Ronda Rousey

Few athletes have impacted the sport of MMA quite like “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. Rousey transitioned from the judo mats of the Olympic Games to the UFC Octagon to become the trailblazing first women’s champion for the world’s biggest promotion. That meteoric rise saw her capture the “Female Fighter of the Year” award at the 2012 Fighters Only World MMA Awards, and we caught up with her a few months later for Issue 99 of Fighters Only magazine. Relive the feature here…

Little over 12 months ago (in 2011) Ronda Rousey set the goal of becoming the next Fighters Only Awards’ “Female Fighter of the Year” – should we ever have doubted her?

With an astounding (and record-breaking) four nominations at the fifth Fighters Only World MMA Awards, it’s almost comical to hear UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey recount her first experience as a nominee.

“I remember being at the MMA Awards last year, and I knew I wasn’t going to win,” Rousey recalls to FO. “I was surprised I even got nominated. I just remember watching it all go down and thinking and swearing to myself that, ‘Next year! Next year this will be entirely different. Next year, I’m going to at least win ‘Female Fighter of the Year.’ I’m going to show all these people that next time around, I’m going to be somebody they’re going to recognize.’ But I didn’t expect a sweep like this. I feel like I’m Titanic or something in the late ‘90s. Sorry other ‘90s movies, but I’m going to Titanic this s**t this year!’”

Rousey’s 2012 achievements were indeed Titanic-esque. A landslide winner for the year’s “Female Fighter of the Year,” Rousey also became the first female ever to earn a nomination in the “Charles ‘Mask’ Lewis Fighter of the Year,” “Breakthrough Fighter of the Year,” and “Submission of the Year” categories.

Of course, breaking gender barriers is nothing new to 25-year-old “Rowdy.” After earning the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title with a March win over Miesha Tate, and a successful defense against Sarah Kaufman, Rousey was recently welcomed to the UFC as the promotion’s first-ever female fighter and champion.

It’s incredible to consider that when the year began, she had yet to even appear on one of Strikeforce’s ‘arena series’ events and was simply a two-time veteran of the company’s prospects-based ‘Challengers series.’

“It does make time seem to go quickly,” Rousey says. “I feel like I had three years in this past year. When I look back, those times feel like so long ago. I can’t believe that we crammed so much into one year.

“I think my brain is running out of memory room for each day. People will mention stuff like, ‘Hey, remember when we did this?’ and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah. That did happen. We were in Florida this year. I totally forgot the state of Florida.’ I can’t hold all of it in my brain anymore.”

For some, Rousey’s quick rise to superstardom – and make no mistake about it, she is a superstar – was a total shock. Despite her background as an Olympic medal-winning judoka, some questioned whether she even deserved a shot at Strikeforce’s title considering she was just four fights into her professional MMA career. Yet she silenced those critics by tapping out Tate in a brutal first-round finish via her signature technique: the armbar.

Rousey admits she heard those who questioned her readiness but never, ever let them cause any self-doubt. “I thought from the day I started MMA with just judo, I was already the best in the world.

“I was convinced of that in the beginning, and the only thing I needed to do was learn a couple of things to look more polished. If it came down to it, if I ran into any of those girls on earth in an alley, I would be able to take them out. So I always had that confidence.

“The people that believe they’re the best in the world are the best in the world. There wasn’t one Tuesday where they woke up and went, ‘Oh, yesterday I wasn’t, but today I crossed into being the best in the world. Woo-hoo!’ That never happens. They believe it from the beginning, and I believed all of it from the beginning. Now everyone is shocked that didn’t believe it, and they’re like, ‘Did you see this coming?’ Yeah, I saw it coming. It’s you that didn’t.”

Never short on confidence, it seems Rousey is truly capable of accomplishing anything she wants in the sport. Now, that seems to be another impressive win in her UFC debut and continued work on legitimizing women’s MMA. As for tomorrow, who knows?

“I’m constantly setting new goals. That’s the price of reaching your goals: You have to have the creativity to come up with new ones.” And one only needs to look back 12 months to see what Rousey does when her mind is set on a particular achievement.

For going from also-ran in 2011 to picking up the 2012 ‘Female Fighter of the Year,’ thus bagging another goal, she adds: “It’s extremely satisfying.”

Top 5 Ronda Rousey Moments

It’s crazy to think Ronda Rousey has only been involved in MMA for two years, yet already achieved so much. Not only has she produced some highlight-reel moments, she’s also grabbed plenty of headlines. Here are some of the best:

1. The Olympic dream

Winning a title in MMA is a huge accomplishment, no-one can deny that, but winning an Olympic medal is on a whole other level. Defeating Annett Boehm at the 2008 Games in judo truly began her journey to mixed martial arts super stardom.

2. Record breaker

There’s something about being the first to be or do something that is very satisfying, so imagine how Rousey felt when it was announced she was to be the first woman to hold a title in the biggest organisation in the world. One small step…

3. The rivalry

Let’s face it, we all love a good ol’ verbal slanging match between two fighters, especially when they’re good at it. So when Rousey and Miesha Tate started to trade insults before their Strikeforce title fight, the whole MMA world was glued. It was captivating and put a huge spotlight on WMMA.

4. Becoming champion

After all the talk was over, the two ladies settled their differences inside the cage, with Miesha Tate defending her title against Rousey in front of the masses. It took four minutes 27 seconds of the opening round for Rousey to do to Tate what she’d done with so many others, as she slapped on an armbar for her first title victory.

5. Beware, Steven Seagal

There are many polarising figures in the world of MMA, but none so much as Steven Seagal. He’s annoyed many in the sport, but Rousey has a significant problem with him. Seagal made some not-so-nice remarks about her mentor, Gene LeBell, causing Rousey to say she’d make him ‘crap his pants a second time.’ If there was ever going to be a fight between the two, we’d put our money on her…

Originally published in Issue 99 of Fighters Only.