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Ronda Rousey was everywhere in 2015. She appeared on talk shows and movies, and her face was on the cover of every magazine. 

But her star didn’t appear out of vast nothingness. From near misses at the Olympics to catching the eyes of Dana White, Ronda went through the wringer to reach the top.

Even when a TMZ reporter asked Dana White whether we’ll ever see women competing in the UFC, the boss replied with a categorical “Never”.

But little did he know that this interview, shot on a low-res camera, would fuel the Ronda Rousey hype train that would eventually smash the glass ceiling in the UFC.

This is the tumultuous story of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey and her love-hate relationship with the UFC.

Who is Ronda Rousey?

Ronda Jean Rousey is a superstar mixed martial who became prominent in the early 2010s due to her unprecedented dominance in Strikeforce and the UFC. 

Born in Riverside, California, in 1987 to world Judo champion AnnMaria De Mars, Ronda came into the world with a chip on her shoulder. 

As a child, Ronda Rousey battled with Apraxia of speech, which limited how she expressed herself. But with the help of experts, she later regained speech fluency.

Ronda Rousey Does Judo

Leaving her early struggles behind, Ronda took on the next challenge at 11. Just like her mom, she decided to take up Judo. 

Ronda flourished under the tutelage of her world-champion mom, who held no bars when pushing her daughter to the top.

Source: Sky Sports

In 2004, Ronda qualified for the Athens Olympics at 17. Unfortunately, her outing was a disappointment as she lost the very first match. Eventually, she moved to a higher weight class (70kg), leading to a silver medal at the World Judo Championships. 

Source: Judo Inside

Despite ending up on the podium, Ronda described taking the loss as hard as her dad’s death. However, she bounced back from this setback by winning gold at the PanAm Games, setting the stage for another run at the Olympics in Beijing.

Ronda at the 2008 Olympics

Still nursing the pain from the early exit in Athens in 2004, Ronda came to Beijing with a mission to take the ultimate prize. But once again, she’d fall short, finishing third and securing the first medal in Judo for American women. 

Given her track record of not handling losses well, Ronda’s life began to spiral as she went on a bender. In due course, she blew through her entire Olympic prize money and had to take odd jobs to make rent.

During one of these nights out, Ronda went to a bar and saw Nate Diaz fighting Manny Gamburyan on the telly. And at that moment, she knew where her next challenge would take her.

Rousey Does MMA

Before switching to MMA full-time, Ronda had to first quit the Judo team officially. However, broaching this topic with her coach Jimmy Pedro and training partner Kayla Harrison was the last thing on her mind.

So during a sponsored trip to Japan, Ronda just went AWOL, leaving the Japanese hosts absolutely apoplectic. Alternate accounts of this event featured some colorful words from her coach—we’ll leave what happened in the gym where it belongs.

Following the acrimonious breakup, Ronda joined Hayastan MMA Academy under the tutelage of the now-infamous Edmond Tarverdyan. 

A flawless amateur career landed Rousey a professional contract at Strikeforce MMA. After steamrolling her opponents, snatching arms along the way, Ronda Rousey finally got the chance to fight for the belt. 

Source: MMA Mania

Between Ronda Rousey and Strikeforce Bantamweight Gold stood the formidable Meisha Tate, who, like opponents before her, fell subsequently to the armbar.

Rousey was now the Strikeforce champion. The next opponent was Dana White.

Ronda Rousey joins the UFC

Remember when Dana White said “Never” to women joining the UFC? Well, that didn’t last long. 

After watching Ronda’s dominance in Strikeforce and having a one-to-one meeting with her, Dana White changed his tune. Ronda’s personality, meanness, and unprecedented dominance had the makings of more than a varsity athlete: she was a natural star.

Following the dissolution of Strikeforce, Ronda joined the UFC as the pioneer of the division and the reigning champ. With the blessing of Roddy Piper, she took the nickname “Rowdy,” and the hype train zoomed off like Snowpiercer.

Source: UFC

Ronda’s highly anticipated debut came at UFC 157 against grizzled veteran Liz Camouche. Within seconds, Camouche caught Rousey in a submission attempt. The hype was almost over before it began. 

But Ronda battled through adversity to survive the early attack before delivering her trademark armbar submission in the first round. The crowd erupted.

Her next fight was with Strikeforce nemesis Meisha Tate, who became the first person to make it out of the first round against Ronda Rousey. Unfortunately, she couldn’t escape the armbar again.

On February 2014, Ronda switched things up by defeating Sara McMann by knockout. This was her first non-armbar win in the UFC Octagon. 

She then followed it up with a 16-second knockout against Alexis Davis. Cat Zingano fell to the armbar in 14 seconds. Bethe Correa got KO’d in 34 seconds. There was no stopping this Snowpiercer.

Ronda Rousey Goes Mainstream

Make no mistake, Ronda was not the first woman to do MMA in the US. In the mid-2000s, Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg. Although Gina Carano had some hype around her, people outside the MMA community didn’t know much about her.

So, seeing a woman break people’s arms for a living while shattering all glass ceilings was a thing to behold. And Ronda did it with such flawless dominance that Hollywood had to take notice. 

Even without the aggressive push of the UFC’s PR machine, people wanted to see Rousey fight. Young girls flocked to gyms in their Rowdy gym wear. 

Joe Rogan was in awe; he even got carried away by comparing her to active male fighters. Some even floated the idea of Ronda Rousey beating Floyd Mayweather. Yes, those were wild times.

Source: USA Today

Let’s face it; we all bought into the snake oil sold to us by Edmond Tarverdyan. He was Rousey’s most ardent cheerleader, singing her praise to the high heavens and comparing her to the inhabitants of Olympus. 

He even convinced us, and Ronda herself, that she could challenge and defeat pro boxers. But that was before we saw her sparring footage and that infamous shadowboxing clip.

