Back in 2014, Ronda Rousey was all the rage in the MMA world and a legit superstar while she was in the middle of her three-year reign as the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. She had become such a success that she crossed over into the world of entertainment by making appearances on talk shows, dominating magazine covers, and taking small acting roles.
In the octagon, Rousey appeared to be invincible, and her career was proving to be groundbreaking. People called her a pioneer, a megastar, and a beast. But, they also called her arrogant, brash, and cocky.
Rousey said she was “the best fighter in the whole world” – male or female – and few could honestly dispute that claim. But, her brazen confidence did make her a polarizing figure in the world of male-dominated sports.
The media couldn’t help but play up her seemingly contrasting qualities and acted as if they all couldn’t possibly mutually exist. It was difficult for many to wrap their mind around the idea of an attractive woman excelling in an extreme sport where she displayed brute force against her opponents with her masculine physicality. But, at the same time, she was laid-back and friendly outside of the octagon and relied on her sexuality to sell magazine covers. Rousey was blowing people’s minds.
But, it all came to a screeching halt when her undefeated record went up in smoke against Holly Holm in November 2015 when Rousey was attempting to defend her title for the seventh time at UFC 193. All of a sudden, Rousey disappeared, and it wasn’t until recently that people started to pay attention to her again.
20 Unconventional Life
Rousey is the youngest daughter of AnnMaria De Mars, a decorated judoka, who in 1984 became the first American to win a World Judo Championship.
For the first six years of her life, Rousey struggled with speech and couldn’t form intelligible sentences because she suffered from a neurological childhood speech sound disorder called apraxia. Doctors attributed the problem to Rousey being born with the umbilical cord around her neck. At the age of 3, her parents moved from their home in Riverside, California, to Jamestown, North Dakota, so that specialists could give Rousey intensive speech therapy at Minot State University.
After her father sadly passed away, Rousey was brought up by her mother. While Rousey’s mom raised her and her three sisters, she pursued her Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of California, Riverside. But, Rousey herself eventually dropped out of school and got her GED. By 21, she had retired from judo but started her MMA career because she knew she wanted to spend her life in an unconventional field of work.
19 Olympic Judo
At the age of 11, Rousey began judo with her mom and trained with her until she was 13 when she accidentally broke her mother’s wrist. In 2004, at the age of 17, she qualified for the Olympics in Athens and was the youngest judoka in the games. However, she did lose her first match to eventual silver medalist Claudia Heill, but later that year she won the gold medal at the World Junior Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
In 2006, she became the first female U.S. judoka in nearly a decade to win an A-Level tournament and went 5-0 to win gold at the Birmingham World Cup. Later that year, she also won the bronze at the Junior World Championships.
Over the next two years, Rousey won the silver at the 2007 World Judo Championships and the gold at the Pan American Games. She also competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing but lost her quarterfinal match to ex-world champion Edith. Rousey did qualify for a bronze medal match through the other bracket and ended up winning the bronze by defeating Annett Boehm. The win made Rousey the first American to win an Olympic medal in women’s judo since it became an Olympic sport in 1992.
18 Just an Amateur
Rousey debuted as a mixed martial arts amateur in August of 2010, and she defeated Hayden Munoz by submission with an armbar in just 23 seconds. In November, she entered the quarterfinals of the Tuff-N-Uff women’s tournament and submitted Autumn Richardson with an armbar in 57 seconds.
For her third amateur match, Rousey faced Taylor Stratford in the Tuff-N-Uff semis in January 2011, and won by technical submission in just 24 seconds, again with an armbar – a move that was quickly becoming her signature. After the win, she announced she was going to go pro and left the tournament, which meant her amateur record was a perfect 3-0 and the combined duration of her fights was less than two minutes.
Just two months later, Rousey made her professional MMA debut at the King of the Cage: Turning Point where she submitted Ediane Gomes in just 25 seconds. She then faced kickboxing champ Charmaine Tweet in an MMA bout at the Hard Knocks Fighting Championship in June 2011 and submitted her with an armbar in 49 seconds.
Rousey was quickly making a name for herself, and it didn’t take long for people in the MMA world to take notice.
