A Total Knockout: The Life of Ronda Rousey

The athletic world tends to be very male-dominated. Female athletes often have to work a lot harder just to be noticed. The ones who do break through the glass ceiling, women like Simone Biles and Serena Williams, end up being an inspiration for generations of athletes.
Getty Images Photo by Amy E. Price
Getty Images Photo by Amy E. Price
Wrestling legend Ronda Rousey is a great testament to how far women can go. Take a look at her life to see how legends are made.

It Started with Her Parents

Ronald Rousey and Ann Maria De Mars had little baby Ronda on February 1st, 1987 when her mother (pictured) was already a well-established athlete.

 

Ann Marie was a judo fighter who got to be the first American to win the gold at the World Judo Championships. Her fantastic combat genes were passed on to little Ronda.

Making a Champion

Giving birth is one of the most difficult things in a woman’s life, and it was even harder for Ann Marie.

 

Ronda’s birth was extra complicated because the baby came out with the umbilical cord wrapping her neck. Her oxygen flow was compromised, but she survived that very first fight.

Learning to Speak

Rousey’s traumatic birth completion resulted in apraxia — a neurological disorder that caused Ronda a disability, she could not form coherent words and sentences.

 

Rousey worked with a speech therapist for years, fully recovered, and won that fight as well.

Then Came the Accident

When Rousey was eight years old, she suffered a terrible loss. That winter, Ronda and her family went sledding and their lives changed forever. Her father had a sledding accident and broke his back.

 

A previously unknown blood condition was preventing Ron from healing properly and left him paralyzed from the waist down. The doctors only gave him a few more years to live, which sent him spiraling and led him into taking his own life.

Learning from Mom

At 11 years old, Ronda started training with her mother. She learned everything she could about judo, worked hard, and a couple of years later became strong enough to accidentally break her mother’s wrist.

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Ronda turned out to be a natural fighter and joined the Olympic team when she was 15. The year after that, she was ranked number one in her weight category, making history as the youngest American to achieve that title.

The Winner Takes It All

Rousey qualified for the 2004 Olympics but unfortunately lost her first fight. She didn’t let that loss bring her down, though.

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She fought at the World Championships in Hungary that year and snatched the gold medal for her country. It was her first win of many.

Another Olympic Round

The 2008 Olympic games found Ronda ready to take on whatever opponent she faces. She put up great fights but ended up losing the quarterfinals by a near-tie. The results were actually so close she got a second chance to qualify for the medal rounds.

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She took the opportunity with both hands, fought hard, and won the bronze medal. She became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in judo!

A Post-Olympic Life

At 21 years old, after winning almost every possible judo medal a young American woman can, Rousey retired. She gave a non-Olympic life a shot and moved in with a roommate in California.

 

This turned out to be harder than winning medals. She supported herself and her dog by working three jobs and then realized it was all becoming too much.

Welcome to MMA

When Rousey was still training in judo, she had some training partners who transitioned into MMA fighters. Those former training partners suggested that this could be just what Rousey needs to do next in her life.

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Tired of her ordinary jobs, Rousey decided to take their advice and embark on an MMA journey — a decision that changed her life.

The First Fight

Rousey’s first MMA fight was in the summer of 2010. The fight was epic.

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The fight was epically short. It only lasted 23 seconds, during which she obliterated her opponent faster than you can blink. It was a great start for Rousey.

Going Pro

At the beginning of Ronda’s MMA career, she was technically categorized as an amateur. In practice, however, she was as professional as they come.

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Anyone who had the guts to face her had their backside handed to them on a platter in under a minute. Not surprisingly, Rousey went pro, officially, and destroyed her opponents.

Lean, Mean, Fighting Machine

As a pro, Rousey achieved the impossible and won four fights in a row, with each fight lasting less than a minute. All of those fights and achievements lead her to compete against the reigning champ.

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The fight took 4 minutes and 27 seconds, much longer than Rousey’s average, but it ended with her victory. She became an MMA sensation and even appeared on the cover of the “Body Issue” by ESPN Magazine.

Cover Girl

With Rousey’s growing popularity, her “Body Issue” cover was only a matter of time. Think of “Body Issue” as the “Sports Illustrated” of ancient Sparta — mega athletes showing off their hard-earned sporty physique on glossy paper.

 

Rousey was happy to participate, as she viewed the concept as art. Her main message was that femininity doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the sake of athleticism. “I can be a fighter and be tough yet still retain my femininity,” said Rousey profoundly.

The Body “Issue”

Empowering as her experience shooting for the “Body Issue” was, it wasn’t done completely on her own terms. Her main concern in posing for the magazine was nude photos that might be leaked.

