ANAHEIM, CA (USATODAY.com) - Thirteen months after Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White told celebrity gossip outlet TMZ there would never be a female fighter in his promotion, Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche are poised to make history as the first women to compete in the octagon.
"Every interview that I have done leading up to this fight this week, they've played that clip," White told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. "After I did my homework and I saw some of these fights and I got into it and I met the girls, it is the right thing to do, and I'm proud to be standing here today announcing that this fight is happening."
Rousey (6-0) and Carmouche (8-2) meet in the main event of Saturday's UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche at the Honda Center in Anaheim, airing on pay-per-view (10 p.m. ET). White said the event was close to a sellout and would generate more box-office revenue than when the UFC visited the same venue in November 2011 with the heavyweight title on the line.
ROUSEY: UFC banks on her being 'home run'
LIZ CARMOUCHE: 'I like being the underdog'
Despite the apparent early success, the long-term prospects of women competing in the UFC are unknown. But for now, the gamble appears to be scoring big for the world's largest mixed martial arts promotion.
"I didn't think it would be this big," Rousey said. "It's a little bit surprising."
UFC officials said there had been "significantly more" media interest in Saturday's event than a typical fight card and that the outspoken Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo, had generated more discussion than any other fighter in the history of the promotion.
Non-sporting news media outlets such as Rolling Stone, CNN and Forbes, plus countless California-based print, radio and television outlets, have spent significant time with Rousey and Carmouche leading up their historic encounter.
White says that while Carmouche is a deserving opponent, Rousey is the one responsible for the unmatched prefight attention.
"No fighter has ever fought in the UFC that has had more attention than she has," White said. "It's a fact. Honestly, going into it, I didn't know that would happen. I didn't know HBO and Time magazine and all these other outlets that never cover us would."
MMA's newest superstar said she had yet to enjoy her rapidly increasing notoriety. Except for a few smiles during the week while signing autographs and posing for photos with young girls and their mothers - a demographic previously unseen at such activities as a prefight workout session - Rousey has remained all business during an admittedly hectic schedule.
"It's fun, but I'm going to sit back and enjoy it after I win," Rousey said. "I was expecting it to be a chaotic, circus kind of thing. It met those expectations and a little bit more, but there's no amount of media, there's no loss of sleep, there's nothing that can really save Liz Carmouche from losing to me."