MMA and kickboxing organization Strikeforce had live events on CBS and Showtime, and when Rousey made her debut with them, she started her path to national recognition. Her first match was in August 2012, as part of the Strikeforce Challengers 18 main card, and she defeated Sarah D’Alelio by technical submission with an armbar early in the first round.
But, the win was controversial because Rousey claimed D’Alelio yelled tap multiple times, but D’Alelio denied this and said she yelled “ahhh!” However, according to mixed martial arts rules, either one is considered a verbal submission.
In her next match, Rousey dislocated her opponent’s elbow, and then after the fight, she announced her plans to go down to the 135 pounds, so she could fight Miesha Tate – the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion – with whom she had developed a big rivalry.
In March 2012, Rousey defeated Tate (and dislocated her elbow), and she became the new Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion. That led to Rousey getting her own Showtime special, All Access: Ronda Rousey, and in it UFC president Dana White said, "In the next 10 years, if there's a woman in the octagon, it's probably going to be Ronda Rousey."
16 The First
In November 2012, White announced during the pre-fight press conference for UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Diaz that Rousey had become the first female fighter ever to sign with the UFC, and that she was the first UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion.
Using the nickname “Rowdy” – thanks to the approval from professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper – she defended her title against Liz Carmouche in February 2013 at UFC 157 and won in the first round due to submission by armbar.
She later defended her title in a rematch with Tate and submitted her in the third round to retain her championship.
It wasn’t until February 2014 that Rousey won a match with a method other than the armbar. In her fight against Olympic medalist Sara McMann in the main event at UFC 170, Rousey won with a knee to the body just over a minute into the first round. But, the stoppage did cause some controversy because some thought it was premature.
Despite her success, she took on the role of provocateur, and she told The New Yorker, "I'm the heel. I'm the antihero. ... And I like it that way."
She wasn’t afraid to call out critics, and never minced words when she described her advantages over opponents.
15 Fast Money
By 2014, Rousey was part of Espn W’s Impact 25, she played Luna in Expendables 3, and she defended her Bantamweight title against Alexis Davis at UFC 175, winning the fight via knockout in just 16 seconds. She did break her thumb during the match, but the emphatic win earned her the Performance of the Night bonus award.
Fans started to expect her quick knockouts, especially when they saw her signature move – the armbar. The move started with Rousey tackling her opponent to the ground, then trapping the other woman’s arm between her legs and bending it back at the elbow. If her opponent doesn’t tap out, it can snap the arm.
In her February 2015 match against Cat Zingano, Rousey brought the armbar quick, and Zingano tapped out in just 14 seconds, the shortest match in UFC championship history.
After she fought Bethe Correia in August 2015 and knocked her out just 34 seconds into the first round, she had officially completed six bouts with the UFC – all victories – and in 1077 seconds in the octagon, she had earned $1,080,000 in prize money. That averaged out to about $1,002.79 for every second she fought.
Her average time of 2 minutes and 59 seconds was less than the average time of a single match in every UFC weight class.
14 Self Confidence
When she took up judo training under her mother, Rousey didn’t just learn technique and skills. She says she also learned not to be "the kind of chick that just tries to be pretty and be taken care of by somebody else."
In a UFC YouTube vlog, she shared her term DNB, and it was that rationale that helped her fend off critiques of her “masculine” body.
"I think it's feminist-ly ... because there isn't a single muscle in my body that isn't for a purpose," she said.
Rousey acknowledges that description may not be elegant, "but it's to the point, and maybe that's what I am. I'm not eloquent. I'm to the point."
The MMA champ is outspoken about insecurities with her body, and she has admitted that it led to bulimia and substance abuse when she was a teenager. Rousey says the pressure to make weight aggravated her insecurity about her thick, muscular body.
"Whenever people talk about how cocky and arrogant I am, it blows me away, because I worked so hard to develop self-confidence," she told the New Yorker.
Rousey has participated in fundraisers and participated in awareness campaigns to help with the treatment of eating disorders.
13 Bringing It In
When an Australian reporter asked Rousey about her view on unequal pay between genders in the sports world, he didn’t get the answer he was looking for. Rousey seemed a bit annoyed, but she calmly gave him a response.
"I think that how much you get paid should have something to do with how much you bring in,” Rousey said. "I'm the highest-paid fighter not because Dana and Lorenzo wanted to do something nice for the ladies. They do it because I bring in the highest numbers. They do it because I make them the most money. And I think the money that they make should be proportionate to the money they bring in."
