On the first day of February in 1987, a newborn little girl struggled for her life as her umbilical cord wrapped tight around her neck. The hardy child survived her ordeal with a speech impediment as a souvenir, lasting six years until it was finally corrected by speech therapy. After her father committed suicide, she began training in Judo, a decision that would lead her to become the world’s most renowned WMMA fighter we know today: Ronda Rousey.
Ronda Rousey is the daughter of AnnMaria De Mars, a retired judoka who was the first American woman to win the World Judo Championship. Rousey trained with her mother until the age of 13, and at 17 qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympics, as the youngest Judo competitor in the whole series. She also won a gold at the World Junior Judo Championships that year. She went on to nab several wins in various Judo tournaments, marking several firsts as a female American judoka, and ultimately ranking up to become one of the top three women in the world by 2007.
Rousey became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo, bagging the Bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After she received the award and trying to break into the professional world of judo, she realized that it was not possible to dedicate herself professionally to this sport while earning a living.
Rousey decided to start training in Mixed Martial Arts, and made her amateur debut in 2010 with an overwhelming arrival. In all the battles in which she participated, she got to defeat her opponents in the first assault, with fights measured in seconds rather than minutes. She amazed legions of martial arts followers all over the world, and she rapidly grew a fanbase that remains in full strength today.
Her signature “Juji-Gatame” technique was the driving force behind many of her wins, a powerful armbar that threatened to dislocate the elbow of her opponents, leading them to direct submission. Rousey learned this technique well because her mother did it to wake her up every morning.
Rousey’s aggressive personality, has lead to some epic rivalries with her opponents. She has even committed various verbal abuses that were severely criticized by some MMA personalities.
In 2012, she became the first woman fighter to sign with the UFC. She went on to win six consecutive bouts, with an average time spent in the ring of under three minutes. Her 14-second fight in UFC 184 was the shortest UFC match in history.
In 2015, Rousey faced off against boxing prodigy Holly Holm at the UFC 193. The heretofore-unbeaten Rousey suffered the first loss of her professional career after a knockout in the second round. This fight was a massive upset in the MMA world, which had grown accustomed to Rousey’s short and decisive fights. Some believed that she had grown complacent, overly reliant on her armbar. Others said her three-year undefeated streak was due for an end anyway. Whatever the case, Rousey has been out of the octagon since.
But that doesn’t mean she’s given up the fighting. Ronda Rousey is set to fight in UFC 207 on December 30, challenging bantamweight titleholder Amanda Nunes. Rousey will have been out of the sport for over a year by then. The buzz around the fight is growing, with the trash talk having already begun – Nunes has said of the match, “I’ll beat Rousey and give her a rematch.”
Outside of the ring, Rousey has also developed a career as a Hollywood actress. She made her film debut in 2014’s The Expendables 3, and also had a role in 2015’s Furious 7, both of which were blockbuster hits. She’s also posed as a model for Maxim, ESPN The Magazine, and other publications, and was the first female guest host on SportsCenter.
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Lo ve her or hate her, there’s nodenying that Ronda Rousey is one of the greatest mixed martial arts athletes of all time, and however her career progresses, it’ll be another reason why MMA is such a big hit.