Sunday, July 1, 2012

Steven Marrocco: Lessons from the 209: Strikeforce champ Rousey leans on Cesar Gracie Fight Team

Even before she was the Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey well knew the demands of a regimented training schedule that culminated in high-stakes competition.

Rousey applied the same work ethic gleaned from her Olympic medal-winning run in judo to mixed martial arts. But in the midst of a stint with the Cesar Gracie Fight Team in Stockton, Calif., she's learning a different approach.

Namely, she gets to sleep in before training. Gracie disciples and UFC fighters Nick and Nate Diaz aren't exactly early risers.

"I like their schedule," Rousey on Wednesday told Radio ( "When I'm home, I have, like, three training sessions where I've got to meet this person at 5 a.m., and this person at 10 and have to be at this place at 8 p.m.

"By (training during the) day, they mean after 2 (p.m.)."

Following a 48-hour PR jaunt in San Diego in support of her first title defense against Sarah Kaufman (15-1 MMA, 6-1 SF), which takes place Aug. 18 at the beach city's Valley View Casino Center, Rousey (5-0 MMA, 3-0 SF) gets back to her usual grind beginning in July when she returns to her native Los Angeles to work with her "armos" at Team Hayastan in North Hollywood and Glendale Fighting Club.

While she admitted that setting her own schedule might be a bad thing in the long run, it's been good to get a mix of structure and freedom.

"In the interest of avoiding stagnating, you have to change your environment whenever you can," Rousey said.

Shifting scenery was never a problem during her years of judo competition. Before she won a bronze medial at the 2008 Olympics in China, she traveled around the world for a variety of competitions and always had a fresh array of training partners. Her early work in MMA, however, was limited by her wallet.

As previously reported, Rousey, who won the Strikeforce title in March with a first-round submission over Miesha Tate, worked the graveyard shift at 24-Hour Fitness in Los Angeles and did physical therapy on dogs while teaching judo and training to become a professional fighter.

Now a champion and one of the sport's fastest-rising stars, Rousey isn't struggling to make ends meet. But she's still learning new skills, particularly in the striking aspect of her job, and learning to love things she used to hate.

"Nick made me go for my first run in years," she laughed. "I don't run, but we ran miles, a bunch of us. I'm not a triathlete, dude. I get bored."

Diaz, of course, is an accomplished triathlete when he's not fighting inside the cage (and in the midst of a yearlong suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, he's got time to compete). He recently convinced another team import, UFC featherweight Cody McKenzie, to participate in his first triathlon.

But it might be a while before Rousey is swimming, biking and running for hours on end. Short sprints, she likes. Long distance, not so much.

"I used to be a swimmer before judo, and it's like a long stamina thing," she said. "It doesn't keep me mentally engaged. [I] have to get something where it's like MMA, where it takes 100 percent of your attention all the time. It's more my sport."

There's plenty of that, of course, within the walls of the gyms where Rousey and Team Cesar Gracie work. There's less than two months until she fights on Showtime at "Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman," so her camp is in full swing.

"She's obviously a very good striker and she throws very straight punches," Rousey said of her next opponent. "So what I would mostly be looking out for is her trying to keep distance from me and keep it open to the standup game, which worked very well in her fight against Miesha. She is obviously able to handle grapplers very well, but then again, she's never dealt with anybody like me, so we'll see how it goes."

For more on the "Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman" card, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site. Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino's Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by "Gorgeous" George Garcia, lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian "Goze" Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to

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