In 2015, Rousey was number eight on the list of highest-paid female athletes with total earnings of $6.5 million. $3 million came from her salary and earnings, and $3.5 million was from endorsements with Reebok, Metro PCS, and Carl’s Jr., plus her best-selling book and various magazine covers.
In her fight against Correia, she earned $217,000 per second. If you compare that to Floyd Mayweather, the highest paid athlete of 2015 who made $65,972 per second, there was no issue of unequal pay for Rousey.
12 Hollywood Crossover
Even at the height of her MMA career, Rousey was already thinking about her next career move. And, even though she was still the Bantamweight Champion and participating in matches, she was spreading her reach to Hollywood.
Rousey started appearing on every possible magazine cover, and she even became the first woman to appear on the cover of Australian Men’s Fitness. She was the first MMA fighter to grace the cover of a boxing magazine. And, she appeared in body paint on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Rousey also posed for the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue and was #29 on Maxim’s Hot 100.
She also dabbled in movies and television. She played herself on Entourage as one of the main characters’ girlfriends, she mixed it up with Michelle Rodriguez in Furious 7, and shared the silver screen with Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Wesley Snipes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Expendables 3.
She even took a turn as host of Saturday Night Live, making her the first mixed martial artist to do so. She joined the ranks of Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, LeBron James and Derek Jeter as iconic athletes who have hosted the long-running sketch comedy show.
11 Second-Round Stunner
Rousey started the day of November 15, 2015, as the undefeated UFC Bantamweight Champion, but before the day was over, everything changed. At UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia, Rousey went up against Holly Holm, and she rocked Rousey and the UFC world with a steady stream of punches that was too much for the champ to handle.
Holm ended up defeating Rousey in the second round in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, after most people considered her to be invincible. Her three previous UFC title defenses had lasted a total of 64 seconds, but Holm was a completely different opponent. She had switched to MMA after a career as a boxer, and it was her punching power that made all the difference.
Holm was a 20-1 underdog – just like Buster Douglas was against Mike Tyson back in 1990 – and the upset was a huge blow to Rousey and the UFC because they were both so invested in her burgeoning popularity.
When she returned to the states after losing, cameras caught her in the airport covering her face with a pillow, and after that, Rousey virtually disappeared from the public eye. Except for her appearance on Saturday Night Live, she decided to take time off to figure out what happened. She later admitted that she had suicidal thoughts after the shocking defeat.
10 Sore Loser
Rousey took over a year off after her loss to Holm, and didn’t reappear in the octagon until December 2016, where she attempted to redeem herself in a match with Amanda Nunes, instead of a rematch with Holm.
But, the moment that Nunes touched Rousey in the UFC 207 match at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas it was over. Nunes threw Rousey off of her feet with a flurry of fists forcing referee Herb Dean to end the bout just 48 seconds after it began. It was brutal, shocking, and ugly. And, when it was over, fans couldn’t fathom Rousey having anything to do with MMA ever again.
“Forget Ronda Rousey,” Nunes said in her post-fight interview. “She’s gonna go make movies now and retire.”
Rousey went silent with her own media blackout, and they accused her of being a sore loser. She says that she isolated herself and cried for two years because she had never learned how to lose.
“I couldn’t have done it alone. There’s a lot of things you have to remember. Every missed opportunity is a blessing in disguise. I had to learn from experience. From the worst things, the best things have come as a result. Time is a great teacher. It’s that belief that time passes, even bad times.”
9 More Than A Fighter
Her goal was to retire undefeated and be known as the greatest fighter who ever lived. But it didn’t happen, so she walked away from MMA and avoided the media and fans when she did it.
This caused a backlash, and it was as if the whole world stopped and took notice. She had achieved amazing things, but the moment she experienced a setback, everything went negative.
Rousey never officially retired after her loss to Nunes, but going back to MMA doesn’t seem realistic.
“I wouldn't want to see it,” UFC President Dana White told reporters about a potential comeback. “I don't want it to happen. I care about her and she's got enough money and all that stuff. I don't want to see it happen.”
After her second loss, she says she walked away thinking that God hated her. She said she had nothing left in her, and if it wasn’t for her husband, fellow MMA fighter Travis Browne, she couldn’t have gotten through it.
