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She said it: Ronda Rousey in her own words


Few athletes have had the impact Ronda Rousey has had, and as she prepares to challenge Amanda Nunes for the UFC women’s bantamweight title on Dec. 30, things are going to ramp up significantly once more. But before that UFC 207 main event in Las Vegas, here’s a sampling of Rousey’s thoughts on her career and life in the eye of the hurricane.

“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.’”

LESSONS (2011)
“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 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.”

“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.”

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“The first time I watched a UFC fight was when Manny Gamburyan was in the final of The Ultimate Fighter against Nate Diaz. I’ve known Manny since I was a little kid, and I was training for the Olympics in Boston. I had been trying to keep up with the episodes, but training was nuts. So when I heard he was in the finals, I said I’m going to watch this fight, and I was jumping all around. I literally jumped up and ran the length of the sectional couch I was sitting on like ten times, running back and forth and screaming. (Laughs) That never happened to me watching any sport ever.”

“I was thinking of doing it (MMA) before the last Olympics and when I was doing judo, but I wouldn’t say anything about it. I thought it was an unrealistic thing to hope for. And then after I quit judo, I kinda realized that I really didn’t have that many options. And I was grappling just to keep in shape with some of the guys I trained with before, and they would always say ‘oh man, you would kill these girls,’ and it just started entering into my head again as a real possibility. I said why don’t I give this a try? If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just go join the Coast Guard.”

“I definitely have to think a lot more and I kind of learned my lesson the hard way when I first got started. It was fun and I was just like ‘hey, I can do whatever the hell I want because I’m not playing Miss America Olympian anymore.’ And it was really fun in the beginning, and then as more and more attention started to accumulate, every single thing started to be dissected, so I had to start paying attention to not only what I was saying, but how anything that I said could be portrayed if it was taken out of context. So I definitely have to be much much more careful now.”

“When I have to deal with media that hasn’t covered MMA before, there’s a lot of new interest in the sport now because of the first women’s fight. And in those instances, I feel like I’m really representing the sport. I know they try to get me to say things like ‘I like hurting people,’ and things that are stereotypical ideas of what MMA is, and I try very much to steer the conversation away from that, and try to explain how beautiful a sport this is. It’s not some barbaric spectacle, it really is an art, and that’s why the word ‘art’ is in it. So a lot of progress has been made, but there’s still a lot of progress left to make. I know that we don’t live in a Utopian society where everyone is treated equally. People are a lot more tolerant than they used to be, but they’re not as tolerant as they should be. And so I’m not surprised that we still have progress to make, but it gives me goals to get after.”

MORE BATMAN???? (2013)
“I’ve purposely withdrawn from the media to make them miss me a little bit. (Laughs) A lot of people didn’t miss Ric Flair until he was gone, and I kind of feel like I’m in that kind of role sometimes. I think that bad guys are always the most interesting. Everyone wanted more Joker after the Batman with Heath Ledger. They weren’t asking for more Batman.”

“There were so many World Cups throughout the year and there really wasn’t an off-season. You were just constantly fighting, and regardless of what your situation was, you had to make it work. I fought in the Pan Am championships in 2007 with my knee locked into place from a torn meniscus and I just had to show up and do it. There was no other option. There were days when I was sick, days when I was injured, days where a guy just broke up with me, and I fought in high pressure situations with every single emotional situation in judo, and it really prepared me for this (MMA).”

“I feel like I still have more to prove to myself. The thing that gets me up in the morning is that I’m really not ready to see someone that I know I can beat holding my belt. And the day that I feel that my work is done enough that I can pass it on and let somebody take that task, when I finally reach the point where I can accept seeing someone that I know I can beat holding the belt after me, then I feel like I can give it up and move on. And I’m just not ready to do that yet.”

STYLE (2015)
“I try to think about having my own thing. There are people that I respect and admire and try to mold myself after as an athlete, but no one’s going to be able to have his (Mike Tyson’s) style better than he had it, because it was his. He’s definitely one of the inspirations and people that I pull from. But I can have my style better than anybody else.”

ON MMA (2015)
“It’s called as real as it gets for a reason. This isn’t like, ‘Hey, I have a ball, and you want the ball, and I’m going to put the ball over here and you better stop me.’ It’s not some made-up thing that we’re trying to accomplish. It’s the oldest sport in the world, and it’s ingrained in human nature. There is no instinct in people to play soccer, but there is an instinct to fight. And I can’t treat it like a sport because it’s not something made up.”

“Ambition itself is something that you should aspire to and not doing just enough so that you can finance you sitting on your ass. If I made more money than I could spend already, I still wouldn’t feel like I was done. I feel like too many people are trying to make just enough so they can do as little as possible. I was devastated when this fight (with Cat Zingano) got pushed back because I felt like there was another chunk of time where I was in my prime when I wouldn’t be able to accomplish as much as possible. I had to drag out one accomplishment longer instead of stacking on several more. I enjoy what I do. I don’t do what I do so I can sit around and watch prime time television.”

“Ideally, I want to be as efficient as possible. I’m a perfectionist, and I try to make every single fight the perfect fight. If I can manage to make every fight perfect, then I’m going to try to do that. But I know it’s a controlled chaos kind of sport and not everything’s going to be perfect all the time, so I just want to be as good a fighter as I possibly can. And if I can possibly come through untouched, that would be awesome. My aim is perfection. But if that doesn’t happen and I’m forced into a different situation, then I’m the one person in the world that can really deal with those situations and come out on top. I’m ready for everything but aiming for perfection.”

“Fighting for acceptance is always important to me, regardless of the venue and where it is. I used to live upstate in Albany. I trained judo over there, and my best friends' families were over there and they never got a chance to see me perform because I was never allowed to be over here. I think the audacity of people saying 'you can't,' that kept me coming back and wanting to fight for it even more and more. It was just the right thing to do, and it's never hard to get motivated to do the right thing.”

MMA IN NY (2016)
“There's a lot of pride that comes with fighting in your hometown because it's like defending your turf. There's something about fighting that's territorial in a way. It's instinctual to defend your home and I think that's an experience no fighter should ever be deprived of. I'm really happy that they (NY fighters) get to have that.”

RR IN MSG? (2016)
“It (fighting in Madison Square Garden) would definitely be a cool thing to stick on your resume, but I wouldn't do it for that reason. It's important because of the history. I want a tie to a historical place like this and I want to be remembered in a positive way. I'm from Los Angeles, where if something is 50 years old, they tear it down and build a new one. It's not for my own vanity. It's for a place in history. I don't have a single picture of myself fighting in my house. I don't have my belts, they're hidden. I don't like putting stuff out there, but I like fighting for a place in history.”