Column: A reminder of Rousey’s reign of greatness
Greatness hardly ever dawns under customary circumstances.
For a beautiful savage called Ronda, whose “Rowdy” personality and brash words made her a superstar and the name Rousey ring true as a pioneer in women’s athletics and a transcendent figure in sports altogether, the genesis of a truly great career was far from ordinary.
With three amateur victories that totaled all of 104 seconds in her rear view, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey entered her professional debut with stitches in her foot after breaking up a clash of canines, having disrobed entirely whilst weighing in the day prior in the hopes of hiding the stitches from the athletic commission – it was on the bottom of her foot, after all.
A decorated former Olympic bronze medalist in judo, Rousey found willing opponents hard to come by, so she faced Ediane Gomes, who had a professional record of 6-1 already and had once infamously fought and defeated a man in an unsanctioned bout in Brazil.
It took all of 25 seconds for Rousey to submit Gomes. It was a professional debut fit for a rising a star; fit for a one-of-a-kind talent who would change the face of sports.
It was less than six years ago, but it very much seems like so very long ago.
It will have been more than 13 months since Ronda Rousey last fought when she steps into the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon to face women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes on Friday night at UFC 207 in Las Vegas.
Having constructed an aura of invincibility, Rousey tasted her first career mixed martial arts loss in November of 2015 when Holly Holm upset her in stunning, knockout fashion.
That is the last and lasting recollection for many fans familiar with Rousey as Friday draws near. Many of those fans are vocal hardcores who seem to have been longtime Rousey detractors for whatever reason they deem righteous, while many more were casual fans drawn into the world of MMA by Rousey, a crossover star the likes of which the sport had never glimpsed before.
Rousey’s rise to power and the utter destruction of every opponent that faced her prior to her last bout seems to now be forgotten or somehow blighted by revisionist history.
Throughout her career, Rousey has very much been the complete package of a superstar athlete, blessed by beauty, articulate and sharp words, a never-ending work ethic and superiority on center stage. It was her dominance that was at the core of that stardom, however. It was a dominance that is somehow now astonishingly overlooked as if one defeat negates so many more triumphs.
But history will forever tell the tale of just how impressively dominant Rousey was.
What follows is a fight by fight look at Rousey’s path of destruction — one that’s as extraordinary as it once was redundant in its dominance — leading up to her return Friday against Nunes. Here is a reminder of the Rousey’s reign of greatness.
Having already represented former UFC champion Bas Rutten, along with Glendale fighters such as Alberto Crane and Karen Darabedyan, fight manager Darin Harvey liked the potential he saw in a young female fighter.
“I believe she has the potential to be the best in the world,” Harvey wrote in an email to the Glendale News-Press on Aug. 5, 2010.
A day later, Ronda Rousey made her mixed martial arts amateur debut at a Combat Fight League event in Oxnard. In just 23 seconds, she submitted Hayden Munoz via armbar.
Having twice made the United States Olympic judo team and having been the first American to medal in the sport with her bronze performance in 2008, Rousey put her burgeoning MMA career full speed ahead.
She submitted Autumn Richardson in November of 2010 in 57 seconds in Las Vegas under the Tuff-N-Uff banner.
Once more fighting for Tuff-N-Uff in Las Vegas in January of 2011, Rousey encountered Taylor “Tay” Stratford. Stratford was 6-0 in her amateur career.
“I am just pumped up for this fight,” Tuff-N-Uff commentator John Morgan, an award-winning writer for MMA junkie, said on the broadcast. “Tay Stratford is a really bright prospect at 19 years old, as well, and Ronda Rousey seems to be a future star of mixed martial arts without question.”
Stratford came out swinging, Rousey initiated a clinch and used a leg trip for a takedown and expertly transitioned for the armbar. Stratford pulled out of it, but not for long, as seconds later, a second Rousey armbar attempt was the last, leading to a tapout at 24 seconds.
Rousey was ready to go pro and she wasn’t looking back.
Rousey def. Ediane Gomes in 25 seconds of first round via armbar
March 27, 2011, King of the Cage - Tarzana
Turns out the most difficult battles associated with Rousey’s debut came with trying to find an opponent and Rousey trying to break up a dogfight.
Thus, for her professional debut, Rousey was faced with Gomes, a veteran boasting a 6-1 record.
Shortly before the bout, Rousey heard her dog, Mochi, and her roommate’s dog fighting in an adjacent room. In breaking up the canine combat, Rousey sustained a bite from her roommate’s dog that required stitches on the bottom of her foot.
To hide the injury, Rousey chose to weigh in naked, as she’d have to be surrounded by towels and the athletic commission wouldn’t look on as closely.
A day after dropping her clothes to ensure a fight would happen, Rousey dropped Gomes in 25 seconds.
“I always try to be aggressive,” Rousey told the News-Press after the fight. “If we want women’s fighting, we have to make it exciting.”
Rousey def. Charmaine Tweet in 49 seconds of first round via armbar, June 17, 2011
Hard Knocks Fighting Championship - Calgary
Though most believe Rousey has ill will toward all of her opponents, in reality, bad blood has really just existed with famously with Miesha Tate and Bethe Correia and one Charmaine Tweet.
It stemmed from Rousey getting an offer to fight for Strikeforce, then the biggest stage for female fighting in North America, if not the world. But Tweet and the Hard Knocks Fighting Championship wouldn’t budge in letting Rousey out of her fight, she said.
“I remember where I was when I heard that I got the call from Strikeforce - I was at RiteAid,” Rousey said. “I was broke and when I heard I got the call from Strikeforce, I bought everything in the store. I was like, I’m getting all the fancy tooth paste, I’m getting nail polish; I walked out with like $50 worth of stuff from Rite Aid. ... It was so long since I could afford to buy gum.
“Then I got a call and they’re like Charmaine said she’ll sue you if you pull out. ... I was like, I have to go to work tomorrow and then I have to fly to Calgary and f--- that b---- up. So I was justifiably angry about that.”
She did just that.
Rousey def. Sarah D’Alelio in 25 seconds of first round via armbar, Aug. 12, 2011
Strikeforce Challengers 18 - Las Vegas
Rousey’s Strikeforce debut came and went in the blink of an eye. It came against a fighter in D’Alelio who was 4-1 at the time and owns a decision win over Nunes.
Rousey def. Julia Budd in 39 seconds of first round via armbar, Nov. 18, 2011
Strikeforce Challengers 20 - Las Vegas
Budd, having just come off a win over current UFC fighter Germaine de Randamie, was seen as Rousey’s biggest step up in competition - then in the 145-pound featherweight class. A veteran kickboxer with a big punch, Budd got a shot or two in, but Rousey ended their fight just the same as all her previous bouts.
And afterward, Rousey, who had already made mention of her plans previously, made it known she intended to drop down to 135 pounds and was zeroing in on Tate.
“I really want to have a title fight with Miesha Tate,” she said in the cage following the bout.
Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title
Rousey def. Miesha Tate in 4:27 of first round via armbar, March 3, 2012
Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey - Columbus, Ohio
There was hype, there was trash talk, there was plenty of this and that. There was a weigh-in dust-up and then, finally, there was Tate and Rousey in a much-hyped main event.
In the end, Tate survived one armbar attempt, but she couldn’t survive a second, as she held out as long as possible, but with her arm pulled back in grotesque fashion, she finally tapped.
UFC President Dana White was in attendance and it was a bout that, along with the “it factor” of Rousey, proved to be the driving force in White’s decision to bring women’s MMA to the UFC.
Strikeforce title defense
Rousey def. Sarah Kaufman in 54 seconds of first round via armbar, Aug. 18, 2012
Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman - San Diego
While Kaufman lasted just 54 seconds against Rousey, she defeated Tate via unanimous decision in May of 2009.
Thus, Tate, and Kaufman to a lesser extent, believed the Canadian striker was the one deserving of a title shot when Rousey first fought Tate. Rousey gladly gave it to her and might very well have put together her best performance.
Rousey came out with a triple jab to initiate a clinch which quickly led to another armbar conclusion just the same as all the others with Kaufman left as just another victim.
UFC women’s bantamweight title match
Rousey def. Liz Carmouche in 4:49 of first round via armbar, Feb. 23, 2013
UFC 157 - Anaheim
For years, White had said women would never fight under the UFC banner. That all changed on this winter night.
Following an overwhelming amount of media exposure for Rousey that included the likes of Time Magazine and HBO, the former Olympian walked into the cage to take on Carmouche, an ex-Marine on a two-fight winning streak and the first openly gay UFC combatant.
Carmouche gave Rousey her longest fight and perhaps her toughest up to that point, taking Rousey’s back and putting her in a painful cross face. But Rousey eventually wiggled out of it, secured an armbar and made history as the first-ever UFC women’s champion won the first-ever UFC women’s fight.
“I don’t know how many adjectives I have right now,” said Rousey of her emotions at the postfight press conference. “It’s kind of odd. I’m very, very happy right now, it’s starting to feel normal a little bit.”
UFC title defense
Rousey def. Miesha Tate in 58 seconds of third round via armbar, Dec. 28, 2013
UFC 168 - Las Vegas
Originally scheduled to fight the undefeated Cat Zingano, Rousey met archrival Tate once again following an injury to Zingano.
Already fierce adversaries, Tate and Rousey’s hatred grew when the two were opposing coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter” ahead of their showdown.
Tate forced Rousey into uncharted territory as the fight extended past the opening round, but the result was just the same as their first bout, with Rousey securing an armbar in the third round.
UFC title defense
Rousey def. Sara McMann in 1:06 of first round via knockout, Feb. 22, 2014
UFC 170 - Las Vegas
McMann was an undefeated opponent who had won a silver medal for the United States in the Olympics for wrestling.
But for all the grappling credentials, it was a knee to the body that brought about Rousey’s first stoppage win via strikes and only grew her legend as an indomitable force.
UFC title defense
Rousey def. Alexis Davis via TKO in 16 seconds of first round via knockout, July 5, 2014
UFC 175 - Las Vegas
It was about as perfect as it could get. In just 16 seconds, Rousey almost knocked Davis out on the feet, deftly tossed her to the ground with a judo throw and then delivered a stream of right hands on the ground that left Davis unconscious.
Rousey walked away with a dazed Davis clutching at her leg, but Rousey couldn’t be held back by anybody.
UFC title defense
Rousey def. Cat Zingano in 14 seconds of first round via armbar, Feb. 28, 2015
UFC 184 - Los Angeles
It was a scene akin to the heyday of the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s as celebrities sprinkled the stands in a sold-out Staples Center.
And despite just 14 seconds of a main event, nobody went home unhappy, as Rousey sideswiped a charging Zingano and improvised an armbar for another win via outstanding fashion.
UFC title defense
UFC 190 - Brazil
Rousey def. Bethe Correia in 34 seconds of first round via knockout, Aug. 1, 2015
In the lead-up to Rousey’s defense against Correia, the latter had made it personal, making an ill-advised comment about defeating Rousey and urging Rousey not to “kill yourself” in the aftermath of a loss.
As many already knew, Rousey’s father had long before committed suicide. While Correia denied that the comment had anything to do with that, Rousey vowed to punish her opponent. And she did, never attempting to take the fight to the ground and delivering a steady barrage of punches that culminated with Correia dropping facedown unconscious in a heap.
Just as impressive was Rousey getting cheered by many of the Brazilian fans despite defending against their countrywoman.
“Thank you so much for everyone coming out and the passion and everything,” Rousey said in the cage after the bout. “Even the people that booed me, thank you for the noise; people that cheered me, I like you even more.”
Many would argue Rousey’s peak of stardom came with the win over Correia. It was sheer dominance against an overmatched opponent on foreign soil, yet it still drew huge pay-per-view numbers.
Just more than three months later, Rousey was defeated by Holm.
A true sign of greatness and stardom is when a fall is treated as having larger significance than the story of your opponent’s rise. Such was the case when Rousey lost to Holm. Holm’s star shined bright, of course, but Rousey’s loss was a bigger story than Holm’s victory.
And in the days and months that followed, Rousey made news with rarely a word spoken or an appearance made.
Much of what you just read is forgotten or at least overlooked chronicle of the ascent and dominance of Rousey.
Decades from now, it will be looked back upon and celebrated, showcasing the trailblazing ways of an athlete who showed gender has nothing to do with your ability to command center stage in the arena.
For now, though, Friday will be seen by some as the return of the UFC’s prodigal daughter, though detractors are usually the most vocal and “Rowdy” supporters are no doubt still myriad. In reality, it is the next chapter of a tale for the ages; one that will live long past a defeat down under or any outcome Friday, triumph or loss. And so Rousey’s return proves monumental because of all the glory and greatness already achieved and never before matched.
Grant Gordon, firstname.lastname@example.org