"Never," said Dana White as he was climbing into his car, a smile on his face. "Never."
That was the UFC president giving one of his typically blunt answers to one of those impromptu quick-hit questions you always hear shouted out to celebrities and newsmakers in video clips on TMZ.com and other gotcha websites. Boy, did they get Dana that night two years ago, spawning 20 seconds of oops that will live forever on YouTube with what at the time seemed an innocent, if barely relevant, question: When will we see women fighting in the UFC?
Well, we've come a long way, baby.
On Saturday night, the biggest promotion in mixed martial arts not only will see its first women's fight but will even headline a $55 pay-per-view show with that fight.
White has been asked again and again to explain his flip-flop, and his answer is always the same. "Ronda Rousey," he'll say before launching into an awestruck description of his 135-pound champion, who will face Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. (10 p.m. ET, PPV). The 26-year-old Rousey is, in White's words, "mean" and "nasty" and "badass" and "a rock star."
Dana did not know any of this about Rousey when he uttered that infamously brusque dismissal of the women's game back in January 2011. No one else in MMA knew anything about her, either, other than those who happened to be watching the 2008 Summer Olympics and saw the Californian become the first American woman to medal in judo. Though she began training in MMA soon afterward, Rousey had not yet had a professional fight at the time White was asked about women in the UFC.
Once Ronda went pro, however, her star rose as quickly as her opponents fell. After four fights -- each finished with a Rousey armbar in 49 seconds or less -- she was fast-tracked into the cage with Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate last March. Tate didn't surrender the belt so easily, but she did surrender. It took a little arm-twisting by Rousey to elicit the tapout at 4:27. Then, five months later, Ronda returned to her short workday, submitting ex-champ Sarah Kaufman with ? what else? ? the armbar in 54 seconds.
Now it's Liz Carmouche's turn, and don't expect to see her shaking in her boots. After all, if she even owns a pair of boots, they're military-issue. Before becoming an MMA fighter, Carmouche spent five years in the US Marine Corps, including three tours of duty in Iraq. Even Ronda Rousey acknowledges that that's a lot more intimidating than anything she has in her arsenal to threaten Liz. This is a fighter tough enough to handle the pressure of blazing not one but two trails this weekend: When she takes part in the first women's bout in the UFC, she'll also be the first openly gay combatant in the octagon. The 28-year-old who whimsically calls her fans "Lizbos" is here, and she's queer. Get used to it.
Ronda Rousey by the numbers
Liz Carmouche by the numbers
Since numbers don't tell the whole story...
And on the undercard ...