Rousey said that Browne told her that she was more than just a fighter.
“And that’s not a bad thing, that’s not something I should be ashamed of. It’s something I should embrace and showcase to the world, and that’s why I’m here,” said Rousey.
8 A Blessing in Disguise
It turns out that her time as a UFC fighter – especially her two losses – ended up leading her to a brand-new career. If she would have been sitting around at the top of the MMA mountain, she probably wouldn’t have found the WWE.
Two years after her last UFC match, Ronda Rousey has finally returned with a full-time career as a WWE superstar. And, the good thing is, if she loses – or wins – she will know in advance, and that’s a nice change of pace.
“My parents expected me to be special, so I expected to be special,” said Rousey. “I was just trying to create the job I wanted, and I wouldn’t have the audacity to do that if my mom didn’t tell me I could. But one thing my mother never taught me was how to lose. She never wanted me to entertain it as a possibility. She’d say: ‘Let it suck. It deserves to suck.’”
“Rowdy” is now starting to slowly break out of her shell and talk about the things that led her to where she is today. It seems that she is finally dealing with her MMA losses and excited about her WWE future.
7 A Privilege
Rousey has had a long, contentious relationship with the media, and she has experienced firsthand that being famous means that people love you when you are on top, but drag you through the mud when you’re not. It’s called the price of fame, and in this age of social media, it is amplified.
“We live in an age of trial by Twitter,” Rousey recently told the press. “What is really gained by stating opinion on anything? It whittles people down. It gets cut and pasted 10 times and it’s in (a) headline.”
She went on to say that famous people are keeping more and more to themselves. Rousey says that she believes hearing her speak is a privilege, and it’s a privilege that people have abused. So, she asked, why not revoke it from everyone? Rousey says she doesn’t believe that public criticism and beating people down is the right thing to do.
Even though she has completely embraced her new role with the WWE, it seems that Rousey hasn’t completely warmed up to the idea of life back in the limelight. But, as she makes her transition to the world of professional wrestling, she will eventually learn how to fulfill her role as salesperson, instead of telling people how she really feels about the media.
6 Her First Priority
Everyone knew that Rousey would make to the WWE at some point. But the question was when and for how long. Over the past four years, she has made sporadic appearances with the Four Horsewomen. And, in 2014 she showed up at WrestleMania with The Rock.
But now, Rousey is going all in.
“This is my life now. First priority on my timeline for the next several years. This is not a smash-and-grab; this is not a publicity stunt,” Rousey said of her decision to join WWE. “When I first met with Triple H, I told him, ‘There are other things I can do with my time that’ll make way more money, but I won’t enjoy nearly as much.’”
Rousey has a drive in her that led her to the top of UFC, Strikeforce, and Olympic judo, so it’s logical to think that she could accomplish a lot in professional wrestling. However, there are intangibles in WWE that athleticism and determination can’t overcome.
The crowd loved her at the Royal Rumble, but it will be interesting to see how they react to her each week when she competes outside of pay-per-view events. She also didn’t say a word during that appearance, which means she probably isn’t mic ready. But, if she sticks with it and takes it seriously like she claims, chances are Rouseymania will run wild.
Rousey made her WWE in-ring debut at WrestleMania 34, and legendary commentator Jim Ross – who has been around forever and seen it all – had some high praise for “Rowdy.”
“I thought that Ronda’s debut was the most impactful pro wrestling debut that I have seen in my 40-plus year career,” Ross said.
He went on to say that if you look at Rousey’s skill set and experience in the genre of pro wrestling, it was virtually non-existent. And, there was so much pressure, hype, and expectation; plus there were die-hard wrestling fans that didn’t like her being there. So, the fact that she looked like an athlete and executed what she did, it absolutely blew him away and he called Rousey a winner.
Rousey performed in a mixed-tag match with Kurt Angle as her partner against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. It had everyone buzzing, and she totally killed it even though her potential to fail was high.
Ross said that between Rousey making her debut, McMahon performing sparingly, and an aging Angle, the match could have been a disaster. But, despite the circumstances, Ross found Rousey to be impressive, especially because of the pressure she must have felt.
Rousey was performing in front of 80,000 people at a massive event, and it would have been easy for her to slip up. But, she didn’t, and Ross thinks this is the beginning of a huge career.
