The “Retired” Ronda Rousey – Interpreting My Mixed Martial Feelings About The Once “Rowdy” Fighter

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I wore my red mean mug Ronda Rousey shirt when she knocked out Bethe Correia at UFC 190 and felt like a proud fan. Last December I wore it ironically during UFC 207 because I wanted her to lose. I didn’t see the Judo phenom I saw back in 2015. Instead, it reminded me of CM Punk; some entertainer who had no place in the octagon, and someone who was about to get a hard lesson about the sport.

When I purchased that overpriced apparel, I was a Ronda Rousey fanboy and advocate. If I were 16, I would’ve had a poster of her in my bedroom. If you thought fighting was just for boys, Ronda came in, said, “What now?” and would show you what a real tough girl looks like. I was so excited for her fight with Correia that I almost considered purchasing the pay-per-view instead of streaming it. I was giddy when I saw her in The Fast and The Furious 19 or whatever. I was such a fan of Ronda Rousey the fighter, so what happened?

Hollywood and Holly Holmes.

Ronda Rousey gave into the temptations of being a superstar and lost focus of being a UFC champion; she wanted to be a star in Hollywood too. Twitter followers and movie deals became more important than the next fight. While Holly was hitting bags and visualizing her victory, Ronda was on the set of Entourage hanging out with celebrities telling her how amazing she is. And it’s not as if Hollywood just happened to her; she didn’t have the courage to reject it. She lost her fighter’s spirit.

And that’s why at UFC 193 she suffered a devastating kick to the head, and ego, that everyone and their mother saw. Reality came knocking at the door to remind everybody that nobody, in this sport, is untouchable. Afterward, she refused to interview, went MIA for a bit, and then came back on Ellen talking about having Travis Brown’s babies and wanting to kill herself. All of this contributed by the head trauma she suffered in her dethroning.

Ronda makes a defeat so much harder to her than she needs to. She thinks she lost credibility as a fighter and lost her value as a celebrity. But it’s in fighter’s worst moments that they show their determination to achieve greatness. At UFC 196 when Nate Diaz tapped Conor McGregor, and when Tate submitted Holmes, on that same night they said they wanted another match. It’s all they care about, and it’s what makes them true fighters. When Ronda lost, she showed us who she was, and it’s fair to assume that she does not have the same fighter’s spirit that current champions possess. And after UFC 207, I’m feeling confident about that.

On her highly-anticipated return, she refuses to participate in media activities, and the fight is marketed almost entirely on her comeback. That’s quite a bit of pressure for somebody who, mentally, hasn’t shown much strength since her last fight. Amanda Nunes didn’t have that same pressure; she was entirely fighting to prove herself as a champion. Ronda was fighting to prove herself as Ronda Rousey: All American UFC champion and role model to millions, coming back to reclaim her title and prove herself as a superstar. She walked into the arena imagining she was in Rocky, thinking this is going to make a great end to her biopic. The protagonist’s big comeback after 411 days away from the sport.

If Ronda had a game plan, I didn’t see it. All I saw was a grown woman beat the snot out of a little girl for 48 seconds. And I cheered because that’s the fight game. It doesn’t work out like it does in the movies, and not everybody gets their happy ending. She stormed out of the octagon, and I felt my concerns and assumptions validated. Luckily, I had my horn with me so I could toot it.

But I must give credit where credit is due. Without Ronda, there most likely would be no female fighters in the UFC. In 2011, Dana White said he had no plans to start a women’s division. She was one of the biggest influences that changed his mind about that. Furthermore, she was the superstar that broke the UFC into the mainstream sports arena. In 2015 she was the 3rd most searched person on Google. The organization wouldn’t be where it is today without her, and that’s undeniable. She’ll have an entire floor dedicated to her in the UFC Hall of Fame, and she deserves it.

But, to me, as far as fighters are concerned, in 2015 we lost two “Rowdy’s.” Ronda Rousey lit a flame but Holmes turned down the gas, and Nunes pissed it out. If I’m coming off as insensitive, well, it’s an insensitive sport. MMA is the closest thing we get to watching two people try to kill each other, but it’s also a magnificent battle of superior technique and courage. I want to see the most talented and dedicated fighters in the octagon, not an over-marketed celebrity trying to keep her brand alive and trending.

Before burning my Ronda t-shirt, I noticed her famous mean mug; the same look on her face she had walking into her last fight. I used to think she looked tough, but now I think she’s pouting. I don’t believe she wants to be a fighter anymore, and that’s a fantastic idea.

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