Rousey, who will defend her title against Cat Zingano in less than three weeks at UFC 184, actually posed for the issue this past fall. While the above photo, taken during a shoot on Captiva Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast, may look comfortably warm and peaceful, Rousey remembers it being “freezing *** cold” that day.
“I’m very good at hiding the pain on my face,” she told For The Win, noting that the frigid temperatures were nowhere near as unbearable as the throbbing in her right hand at The Expendables 3 premiere last summer. Rousey, who broke her hand at UFC 175 in July, took off her cast three weeks early to avoid wearing it on the red carpet.
Unfortunately not all of her co-stars got that message, as actor Kellan Lutz approached with a high-five.
“I was in so much pain!” Rousey said. “Some crazy situations will make you learn how to smile through the cold.”
Though she was uncomfortable during the photo session, Rousey was excited to see the final product.
As uncomfortable as the Sports Illustrated shoot conditions were, Rousey is certainly excited to finally see the results from that day, calling the annual issue a “cultural standard” that she certainly remembers paying attention to while growing up.
“The media directed at men with women is what women pay attention to the most. When it came to what standard I gave myself growing up and what I thought that I should look like, I was looking at the women that I could see the men I wanted found attractive,” Rousey said. “I thought if this is what the guys I like like, then I should look like that. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue wasn’t like Playboy or all those others. It wasn’t so fake and plastic.”
“They always seemed to use a lot more real women and as the years have gone on, I think that has increased and really affected how people perceive women and what they should look like. They use all kinds of body types and use real women, not genetic freakish gazelles of people that look beautiful, but it’s a very small percentage of the population that looks like that.”
This isn’t the first time the UFC champ has taken her clothes off for a magazine shoot.
Rousey’s first time posing for a mainstream sports magazine was in 2012, when she appeared nude in ESPN The Magazine‘s Body Issue, although she says she approached both experiences from completely different angles.
“The ESPN Body Issue is about celebrating the peak of human potential and the kind of form the human body, when specialized, can really look like. The Swimsuit Issue has a lot more [of a] sexual side to it, while I don’t think the Body Issue is overtly sexual whereas Sports Illustrated is,” Rousey said. “The difference in how I approached it is when I posed for ESPN Body, I really tried to be a lot more cut and a lot more close to my prime fighting shape because I was being photographed as a fighter and trying to look more like a fighter.”
“I purposely tried to get a little bit heavier for the SI issue so I was a little bit curvier and not in top fight shape look but the look at which I feel I’m the most attractive. It’s very natural for a person’s body to go through seasons.”
The fighter is currently focusing on dropping weight and improving her speed and explosiveness before she takes on Zingano on February 28 at the Staples Center. After that bout, Rousey will likely make most of her headlines in theaters, with roles in both Furious 7 (April) and the Entourage movie (June) on the way.
“I’ll keep fighting and filming together. Having them both allows me to do each one longer,” Rousey said. “I’m able to step away from one and allow myself to miss the other. Going from fight camp to fight camp to fight camp constantly is an easy way to burn out. And going from movie to movie to movie is an easy way to burn out. I’ve found an amazing balance. I’m always happy and engaged and motivated.”
“I love fighting and it’s my passion and it’s the reason Hollywood took an interest in me at all, but I’m no dummy. I know there’s a short shelf life in the sport and I don’t want to be left out like I was after the Olympics [she won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Games in Beijing] with no options. I need to have a new grand goal to go after because when I have no goal is when I get depressed and I’m not letting that happen again.”
So what is Rousey’s ultimate goal?
“I set extremely high goals for myself. The first day I stepped onto a judo mat I was like ‘I’m winning the Olympics,’” she said. “The first day I did MMA, ‘I’m winning the UFC.’ The first time I had an acting gig, I said ‘I want to be the highest-grossing actor in the world.’ That’s what my goal is.”