Ronda Rousey defends her UFC women's bantamweight title for the first time against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 on February 23
Few athletes have had the impact Ronda Rousey has had over the last couple years, and things aren’t likely to slow down anytime soon as she prepares to make history on Saturday, February 23 as she defends her bantamweight crown against Liz Carmouche in the first ever women’s fight in the UFC. But before that UFC 157 main event in Anaheim’s Honda Center (perhaps to be renamed the Ronda Center before the night is done), here’s a sampling of Miss Rousey’s thoughts on her career, her opposition, and life as the baddest woman on the planet.
DOES SHE FEEL THE BURDEN OF EXPECTATIONS WEIGHING HER DOWN?
“I did that when I was younger. I’m over it.”
A DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS NO LONGER
“When I was 16, I went on a sports show with my coach, and they were asking everybody questions and they came to me, asked me a question and I went ‘uhhhh.’ (Laughs) I was totally a deer in the headlights for a minute, and I was like that for a while, completely horrified, and I think it’s a learned skill, just like anything else. I couldn’t even speak in full sentences until I was six years old. I was very shy, and all through high school I wore baggy clothes every day just to cover up my arms because I was just embarrassed. The self-confidence that people see in me now has developed over time. It didn’t come to me from the beginning. It came mostly from doing well in sports. I felt that if I was amazing in something, I’m actually a cool person and I should think more of myself. It’s something about medals – having a tangible thing to hold in your hand, it’s like ‘oh look, I’m awesome.’”
“I was raised with the mentality that if you’re going to do anything, you’re gonna do it to be the best at it. Ever since I was a little kid, my dad told me that if you’re gonna swim, and you’re gonna be a swimmer, you’re gonna win the Olympics in swimming. And I switched from swimming to judo, and I was like I’m in judo, I’m gonna be a judo player and I’m gonna win the Olympics in judo. And when I switched to MMA, I completely have that same intent. So it’s not a big change for me; I’m just trying to continue the same trend that I’ve been trying to follow since I was a little kid.”
“I really think that a lot of things happen for a reason, even if you don’t know it. It’s funny, my mom always has this line – I have a lot of mom lines I bring out all the time – that she got from my great grandmother, that God always knows what he’s doing, even when you don’t. And I always thought about that. If my dad didn’t die, I never would have gone to the Olympics and got a medal.
“She’s not shocked by anything I do, but she wasn’t very supportive of it (fighting in MMA). She thought it wasn’t very classy and she thought it was extremely dangerous, and what mother wants to see her baby get punched in the face? She did judo herself, but she really didn’t see it as dangerous or barbaric as some people would see in contact sports. But MMA was something she was unfamiliar with, and it’s so visually dramatic. I really think that MMA’s not that dangerous; I think boxing’s way more dangerous, but visually, it’s just insane to watch. It’s like a real fight and I think it’s hard for any mother, no matter how seasoned of an athlete she is.”
SURPRISED BY SUCCESS?
“It’s not surprising. I want myself to be perfect in every single match and I don’t expect that it will always be perfect, but that’s what I always aim for, so when it does happen that way, I’m not surprised because that’s what I wanted to do in the first place.”
“I’m happy with the way things are going. If I can go my entire career without leaving the first round, I’m not gonna complain about it. I think winning a fight in 30 seconds is pretty damn skilful.”
THE BEST OF THE BEST
“I want to be the undisputed, best pound-for-pound woman in the world in MMA, and I want to do it while looking good and being entertaining. I want to bring women’s MMA up to be just as respected as the men, and I feel that if there’s something you want to get done, you gotta do it yourself. I can’t trust anybody else to do it for me, and I’m willing to put the work in and be that person.”
“I’m full of my mom’s sayings, and one of them was ‘no one’s easy until after you beat them. After you’re done, you’re like ‘ah, that was easy,’ but the weeks leading up to that are extremely difficult, and dealing with the mental rigors of going to fight somebody on national television, it’s all difficult, even if the match itself isn’t.”
ON GINA CARANO
“I definitely don’t think I’ve pushed her aside. She’s the one coming out with a multi-million dollar movie (Haywire) in a couple months, and I’m not. (Laughs) But in the actual competition, I’m dealing with it (all the attention) fine. I expected it to be this way and I asked for it. This is what I wanted; I wanted not only to fight in women’s MMA, but to be the best at it and the most exciting at it. I’m just stoked at how things are going so far, and I really want to keep it going. When people watch this fight this weekend, I want the girls to steal the show. I want everyone to be like ‘hot damn, I want to see more of that.’ And I’m just trying my best to keep it going.”