And Ronda bought into the hype. Why wouldn’t she? The media loved her. She was on every talk show, all the magazines wanted her to pose for their cover, and movie theaters wanted to leech off the hype. 

She even featured in The Expendables 3

Source: Sporting News

But one thing about pro sports: while you are at the top, you’ll always have a massive target on your back. And oh, the tabloids and meme pages will hover in anticipation of your inevitable fall from grace.

The Head Kick Heard Around The World

At UFC 193, the Rowdy hype train took over Melbourne in anticipation of her seventh title defense against world champion kickboxer Holly Holm. 

Most writers and bookmakers wrote Holm off due to her lack of grappling skills. But a few MMA experts pointed out that her kickboxing could pose a new kind of problem for Rousey. 

All said, Ronda Rousey went into the fight as the overwhelming favorite.

Lights on, away we go into the first round. 

Rousey struggles to keep up with the nimble-footed Holm. The entire MMA community watches in shock as Holm surgically dismantles Rousey.

This was not the real Ronda Rousey. This was not the greatest female athlete of all time. 

The second round was no different from the first. The champ looked human. She looked beatable, very beatable. 

Source: LA Times

After Holm stuffed Rousey’s grappling attempt, she shoved her to the ground. On her way back up, Ronda forgot the cardinal rule of always putting your hands up at all times. 

Holly held Rousey on the torso to get a good measure of the distance before unleashing a devastating head kick that landed flush on the champion’s skull. Holm then rushed in to deliver some finishing hammer blows before the ref called off the bout.

Holly Holm Head Kick KO Over Ronda Rousey

The crowd was shocked. Holly Holm had defeated the invincible Ronda Rousey. And for the first time, the hype train got derailed.

The Aftermath

Following the devastating KO, Rousey took some time off to recover. She stayed away from the limelight until February 2016, when she appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. 

Say what you want about Ellen or Ronda, but that interview showed us the real Ronda Rousey. Not the mean, rowdy lady that refused to shake her opponents’ hands; not the trash-talking overhyped fighter. 

We saw Ronda Rousey address how she wanted to end it all after losing her belt. But instead of asking about her mental health, we focused on her crying face.

Source: The Mirror

I couldn’t help but draw parallels with her earlier losses in judo and struggling with not being good enough. When she broke down into tears on Ellen, my mind raced back to her speaking about crying when she lost the gold medal in Beijing.

But the internet didn’t care. While the hype train gained steam, the meme factory worked overtime. The KO opened up the floodgates, and Ronda Rousey was pelted with so much vile on the internet that she had to stay away from the game for an entire year.

The end of the Ronda Rousey craze

When undefeated champions lose their ”0” — something Khabib, Mayweather, nor Marciano ever experienced — the fighting community goes into a frenzy about their comeback. 

Some believe that getting your first loss feels like a weight off your shoulders, while others argue that losing in such devastating fashion chips away at your confidence: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman comes to mind. 

We were about to find out when Ronda Rousey faced off with Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes. 

Source: UFC

The fight with Amanda Nunes was even more shocking than the previous one with Holly Holm. After Nunes landed her first significant strike, Ronda Rousey seemed to freeze, as if she didn’t expect Nunes to hit that hard.

Nunes made quick work of the former champ and claimed her belt.

Following the bout, the blame started to fly from pillar to post. Core MMA fans blamed Edmond Tarverdyan for Ronda’s seeming lack of progress. Her striking was atrocious, to put it mildly. 

Some blamed the UFC matchmakers for plunging Ronda Rousey into the deep end with a certified killer and Hall of Famer like The Lioness. 

Source: UFC

Others openly blamed Ronda for not taking the time to acknowledge that her loss to Holly Holm was not a fluke. Had she taken the loss more seriously, she could have worked on her striking within the year off.

As Bruce Buffer announced the official results, I knew that the Ronda Rousey I saw in that Octagon hanging her head in dejection was done with MMA. 

The Ronda Rousey hype train had ground to a screeching halt. We might never see her in the UFC again.

What is Ronda Doing Now?

And I was right. That was the last time we saw Ronda Rousey in a UFC Octagon. 

Her next challenge took her to the WWE, where she has even managed to garner more notoriety. She also won the RAW Women’s Championship, becoming the first woman to win UFC and WWE gold.

Source: Wrestling Inc

Ronda Rousey has also appeared in several movies and TV shows, such as Entourage, Mile 22, Charlie’s Angels, Total Divas, Blindspot, and Furious 7

She also has a daughter with former UFC Heavyweight Travis Browne.

Ronda Rousey’s legacy

Although the object of ridicule in some circles, Ronda Rousey is still a role model for young women and boys around the world. She broke the glass ceiling and made two middle-aged baldies — Joe Rogan and Dana White — fawn over her.

Ronda Rousey stood on the podium at the Olympics and won international championships as a judoka. She became a champion in two different MMA organizations. Her dominance rivals the dominance of any fighter in combat sports.

Source: UFC

Ronda also paved the way for trash-talking killers like Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Without her, we wouldn’t have had the amazing double champ, Amanda Nunes. And no woman would ever headline a pay-per-view in the UFC. For Rousey’s exploits in the octagon, the UFC inducted her into the Hall of Fame in 2018. 

Regardless of her public and private battles, regardless of what the meme factory says about her, Ronda Rousey’s star will shine forever. And above all, she will always have the support of a loving family and an army of dedicated fans.

Who wrote this?

Sports Writer | [email protected] | Website

Ugo is a sports enthusiast with an undying love for underdog stories.

Ugo Ezenduka
Ugo is a sports enthusiast with an undying love for underdog stories.

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  1. Was nice reading this piece Ugo

    1. Thanks for reading, Lucky!

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