 

She was cautious as she could be on set, but then her fears materialized. An ESPN cameraman was shooting behind the scenes for the ESPN YouTube channel while Rousey was getting her pictures taken. It turned out that the video showed her completely nude for a moment. She was furious and asked ESPN to remove the video at once, which they did.

Facing Holm

Rousey has made a name for herself as a fearsome fighter who takes about a minute or less to show her opponents who the real boss is.

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Then, in 2015, she went into the ring with Holly Holm. Holm was pretty confident for someone who was about to face the seemingly unbeatable Rousey. The UFC community was shaken to its core when Holm won the fight. Rousey was shaken even harder.

Losing Her Mojo

After her disappointing battle against Holm, Rousey was deeply disappointed in herself. She spent the following year focusing on training and didn’t compete at all.

 

When she was finally back in the ring, she was scheduled to fight against Amanda Nunes, who was the reigning champ. There was a lot at stake for Rousey. Surprisingly, the 48-second-long fight ended in Nunes retaining her title. Fans were shocked, and Rousey started thinking she might be losing her touch.

Reinventing Herself

When Rousey realized she is getting bested more times than she’s comfortable with, she had her eyes set on a new challenge — acting. The super fighter has dabbled in acting before and even starred in the 2014 film “The Expendables 3”.

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Rousey focused on acting and started landing more roles, including an appearance in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. She even had a chance to bust out her old combat moves in the memorable fight scene she had with Michelle Rodriguez in “Furious 7”.

Violence Is Never the Answer

Rousey’s love life wasn’t an instant success like her professional life. In her autobiography, “My Fight, Your Fight”, Rousey confesses to having had a toxic relationship with an ex-boyfriend.

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According to her, he took a nude picture of her without her knowing or agreeing to it, which eventually led to her using violence against him — and we all know by now that she can throw a mean punch. Thankfully, the two are not together anymore.

Finding Love

Rousey eventually met her one true love. The man, Travis Browne, is a UFC fighter and the two started seeing each other when Browne and his ex-wife were still married (although separated).

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His previous marriage ended due to domestic violence accusations, but Rousey believes him to be innocent. “I know that he didn’t do anything,” she said at an ESPN interview, and the two have been together since.

More on the Controversial Relationship

In 2016, Rousey hosted an episode of the comedy show SNL, but it seems that something other than comedy was stealing the show — the ring on Ronda’s finger.

 

One person who was especially angered by the episode is Jenna Renee Webb, Browne’s wife (separated at the time, yet still technically married). After the episode was aired, she posted a picture of Ronda’s ring with an angry caption calling Rousey out for seeing a married man and accusing Browne of hitting her (Webb) in the past.

Some Serious Accusations

Webb’s post after the SNL episode blew up and shined an unflattering light on Roursye and Browne’s relationship. There was a whole drama around him being married and allegedly attacking his estranged wife.

 

Webb’s social media posts stirred the drama pot even further and Travis did everything in his power to clear his name. He denied the abuse accusations and even told Ronda he would understand if she wanted to break up, but they stuck through it. Eventually, the UFC commissioned a third-party investigation that cleared him.

Saying “I Do”

Rousey and Browne dated for two years before announcing their engagement. The proposal was reportedly done on a New Zealand vacation under a local waterfall.

 

The two married a few months later in a Hawaiin ceremony. The obligatory post-wedding picture Browne posted was captioned with the words, “What an amazing day!! She is so perfect in every way! She makes me so happy! She is my other half! I Love You @rondarousey #browsey2017”

Farm Girl

For someone who made most of her fortune fighting other people, Rousy’s leads a pretty quiet life. She and her husband live on a farm— a large property located in Venice, California.

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The couple grows fruits and vegetables on their farm, plus an array of farm animals such as ducks, goats, and chickens. According to Rousey, her perfect Sunday would involve cooking a farm-grown breakfast and tending to the ducks’ pond.

Let’s Talk About Food

Many professional athletes are very careful with what they eat and stick to a strict diet. In 2012 Rousey said that the one she follows has elements from the Paleo diet and the Warrior Diet.

 

Rousey practiced a vegan diet for a while although she doesn’t adhere to one now. She likes eating organic and grows as much as she can of her own produce.

The Animal Instinct

Before her time at the UFC, Rousey used to work as an assistant for a dogs’ physical therapist. Now, with her farm and subsequent menagerie, she is happy to spend more time with her animals.

 

She enjoys spending time with her goats — especially one named Rio, who she used to bottle-feed when he was still a baby.

Going to WWE?

After her shameful loss to Nunes in 2016, Rousey stopped fighting and focused on acting. It fulfilled her to a certain degree, but she was still open for other opportunities that might be coming her way.

