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Ronda Rousey: The Queen’s Reign Begins

After spending much of her life with a tunnel vision reserved for judo, particularly an Olympic berth in the sport, Ronda Rousey never really had time to consider or even be a fan of any other sports. At least until one of her longtime friends, Manny Gamburyan, made to The Ultimate Fighter in 2007.“The first time I watched a UFC fight was when Manny Gamburyan was in the final of The Ultimate Fighter against Nate Diaz,” said Rousey. “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.”Little did she know that less than six years later, she would have her Olympic medal, and not just follow Gamburyan into mixed martial arts, but that she would become the UFC‘s first female fighter and its first female champion. Looking back now, Rousey admits that she thought of possibly competing in MMA before her Bronze medal winning performance in Beijing in 2008, but figured it wasn‘t something that was a realistic notion.“I was thinking of doing it before the last Olympics and when I was doing judo, but I wouldn‘t say anything about it,” she said. “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 ”Ëœoh 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.”She laughs, but unlike what many would assume, winning an Olympic medal doesn‘t guarantee you anything once the cheers have died down. For Rousey, there was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and it makes you think of Cuban Olympic Gold medal winning boxer Joel Casamayor, who received a bike for winning his medal. He sold it so his family could eat. So Rousey, for all the photo shoots and media exposure these days, didn‘t get handed anything on the way to her first title defense this Saturday night in Anaheim against Liz Carmouche. That doesn‘t mean there won‘t be little jabs and ignorant comments along the way, like the one she received during the lead-up to the UFC 157 main event.“There was one interview where a guy said that I don‘t act like a lady,” said Rousey, who proceeded to point out that due to a certain body part, she was more of an authority to speak on what a lady really is than her interviewer was. That pretty much shut down that line of questioning.“I doubt that will ever show up anywhere,” she laughs. It‘s the laugh of an athlete who passed right by the rising star designation and into full-fledged stardom in the space of a few well-placed armbars. Rousey‘s ascension was unlike anything seen in MMA in a long time, if ever, and no one was more surprised than the fighter herself.“I was a little surprised,” she said. “I thought that after the Cyborg (Santos) fight would be when things would be getting that nuts, so I was a little surprised that it started as early as the day after the Miesha (Tate) fight.”She shouldn‘t be. After a lengthy lead-up to the fight, Rousey dazzled against the then-Strikeforce bantamweight champion, submitting the gutsy Tate with an armbar that was hard to watch for its brutal finality. And by the time Rousey left Columbus, Ohio in March 2012, a star was born, and everyone wanted to talk to and learn about “Rowdy” Ronda. That type of demand can do a couple things. It can make a fighter start to believe her press clippings, it can make her neglect the hard work that got her there, or in Rousey‘s case, it could force her to schedule, prioritize, and deal with life in the spotlight while still finding the time to hit the gym just as hard, if not harder, than before.“There was no real break between the follow-up media craze after the Miesha fight and the build-up media craze for the (Sarah) Kaufman fight, and that‘s when I just started to really accept that there‘s no off-season anymore,” she said. “It used to be that I had time to myself in between and then I would take off, and things would calm down and then pick up. But when there was really no break between those two fights, I just realized that the media craze wasn‘t something that came in phases. It was just the way it was from now on.”Rousey defeated Kaufman in less than a minute by, you guessed it, armbar, in August of last year, and with the eventual demise of Strikeforce, the biggest star in women‘s MMA got brought to the UFC to beco…

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