JUDO VS. MMA
“The difference between judo and MMA is that when I fought in my first amateur MMA fight, I was shocked that there was a room full of people cheering for me. (Laughs) Because every single time I fought, I was getting booed by everyone in the room, the referees were doing everything that they could to keep me from winning, they wouldn’t give me any time on the ground, they would always give me horrible calls, and now I’m competing, and everyone complains about the referees in MMA, but they’re not the least bit involved compared to judo. So people are cheering for me and the referees are just gonna let me fight for as long as I want and not get in the way? This is an amazing transition and I’m super stoked in MMA compared to judo.”
SPEAKING THE TRUTH
“Ask any tattoo artist. Let’s just say that women do have a higher pain tolerance than men do.”
“I’m not out to go and make 20,000-50,000 new friends. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to further my career, and if that involves accumulating some critics, they don’t know me. They take a few fragments of information that they get about me and they make some sort of judgment about my character without even knowing me. And if someone that I’ll never meet is making a wrong judgment about me from very little information, that’s not really my problem at all, so I don’t really feel that bad about it.”
CONFIDENT TO THE CORE
“If I wasn’t me I wouldn’t want to fight me because I’m the best female fighter in the world.”
THE ROOTS OF RONDA
“I come from a very outspoken family of very empowered women, and when I was training as a kid, I kinda got bumped around to a lot of these fighter houses where I was hanging out with all men in their mid-20’s ever since I was around 13 or so. So I always kinda had more of a brash sense of humor and rapport with my teammates, and that compounded with very empowered and educated women in my family, and it kind of turned into the way I present myself today, which I admit is not very normal, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
“You can always trip on the edge of the ring and fall on your face. Anything can happen and anybody can push you the distance, and it could be the person you least expect. So I just assume that every single person is a danger to me and that every single person is trying to beat me and hurt me, and I’m going to be prepared for every single person, no matter who it is.”
MAMA SAID 2
“My mom has a lot of lines. She also says ‘no one has the right to beat you, regardless of who they are.’”
LIFE IN THE SPOTLIGHT
“I’m dealing with it fine. Before, I was working three jobs and training full-time, and now because everything has been going so well, it’s the same amount of work, but it’s just different work. I don’t have to do graveyard shifts anymore or show up for a 9 to 5 job; I just have more media obligations. But I’ve trained more than I ever have for any other fight before, even for the Olympics. This is the peak of my athletic career, and having to deal some extra media and all those other things, the only challenges are multi-tasking, organization, getting help with my schedule and getting enough rest. But thankfully, I have a very professional team behind me now that’s really helping me coordinate everything, so that’s pretty much how I’m dealing with it – I get a lot of outside help with organization. But I always put my training first and all the other things come second.”
ONE TRICK PONY?
“When people say that I’m a one trick pony and only have the one armbar, they don’t realize that I have so many setups to that armbar that I don’t even know them all – I’ll make them up on the fly. When you’re watching boxing and you see somebody knock someone out with a right hand every time, they’re not like ‘oh, they’re a one trick pony.’ No, they have a billion different setups for that right hand. And just because it ended with a right hand on the face, it doesn’t mean it’s the same thing every time. And just because so many people are unfamiliar with grappling and they just see the armbar ending the same, they assume the setup’s the same, but if you look back at all those fights, I’ve jumped into that armbar from many different positions. It ends the same way, but the setups are always different. So they can prepare for a certain setup, but I’m always gonna think of more.”
“Contrary to what a lot of people believe, I never underestimate a single opponent,” she said. “I always assume that they’re going to be the best I’m ever going to be facing, the best version of them that’s ever going to be seen, and the very first opening I see, I’m gonna go for it. I’m not going to be cocky enough to think that I can let certain openings slip by so I can finish the fight in a style that I think is cooler. I assume that if I see one opening to finish a fight, that could be the only one I will ever see and I have to capitalize on it. I never relax in a fight, thinking that I’m such a shoo-in that I can finish in any way I want. I’m always so worried that there might be only one chance or no chances for me to see a finish, so I have to try and create and capitalize on every single thing that I see.”
“It’s extremely satisfying because that was my goal from the very beginning. I wanted to gain the respect of people that I respected and I knew that I was capable. It’s funny, but you can see on some old interviews that I did where I said ‘I’m gonna make these people love me, I’m gonna make these people respect me, and all I have to do is win and win impressively.’ It’s not like they’re gonna put me in the middle of an arena and be like ‘okay, here’s a model airplane, put it together in 60 seconds.’ (Laughs) I have no idea how to do that. But my mom was making me drill judo and armbars and being a fighter and an athlete ever since I can remember. I can’t remember not being an athlete. It’s just doing what comes natural, and I feel like I’ve always been deserving of that respect, but I have to do things to earn it.”