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Word got around the wrestling circles that Rousey is about to star in WWE. Still, nothing was made official so it was all just a rumor. Still, she was later seen with Triple H — a major WWE personality, so the rumor wasn’t completely baseless.

A WWE Debut

In February 2018, Rousey signed with WWE. Her debut came two months later in the Superdome at WrestleMania 34. She was teamed with Kurt Angle and they fought against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.

 

She was thrilled to win that fight and surprised at how well-mannered the huge crowd was. Coming from outside WWE, she was expecting a cold shoulder from the fans, but they were incredibly kind.

A Different Kind of Performance

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the world of wrestling and the different leagues — here is the difference between MMA fights and WWE: the former is real fights with real competition. The latter is scripted and the performance involves more stunts than actual fighting.

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As we previously wrote, Rousey’s mother taught her judo. But her so-called “mean-mug” — the fight face she has on in the ring — she learned that from her godfather.

Giving the Small Screen a Shot

After finishing her UFC stint, acting became a much bigger part of Rousey’s life. As you now know, she’s landed roles in film, but she was keen on giving TV a shot too.

 

She’s had several guest performances in the past few years, most memorably in 2017 as a prisoner on the drama series “Blindspot”. Rousey enjoyed the experience and said she would love to reprise the role.

More Than Just a Fighter

When filmmakers are met with the force of nature that is Ronda Rousey, they obviously want to use her physical abilities in their films. But director Pete Berg saw something more in her.

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Berg directed the 2018 film “Mile 22” and wanted Rousey to star in it and display more of her talents. He wanted her to show people that she had more to offer, and she was touched by his confidence in her.

Kids Are Brutal

Being a teenage girl is hard (even as a world-class athlete) and Ronda was no different. Her strong muscles and sturdy form got other kids talking about her and teasing her. Not very smart considering the fact she could knock them all out without breaking a sweat, but the words got to her and they hurt really bad.

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She had a lot to overcome mentally, only to be attacked by the memories after losing to Holm. When that happened, Rousey started having some dark thoughts about taking her own life.

Opening up to Ellen

It’s hard to imagine someone as strong as Rousey break down, but it’s important to remember that she is simply human. When coming on the Elle DeGeneres show in 2016, Ronda opened up about the dark place she was in after losing to Holm.

 

She emotionally spoke about feeling like she had nothing left to live for after this. But according to her, in that second, she looked up at Browne, who was at her side, and realized there was more to life than winning fights. Rousey showing her vulnerable side was an inspiration to anyone who has ever felt the same.

Fighting Depression

Seemingly undefeated Rousey has battled her inner demons in her longest fight yet. Her mother taught her everything she knows about judo, but she was never taught how to deal with losing a fight or feelings of disappointment.

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Those feelings caught up with her in her late 20s. She was overwhelmed into a two-year-long depression. She recalls crying a lot and isolating herself, and Browne holding her and pulling her through it all. “I couldn’t have done it alone,” she said in a Los Angeles Times interview.

Never Call Her a “Do Nothing”

“UFC 190 Embedded” is a documentary-style show that goes behind the scenes and into the personal lives of UFC fighters. When appearing on the show, Rousey said that her mother raised her to never become a “Do Nothing”.

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The term is often abbreviated by Ronda as ‘DNB’ (the B stands for an expletive word you can probably guess). Basically, it means she doesn’t know how to be lazy.

An ESPY Princess

Despite the “Body Issue” fiasco, Rousey didn’t cut ties with ESPN. In fact, she has even attended the ESPY Awards several times. The ESPY’s (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) is like the Oscar’s for athletes, and Rousey’s accomplishments were celebrated with three ESPY Awards over the years.

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She won the Best Female Athlete Award two years in a row (2014 and 2015), and a Best Fighter Award (2015). In fact, Rousey was the only female nominee for the latter.

Rousey vs Mayweather

At the 2015 ESPY Awards, Rousey mentioned one of the fighters who was nominated for Best Fighter with her — Floyd Mayweather.

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The year before that, Mayweather said he didn’t know who Rousey was and that he’s never heard of her. “I’d like to see you pretend to not know who I am now,” Rousey said on the red carpet, “I wonder how Floyd feels being defeated by a woman for once.”

Home Invasion, the Rousey Edition

When doing a 2017 interview on the talk show “Live With Kelly and Ryan”, Rousey spoke about being robbed a few months prior. Apparently, the burglars weren’t too smart and literally robbed a couple that throws punches for a living.

