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Despite lopsided odds, UFC champ Rousey shows plenty of respect for Canadian foe

Alexis Davis, a native of Port Colborne, Ont., takes part in a public workout in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Davis fights women's bantamweight champion (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey in the co-main event at UFC 175 Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson

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Alexis Davis, a native of Port Colborne, Ont., takes part in a public workout in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Davis fights women's bantamweight champion (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey in the co-main event at UFC 175 Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The bookies may see the UFC co-main event as a walk in the park for (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey but the sweat running down the face of the women's bantamweight champion told a different story.

Despite being anywhere from a 9-1 to 14-1 favourite, Rousey has been working her tail off to be ready for Canadian challenger Alexis Davis in the co-main event of UFC 175 on Saturday night.

That included a pre-fight public workout inside an upscale mall. Most fighters, their training camp done, go through the motions at such events.

Not Rousey.

The 27-year-old from Venice, Calif., elegantly — and easily — tossed a male training partner around like he was a human beanbag, showing the judo prowess that won her Olympic bronze. Then she hit pads with trainer Edmond Tarverdyan, her hands a blur.

When she sat down to chat with reporters after, Rousey (9-0) was bundled up in a U.S. soccer wind jacket over a hoodie and sweat pants. Not what most would choose to wear on a day where the 40-plus temperatures in Sin City resembled those of a sci-fi prison planet. But Rousey opts to multi-task, combining her media duties with cutting weight.

In preparing for her fourth UFC title defence, Rousey says her success makes for powerful motivation.

"It's even easier to be motivated," she said. "Because I have everything to lose, everything I ever worked for, to lose every single time I get out there. The more accomplishments that pile up, the more that there is at stake with every single fight ... So I have way more to lose than Alexis does. This fight is way more important to me than it is to her. She can't possibly care more than I do and I know for a fact that she doesn't work harder than I do."

Rousey may be the champion but her hunger to continue her reign is easy to see.

Welterweight Tyron (The Chosen One) Woodley calls Rousey mentally strong, well-rounded and vicious in the cage.

"I just don't see very many girls giving her a fight unless she just goes out there and defeats herself. I think she's just way too far ahead, I think she's too ornery in there. I think she's too mean. I think everybody's contemplating on her armbar (submission) so heavily that they're getting hit up the side of the head now."

Woodley sees Rousey two or three years ahead of everyone else in the division.

Despite such talk, the buildup to this fight between the two women has been one of mutual respect.

Davis (16-5), who's ranked second among bantamweight contenders, has talked about how much Rousey has done for the sport. The champion has praised Davis' well-rounded skills and character.

"Alexis has been an amazingly cool chick and respectful opponent," she said.

There is plenty to respect. Rousey has finished all nine opponents in her career and shown an expanded arsenal in recent fights. The Olympic judo bronze medallist finished her last opponent, Sarah McMann, with a nasty knee to the liver.

"How do you make yourself known in the UFC?" asked former lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn. "You destroy every single guy standing in front of you until people can't help but recognize who you are."

Just like Rousey.

"Exactly," said Penn. "Ronda Rousey came up, she talked a lot and she's backed it all up."

Rousey does not mince words and carries a grudge. She was booed after refusing to shake rival Miesha Tate's hand after beating her a second time

"My observation is she's just being real, kind of calling out the fake people," said 30-year-old Angela Magana, one of 16 women bidding to become the first strawweight champion via Season 20 of "The Ultimate fighter" reality TV show.

Rousey's talents and charisma convinced UFC president Dana White to change his mind on women's MMA and she has gone on to become the reigning rock star of the UFC, which is now in the process of adding a women's strawweight (115-pound) division.

White calls Rousey his new Chuck Liddell, a reference to the wildly popular former light-heavyweight champion who was always ready to step in and fight when needed.

In addition to her title, Rousey has been rewarded with magazine covers and movie roles, including "The Expendables 3."

It has also won her the respect of other female fighters.

"Look at what's she done for women's MMA. It's amazing," said Australian Alex (Astro Girl) Chambers, another UFC strawweight.

Both come from traditional martial arts. Rousey transitioned from judo to MMA while Chambers started in karate.

"I definitely see her as a role model," she added.

"I'm grateful for her for everything that she's done," said Magana. "Just complete gratefulness that she's paving the way and that finally it's happening.

"Somebody was going to do it and she's really good. Good for her. I'm happy for her and I'm happy for MMA."

Jessica Penne, a former Invicta atomweight champ now campaigning as a UFC strawweight, calls Rousey a great fighter and a great athlete.

"She has really evolved and transformed in a short space of time," said Penne. "So it speaks to her athletic capabilities. I think it's quite impressive."

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