropping McMann a little more than a minute into their fight. One of the most conspicuous boo birds sounds like a cow mid-slaughter. Whatever your opinion of the stoppage, whatever your opinion of Rousey, is it worth losing your voice?
At the press conference following UFC 170, McMann conceded that, upon seeing the video replay, the stoppage looked quicker than it felt in the time-distorted midst of the fight. Even then, no sour grapes for third man Herb Dean: “I’m not going to blame a referee for something that I feel like I should be able to control. I should get up quicker, and you know, if you want to win fights, you just have to do it regardless of what’s going on.”
You could say McMann was being professional, that she was avoiding the cardinal sin of “making excuses.” Really, she sounded like a levelheaded adult, her words cutting through an environment rife with bravado, tantrums, and sulking. Today, the questions of how a reserved Olympic silver medalist would handle the press after overthrowing the face of the women’s bantamweight division are irrelevant, and maybe that’s for the best. Sara McMann would be too restrained to answer any questions about how she answers questions.
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