With the WTA in Miami for the Sony Ericsson Open, the rare opportunity for women's tennis and the UFC to cross over presented itself. Victoria Azarenka, currently ranked #1 in the world and the winner of the Australian Open earlier this year, met up with Rashad Evans at the MMA Masters facility.
A UFC press release explains the meeting:
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship® light heavyweight champion and current No. 1 contender, "Suga" Rashad Evans took time from training for UFC® 145: JONES vs. EVANS to meet Women's Tennis Association (WTA) World No. 1 superstar Victoria Azarenka. The top athletes visited the MMA Masters facility in Miami and traded tennis and UFC gifts and expertise. Evans showed Azarenka some moves in the cage while Azarenka shared a few tennis tips with Evans. The Belarusian beauty is currently in Miami playing in the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament.
Azarenka had a bye in the first round of the singles draw and won her second round match 6/3 7/5. She is 24-0 in 2012 with four tournament wins, demolishing lingering doubts held by some about her quality as a #1 player.
Rashad had the following to say about the meeting:
"This was a nice break from training. It lets your mind go free and gives you a chance to not think about the fight. It was cool that she's another pro athlete, one who goes out there and competes, mano-a-mano. It was fun."
"I can tell she's genuinely interested in MMA - it was impressive how she grasps the concepts. I didn'tshow her too much except for kicking, but she knew a lot more than I thought she'd know. There were times she really looked like she knew what she was doing."
"I love women's tennis. It actually dominates men's tennis in my opinion. You know they're out there giving it everything they've got. They go through the same anxiety we do of not wanting to lose, and I respect that a lot."
"It was a great experience to meet Rashad. He seems really nice - I'm sure he's a little bit meaner in the cage, but he's a great guy and it's always great to meet somebody from a completely different field. I love to follow UFC. I invited him to tennis so I hope he can come cheer me on."
"I wish I had time to train more. I'm curious about how these athletes train. I could pick up something interesting for myself."
I'm a very big tennis fan and fully agree with Rashad's assessment that the WTA beats the ATP in terms of overall quality. So seeing two sports that I have a deep appreciation for come together, even if for a PR/marketing moment, is pretty cool.
Here are a few photos of the meeting: