Here’s to hoping Ronda Rousey can make peace with her MMA career.
After Gina Carano, she was the face of Women’s MMA. She was the darling of Strikeforce, then the UFC. She made Dana White go back on his promise of never having women fight in the Octagon. She parlayed her MMA success into an acting and modeling career. She was sought after for interviews on sports programs and talk shows.
But now, the mere mention of MMA is enough to rattle the once-unflappable Olympic judo, and turn a once-charming personality into a defensive and difficult interview. Embarrassingly brittle interviews with Mike Golic, Trey Wingo, and Max Kellerman on ESPN led to a public-relations Hail-Mary interview with Brett Okamoto of the same network. During that last interview, Rousey opined that before her two losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, and that, “There was a while when I was just looking for an honorable way out. I felt satisfied that I’d proven everything I need to prove, but I didn’t feel anybody else felt that way, and I wasn’t sure if the women’s division could survive without me. I felt obligated to do more than what I actually wanted to. But I also have no regrets, and I’m so happy I fulfilled those obligations. And I really feel the women’s division can hold their own.”
Now,she is pursuing a pro wrestling career, and we wish her well. We hope that she is happy, fulfilled, and is at peace with her present life. But we also hope she will find peace with her past.
History brings larger-than-life being along right when they are needed. When Elite XC and Strikeforce began having network-televised MMA matches, Gina Carano was the Women’s MMA darling. There was only going to be one Gina Carano – there could never be another. Then, after the loss to Cris Cyborg, she was gone.
Then, and only then, could someone else come along and take her slot in the heart and imaginations of WMMA fans. Then, Ronda Rousey came, just when she was needed. She wasn’t Carano, and Carano wasn’t her. They were different personalities with different fighting styles.
Carano was shy and reticent, as if her beauty and Muay Thai skill was being forced out of her. She was in the spotlight, but she never seemed very comfortable with all of the fuss and adulation.
But Rousey was different. Maybe because it was because she’d faced so much pressure during her Olympic career. Perhaps it was because she had learned from a difficult childhood to project an image of charming (to many) cockiness and (to some) downright arrogance.
Whatever the reason, she did not shrink when the bright lights of MMA first hit her, and she warmed to the pressure. In her first UFC fight to defend her new Women’s Bantamweight Championship, she had her back taken by Liz Carmouche and looked to be in trouble. No worries. A shakeoff, and then, the move that everyone knew was coming, but no one could stop. The armbar, then the tapout. The wins kept coming by armbar.
At her best, she harkened back to the days where many fighters were specialists. You knew what was coming, but you still couldn’t stop them.Then, the TKO of Sara McMann, the punching into oblivion of Alexis Davis, and finally, the KO win over Bethe Correia. And in the midst of all of that – her rematch with Miesha Tate. If she was a female Muhammad Ali, Tate was her Joe Frazier – a hated rival she could play off of and watch the ticket and PPV money pile up.
Then came the movie appearances and modelling. Then came Holly Holm. A shocking KO loss. Then time off and a return. The title had changed hands twice during her layoff. Holm was choked out by Tate who was choked out by Nunes. Most people thought that the armbar would return and that we would see Dana White put the belt around her waist again and all would be as it had been in the WMMA universe. It was not to be.
Ronda has moved on from MMA, and that’s fine. Those of us who were truly devoted fans are happy for her. She is married now to MMA fighter Travis Browne and she is going full-tilt toward the WWE.
But looking back at her MMA career shouldn’t be an exercise in masochism. She accomplished a great deal in a very short amount of time. She will be remember as one of the all-time great MMA fighters, not just as a great Women’s fighter.
She was the UFC’s Golden Ticket before Conor McGregor came along. We don’t know if she will be the WWE’s Golden Ticket, but we do know this. She should be able to look back at her fighting career with pride, not shame. With joy, not with anger.
Because it’s not how a thing begins or ends that matters. The important thing is all that time in between.
Here’s hoping that one day soon, Ronda Rousey will realize exactly what she did for and what she meant to MMA.