LOS ANGELES — There they sat, three Olympians side by side Wednesday in Los Angeles talking about the big event next month.
Only this trio wasn't talking about Sochi.
Instead, Ronda Rousey, Sara McMann and Daniel Cormier spent nearly an hour at a press conference at Fleming's Steakhouse at L.A. Live discussing their upcoming fights Feb. 22 at UFC 170 in Las Vegas.
Tickets for the card at Mandalay Bay Events Center — headlined by Rousey defending her women's bantamweight title against McMann — go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at ticketmaster.com and mgmgrand.com.
For the first time in UFC history, it will be two Olympic medalists — Rousey (8-0) winning a bronze in judo in 2008 and McMann (7-0) a silver in freestyle wrestling in 2004 — squaring off in the Octagon.
None thought it a coincidence UFC 170 takes place on the penultimate day of the Sochi Olympics. And the significance is not lost on Rousey.
“Keeping all the factors in mind, I'm like, Olympians, Olympic medalists, undefeated, for a championship. We've never had that many factors come together for a UFC championship,” the 26-year-old Venice resident said. “And it just really speaks to how far MMA has come in general.”
And unlike Rousey's armbar victory over bitter rival Miesha Tate on Dec. 28 at UFC 168, this fight appears to be shaping up as one with a foundation of mutual respect and admiration.
“I've always thought this would be the perfect fight to really bring out, you know, the best in you. I think this is the perfect time for everything to come together,” said Rousey, who will be making her third title defense. “And I couldn't be more excited to have an athlete of Sara's level to really test myself against. It helps all of us, you know? It can't be like, one Olympian has really got a jump on everybody else. It raises the whole level for everybody.
“I mean, I couldn't have a single bad thing to say about her, you know? She's practically Saint McMann.”
McMann quipped: “Not unless you've seen me before I drink coffee.”
In the co-main event, Cormier, who competed on two Olympic wrestling teams and captained the 2008 squad, will make his UFC light heavyweight debut against former champion Rashad Evans.
Cormier has not only won all 13 of his pro fights, but he's won every round he's ever been in. And he won his first two UFC fights last year with unanimous-decision victories over heavyweights Frank Mir and Roy Nelson.
“If I fight well, then anything can happen. If I fight well enough, I hope it gets me that title shot,” said Cormier, 34, who won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix championship in 2012. “Most guys don't have to win that many times to get a championship fight, so hopefully my resume will speak for itself.”
The former standout wrestler at Oklahoma State has also showed off his chops as an analyst for UFC pre- and post-fight shows on Fox Sports 1.
And with his familiarity for the elite level at which Rousey and McMann once competed, Cormier knows how it will be for each of them in the cage.
“When (Rousey) feels Sara, she's gonna feel the type of power and the type of athlete that she felt in her judo competitions. It's not gonna be like grabbing someone that she can just throw down,” Cormier said. “It's gonna be like, 'OK, now I'm grabbing someone that's on an athletic level that I am.' I don't know how the fight's gonna play out, but physically it'll feel different. Sara's base is gonna be different because she's been wrestling her entire life. As what Sara's gonna feel with Ronda, she's never competed against a girl like this outside of wrestling.”
For her part, McMann is aware of Rousey's dangerous armbar, with which she has finished all of her fights. But McMann also knows it's avoidable and defendable.
“I'm pretty sure a lot of girls in judo did it, unless she finished every single match like that and won the gold every time she competed,” said McMann, 33. “The same with me though. People have defended the things that I do well. Every athlete is beatable. Every athlete has weaknesses, and myself included in that.”
Count Cormier as a fan who can't wait.
“These girls have been competing at the highest levels for over a decade,” he said. “So, yeah, it's gonna be different and it's gonna be good. I know when I'm done fighting, I'm gonna go back and watch these girls fight.”