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A lot was taken — her Olympic ring, weapon, valuable jewelry, and credit cards. Rousey and her husband quickly checked their security system and recognized the criminals from a nearby skatepark. The footage was turned over to the police who found the burglars and arrested them.

A Solid Partnership

By the end of 2016, Rousey was the best UFC female fighter in her weight class. Sponsorship offers came pouring in and Rousey partnered with brands like Carl’s Jr., Reebok, Buffalo Jeans, and Metro PCS.

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After suffering two major career losses, some questions about the sponsorship began to arise — would the sponsors stand with Rousey? According to TMZ Sports, the sponsors were very supportive. Reebok even said that they stand beside her and that their partnership is not about wins or losses.

A UFC Hall of Famer

Rousey’s success and popularity were almost instant. She became so famous so fast that in 2015, she was the third-most Googled person in the world.

 

Rousey got the world interested in women’s fighting. That, alongside her previously mentioned achievements, earned her well-deserved respect. She was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2018 and became the first woman to do that.

And to Think the UFC Didn’t Even Want Women’s MMA

When Rousey signed with the UFC in 2013, she was the first woman to do that. Actually, if it wasn’t for her, the UFC wouldn’t have even picked up women’s MMA in the first place.

 

Before Rousey came along, Dana White, UFC President, didn’t think there was “enough depth” for a women’s division. He changed his mind only after watching Rousey in action. He stated that she first got him to change his mind, and then changed the world.

Rousey’s Armbar

Rousey’s signature move is the armbar — a position which locks the opponent’s arms when they’re stretched in front of them. This may not sound fancy, but it hurts. Bad. It can also seriously damage the opponent’s arm.

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As an MMA pro, Rousey has had a total of 14 fights, 12 of which she won. Nine of the twelve were won by submission. Her competitors have seen the other side of her armbar even as an amateur. She locked Hayden Munoz and Taylor Stratford into an armbar in 23 and 24 seconds (respectively). As a pro, she even dislocated an opponent’s (Miesha Tate) elbow with that move!

An Homage to Roddy Piper

Late wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper is a WWE legend with multiple championship titles. Ronda has looked up to him for years. When she started her own career, she asked him if she could use “Rowdy” as a nickname as well, and he happily agreed.

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Now Rousey is commonly known in the wrestling scene as “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. In 2015, Piper had a heart attack which resulted in his unfortunate death.

Showing Men How It’s Done

The October 2015 issue of Men’s Fitness magazine was unusual — it was the magazine’s first issue to feature a woman on the cover. That woman was Ronda, who once again did something no other woman has done before.

 

There is no denying that Rousey is easy on the eyes, but that wasn’t the topic covered. She was pictured in her Reebok sports clothes under the title “Think You’re Tough?”. The feature story focused on her as an inspiration and a woman of many accomplishments. People had different opinions on the magazine’s choice of a cover girl, but it was ultimately celebrated for it.

What About Feminism?

With accomplishments like hers in a male-dominated scene, it would be crazy to not think of Rousey as a feminist icon.

 

Still, it looks like Rousey isn’t keen on wearing that kind of label. She believes that fighting is “a human thing” rather than “a man’s thing”, so gender is irrelevant.

It’s All About the Money

Much like in other industries, the pay gap is an issue in sports as well. Female fighters are often paid less than their male counterparts.

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When asked about the issue, Rousey turned to math and said that ultimately, it makes sense for those who have more fights to be making more money.

Praised by Tina Fey

In 2016, Ronda made it into the list of  100 Most Influential People of TIME Magazine. She was highly praised in Tina Fey’s editorial piece for her strength and her perception of feminity.

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Fey said she admires Rousey for the impact she’s had on women in sports and young girls. They can look up to her and see that they don’t have to choose between femininity and strength.

Redefining Femininity

She may not identify as a feminist icon but is still perceived as one. Being endorsed by Tina Fey and making her way through a predominantly male scene has turned her into a role model for men and women alike.

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One major issue she keeps stressing is that women shouldn’t let anyone determine what femininity means — not men, not the beauty industry, and not the media. Only their individual selves.

Not Cocky — Confident

Anyone who has ever seen a proper fight knows that fighters often boast over how powerful they are. It’s almost a part of the metaphorical playbill of a fight.

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Most of the time, when male fighters do it, people don’t really care. When Ronda did that, however, she felt judged for it and was said to be cocky. Her response to all those critics was epic — “How dare you to assume I should think less of myself?”

Only Human

Even with her slew of victories and accomplishments, Rousey stays grounded and remembers she’s not invincible. Her vulnerability is what makes her human, and what makes others relate to her.

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She summed it up quite eloquently in her book when she wrote “I am vulnerable; that’s why I fight.”