“If she continues to train as diligently and as ferociously as she has been,” Ross said, “the sky’s the limit for her. She can be really, really good.”
4 Stealing the Show
It was not an easy task for the WWE to integrate Rousey into the Raw women’s division. But after her breakout WrestleMania performance, they managed to pace and execute it well. They took Stephanie McMahon out of the picture, and Rousey is now coming to Natalya’s aid to fend off challenges from other women.
In the latest episode of Monday Night Raw, in the closing moments of a 10-woman tag team main event, Rousey took out her aggression out on Mickie James. With a hip toss and an armbar, the final match of the night ended with a disqualification, but it put Rousey on her way to becoming part of ongoing storylines.
It is no longer Rousey vs. the world in an individual sport, and – even though she never thought she would say this – she admits that she is happy that she lost the fights to Holm and Nunes because it led her to the WWE, and it is “so worth it.”
Now that she is full-time pro wrestler, Rousey says she realizes those losses weren’t the end of the world. She says she is glad that she gave it time, and it really does heal. Plus, you never know what is going to happen and where it will lead you.
3 An Apology
Rousey says that she owes the WWE universe an apology because she thought for sure that they were going to boo her out of the building from day one. But, she says, they really accepted her, and she hopes that she has satisfied the skeptics.
The 33-year-old revealed that she underestimated how kind the WWE fans would be, and she thought they would shun outsiders. She expected that to happen to her and thought she would have to battle for acceptance. Rousey says she worked her ass off to pay respect to what is so important to WWE fans, and she hopes that they see it when she is in the ring. She says she is extremely grateful and trying her best to deserve it.
But, the MMA universe might take longer to come around. There is still the feeling that she left as a sore loser and never said goodbye. But, Rousey is making a good start by acknowledging her losses to Holm and Nunes, something she hadn’t done for two years.
She is also showing support on social media for UFC fighters Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas and says women like them are what the sport really needs.
2 An MMA Marriage
With everything that she had going on in her career, Rousey still figured out a way to find love, but it didn’t happen without some controversy.
In August 2015, rumors started to swirl about Rousey and fellow MMA fighter Travis Browne after a picture of the two together appeared on Twitter. Browne was married at the time, and his estranged wife Jenna Renee Webb accused the two of being in a relationship.
In October, Browne confirmed that he and Rousey were an item, and she followed suit the next day. After Browne divorced Webb, he and Rousey got engaged in April 2017 when he proposed to her under a waterfall in New Zealand. And, the two tied the knot in Hawaii on August 28.
Browne signed with UFC in March 2010 and competes in the heavyweight division. Since then, the 6-foot 7-inch giant has a record of eighteen wins, seven losses, and one draw. Sixteen of his wins came via stoppage and six were first-round knockouts.
However, he has lost five of his last seven fights, including his last three that featured a devastating first-round defeat by Derrick Lewis back in February.
Just a few hours before his wife’s debut at WrestleMania, cameras caught Browne getting into a heated argument with women’s superstar Alicia Fox at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Fox couldn’t compete because of an injury, but she was clearly upset and called Browne “rude,” but it wasn’t clear what sparked the incident.
1 Mile 22
In addition to rebooting her career with the WWE, Rousey is also getting back into the acting game. This summer she will be starring alongside Mark Wahlberg in the new movie Mile 22. In the flick, Wahlberg plays a CIA operative, but even though he got jacked for the role, Rousey had no problem flexing next to him during 2018 CinemaCon.
She stars as Sam Snow, and in a preview pic for the film, fans can see her sneaking around with a machine gun and killing people in a hail of bullets. The movie started as a vehicle for Rousey, but the studio overhauled the project and shifted the lead role to Wahlberg because of questions about Rowdy’s acting ability.
Rousey was shooting scenes in Colombia for the film when she snuck back into the United States for the Royal Rumble. It was at that event that she announced her WWE contract.
Mile 22 is set to premiere in theaters on August 3rd.
For Rousey, this is her first movie role since Expendables 3. Back in 2016, she was supposed to star in a reboot of the 1989 cult classic Roadhouse, which starred Patrick Swayze, but the project kept getting pushed back, and it doesn’t look like it will get made anytime soon.