Nothing is typical about the twenty-eight year old, five foot and seven inch tall powerhouse who weighs in at one hundred and thirty five pounds and has taken the world of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) by storm. Rhonda Jean “Rowdy” Rouser became the first female to sign with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) in November of 2012. All told she has had eleven wins and no losses since becoming a fighter. Some credit her style of fighting and arm bar move, while others point to a life built around never surrendering to her circumstances. I say it is both and am inspired by this woman who never gives up or lets life drag her down.
Born in Riverside County, California and raised with her two older and one younger sisters in Jamestown, North Dakota, life was not easy for Rhonda from the beginning. She had a speech problem which did not allow her to speak properly until she was four years old. Her father committed suicide when she was just eight. The two had been close. Ron took her hiking on a regular basis and even bought Rhonda her first doll which happened to be a Hulk Hogan Wrestling Buddy. She always loved watching Professional Wrestling and was a huge fan of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. When her MMA career began Rhonda requested and received Piper’s permission to use the moniker “Rowdy” in her name. In 2015 she came out from the audience during Wrestlemania and helped The Rock drive Stephanie McMahon and Triple H out of the ring. Whether orchestrated or not, it was a great moment for her and her fans.
Ron’s suicide was unexpected, but likely fueled by a back injury that caused him to live with chronic pain. Shortly after that horrid event Rhonda Rousey made an amazing discovery. While digging through some family albums she discovered a scrapbook which revealed that her mother, AnnMaria De Mars, had been a Judo champion with a sixth degree black belt. In 1984 AnnMaria was the first American to hold a world judo championship. Rhonda’s mother later became her coach when Rhonda decided to train and eventually compete. The training process was painful. Rousey suffered toe and elbow injuries. She was even bitten by a dog while running just a few days before a competition.
Rhonda made the difficult decision to drop out of school at the age of sixteen and move away from her family in order to train in Boston to compete in the 2004 Olympics. During that time she had problems trying to lose weight and began purging to drop the pounds. Unable to make her weight class she returned home depressed and immediately faced another challenge. Her mother, who may have felt that moving to Boston was a mistake in the first place, would not allow her to live at home without a job. A once fairly close relationship between the two had become badly strained. Things got worse when Rousey competed in the 2008 Olympics and managed to win a Bronze Medal. Her mother insisted on the kind of discipline that Rhonda described as “suffocating” and may have felt that Rousey had not fully committed herself to a proper training routine.
Rousey rebelled by taking her ten thousand dollar prize from the Olympics and moving to Los Angeles. She took a job as a bartender and began partying as hard as she could. At the age of twenty-one the once self disciplined athlete began smoking cigarettes and abusing alcohol. She also started smoking pot and using a prescription pain reliever to get through each day. Rhonda slept in her car until she found a very small studio apartment with bad plumbing. Her toilet would regularly back up leaving the place smelling the way you would expect it to given that situation. She also found an ex-drug addict boyfriend who she dumped soon after he relapsed into heroin and stole a car. All this went on for about a year.
Rousey eventually found better digs in the form of a house near the beach. A friend told her (in less than polite language) that she was spoiled because she was wasting her looks and talent on a destructive lifestyle and bad boyfriend choices. Inspired by the criticism and ready for a change, Rhonda decided that she would pursue a career in Mixed Martial Arts and had her first amateur match in 2010. She used what has become her signature arm bar move to defeat Hayden Munoz in just twenty three seconds. At that moment a legend was born. A series of quick victories followed and “Rowdy” won her first professional bout in 2011 defeating Ediane Gomes with that same arm bar move in twenty five seconds.
Rousey soon found a powerful ally in the form of a man who once said that he would never allow women to compete in the UFC. Dana White is a man who recognizes talent and that is just what happened as he watched Rhonda’s rise in the world of professional MMA. In 2012 White stepped out of his own way and phoned Rousey to explain his plan to establish a UFC Women’s Division and build it around her. Rousey was thrilled and quickly accepted his offer. That changed her life in many ways which included the difference between earning a mere four hundred dollars each time she fought to her current paycheck which has ballooned to one million dollars per match. She has also began to do some modeling and appears in Fast and Furious 7 with Vin Diesel.
“Rowdy” Rhonda Rousey is a hero to me and should be to everyone who believes they have reached rock bottom with no way up. She proves that no matter where you come from or where you happen to be there is always a way out if you have the determination and self will to overcome your circumstances. If you really want to be inspired read her book, My Fight/Your Fight, now available everywhere and watch her latest battle on August 1, 2015 against Bethe Correia. The two have become bitter rivals thanks to Bethe’s comments which intimate that Rousey might commit suicide like her father did if she loses. Good luck Rhonda!