Behind The Scenes

Ramona Shelburne goes to Melbourne for Rousey Down Under

Ramona coulda been a contender
“I’ve always been into boxing,” Shelburne says of her interest in covering Rousey’s fight. “When I finished my college softball career, I needed a workout that was more exciting than 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, so after I moved back to Los Angeles I saw an ad on Craigslist for a trainer who gave boxing lessons and thought it sounded fun. He worked out of Wild Card gym in Hollywood, charged $25 an hour and $5 for the day pass. I didn’t know it was Freddie Roach’s gym. Freddie was a well-known trainer at the time, but not the famous Freddie Roach who trains Manny Pacquiao. I took boxing lessons from him for years and loved it.”

Anyone worried about shelling out pay-per-view money for a Ronda Rousey fight – her last three title defenses have lasted a total of 64 seconds combined – would have a lot less invested in Saturday’s UFC 193 card than Andrea Pelkey.

“I am by no means an analyst, but given Ronda’s history, the thought has crossed my mind that I may have flown to the other side of the planet for a 30-second fight,” the ESPN producer said after traveling 32 hours from Boston to lead ESPN’s coverage in Melbourne, Australia.

Reporter Ramona Shelburne also recognizes the rapid routs of Rousey’s rivals, saying, “I’m really psyched to cover this fight live — it might be short, real short, but I like people who take big swings at things. Coming to Australia and trying to sell out a 75,000-seat outdoor stadium is really ambitious for the UFC, but she’ll do it.”

With a 16-hour time difference, the bout will start about 2 p.m. Sunday in Australia to attract a Saturday prime time audience in America. Thus, post-fight interviews from the matinee in Melbourne will be at the mercy of SportsCenter’s schedule amid the conclusions of college football games, and “live” reports leading up to the fight will favor the later shows.

“My boss [coordinating producer Jonathan Wolf] called me and said, ‘I have a really cool assignment for you,’ — this always makes me nervous,” Pelkey said. “He asked if I would to go to Australia to cover UFC 193, and of course I jumped at the chance. Opportunities like this make us realize how much we love what we do.”

Rousey’s love for being champion has won over Australian fans, a reason Shelburne, covering the fight for SportsCenter and espnW, says Rousey can fill Etihad Stadium.

“She just has this intensity in her eyes that makes you pay attention to everything she says and does — I swear, the first time I saw her [while covering the Cat Zingano fight], I thought her eyes actually turned red like the Terminator’s, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Shelburne said.

“Since then, she’s become a crossover superstar in sports, television, movies and corporate America,” she said. “There was a little controversy when she appeared on The Ring Magazine cover, but why? Now that Floyd Mayweather is ‘retired’ and Manny Pacquiao is winding down, isn’t Ronda Rousey the most popular fighter out there?”

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