LOS ANGELES — Dana White, Ultimate Fighting Championship president, can't say how many female fans his organization draws, but he's certain the number will spike upward tonight.
It's all because Ronda Rousey, a 26-year-old former U.S. Olympian in judo from Venice, Calif., will headline the UFC's first female fight against challenger Liz Carmouche in the main event at Honda Center in Anaheim.
Rousey, who has won each of her professional mixed martial arts matches by first-round submissions via armbar, was anointed the UFC's bantamweight (135-pound) women's champion at a December news conference after previously being champion of the most notable outlet for women's MMA, Strikeforce.
"This is the most media attention we've ever had before a fight," White said, projecting a sellout and strong pay-per-view sales. White said Rousey has easily surpassed UFC star Brock Lesnar as far as media attention.
"No one has fought with the attention she has received," White said.
Rousey has expertly handled the massive interest in her UFC debut and even adjusted her training sessions by spending 10 days in the high altitude of Big Bear while emphasizing more boxing work in camp.
She has knocked out seven sparring partners using 14-ounce gloves, her trainer Edmond Tarverdyan said. She'll be wearing the standard UFC four-ounce gloves against Carmouche (7-2), a former Marine from San Diego.
"I try to be the most spectacular and improved in every fight," said Rousey, who weighed in at 134.6 pounds. "That's how progress is made. I'm not going to sit back and say, 'Oh, I'm awesome, all I need to do is maintain.' Every single fight I think of as the biggest thing in my life, ever, because every fight before this I treated as the UFC championship.
"I wouldn't have ever got to the UFC championship if it wasn't for winning all the previous fights. Everyone has nerves. People who say they aren't scared are lying."
While the UFC is working to build up the ranks of its female fighters, with White previously expressing interest in a Rousey super-fight against Cris "Cyborg" Santos, the importance of Rousey maintaining her dominance appears critical to keeping women's MMA at the forefront of the UFC brand.
Beyond her fighting skill, Rousey's cover-girl looks, her charisma and colorful, unfiltered responses to questions have lifted her to rarified air as a sports figure.
"I think it's going to bring more fans in, but I won't consider myself a UFC champion — or even touch the belt — until I win this fight," Rousey said.
Carmouche, 29, who weighed in at 133.6 pounds, said she relishes being a forgotten participant in the event.
After serving in the Marines for more than five years through 2009, she was getting the best of Strikeforce welterweight champion Marloes Coenen before a triangle-choke stoppage in the fourth round of their 2011 fight.
"I'm prepared," Carmouche said. "She's the champion, a great fighter who deserves respect, but me being me, I'm not fearful of anyone at all."