Who Is Ronda Rousey?
Born in 1987 in California, Ronda Rousey endured a tough childhood marked by speech problems and her father's suicide. She became a judo champion, earning back-to-back golds at the Pan American Championships and a 2008 Olympic bronze medal. Rousey joined the mixed martial arts circuit in 2010, earning fame as the UFC Bantamweight Champion, before suffering her first loss in November 2015. In January 2018, she announced her move to the WWE pro wrestling circuit.
Ronda Jean Rousey was born on February 1, 1987, in Riverside, California. Born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, Rousey nearly died from a lack of oxygen and sustained slight brain damage, which impeded her ability to speak an intelligible word until she was 6.
A tragedy fell upon the family when Rousey's dad, Ron, broke his back while sledding with his daughters. A blood disorder prevented him from healing properly, and after learning he would be a paraplegic then regress to a quadriplegic in the few years he had left to live, he committed suicide when Rousey was 8.
Rousey struggled in class and was homeschooled for parts of elementary and high school, but she found an outlet for her frustration when her mom, AnnMaria De Mars, persuaded her to learn judo. A gold medal–winning judoka at the 1984 World Championships, De Mars began drilling her daughter in some of the sport's fundamentals, most notably the dreaded armbar used to pin an opponent to the mat.
Rousey was named to the United States Olympic team at age 15, and at 16 she became the youngest American to earn the national No. 1 ranking in the women's half-middleweight division. Although she didn't earn a medal at the 2004 Olympics, she claimed gold at that year's World Junior and Pan American Judo Championships.
After defending her Pan American Judo Championship title in 2006, Rousey became the first American woman in 12 years to earn a World Championship medal by finishing second in the 2007 tournament. She then won gold at the 2007 Pan American Games, despite a torn knee meniscus. After earning the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, she retired from judo at age 21.
Mixed Martial Arts Fame
Unsure of what to do in the wake of her judo career, Rousey worked as a bartender and lived out of her car for a spell in Los Angeles. She eventually joined the Glendale Fighting Club and in August 2010 made her amateur debut in mixed martial arts, a victory by way of an armbar after just 23 seconds. Two more amateur bouts ended via armbar submission after 57 and 24 seconds, respectively.
Rousey continued her run of domination after turning pro in the sport, reeling off four straight wins in under a minute apiece. In March 2012, she became the Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight Champion by defeating Miesha Tate in four minutes and 27 seconds.
By this point, Rousey had become a crossover star with her good looks and penchant for first trash-talking and then brutally dispatching her opponents. She was featured on a cover of ESPN The Magazine's 2012 Body Issue, and appeared as a guest on Conan O'Brien's talk show.
After one more speedy victory, Rousey was the first woman to sign with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world's largest mixed martial arts league. Designated Bantamweight Champion, she successfully defended her belt in the inaugural UFC women's bout in February 2012, submitting Liz Carmouche via her patented armbar in four minutes and 49 seconds, her longest fight at that point.
In the summer of 2013, Rousey appeared in another sexy photo spread, for Maxim. At the end of 2013, she won a rematch with Tate that extended to the third round, suggesting she was losing her touch as the dominant force of the UFC women's circuit. While training for her next fight, Rousey filmed The Expendables 3 (2014), in which she played a nightclub bouncer who is recruited to join a team of mercenaries. She also appeared in the 2015 films Furious 7 and Entourage.
When she returned to the UFC Octagon, Rousey won four consecutive first-round victories, two of them coming in under 20 seconds. However, her reign finally ended with a second-round knockout by Holly Holm in November 2015. The surprising loss sent ripples through the sporting world, and presented Rousey with her first serious athletic challenge since her days of competitive judo.
Over a year after her stunning 2015 loss, Rousey attempted a comeback on December 30, 2016 at UFC 207, facing off against reigning champion Amanda Nunes. However, Nunes defeated Rousey in just 48 seconds.
Rousey did not comment immediately following the stunning loss, but UFC president Dana White spoke about her reaction in an interview with ESPN's SportsCenter: "I went backstage after and hung out with her for probably 40-45 minutes," White said. "I’ll tell you this: She's in better spirits this time than she was after the Holly fight. She's very competitive. She does not like to lose. She loves to win, and she loves to do what she sets out to do."
Move to WWE
On January 28 2018, following months of speculation, Rousey confirmed she was joining World Wrestling Entertainment with her surprise appearance at the WWE women's Royal Rumble match.
"This is my life now," she told an ESPN reporter afterward. "First priority on my timeline for the next several years. This is not a smash-and-grab; this is not a publicity stunt."
Although she didn't rule out a return to mixed martial arts, the move all but signaled the end of her historic run as the sport's first female superstar. "I’m happy for her. This is something she has always wanted to do," said White, her former UFC boss. “Ronda continues to achieve everything she has ever wanted."
Rousey's WWE debut, at Wrestlemania 34 on April 8, was a successful one: Teaming with veteran wrestler Kurt Angle, the duo dispatched the husband-wife team of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in the Mixed Match Challenge, which ended with McMahon tapping out from a Rousey arm bar. The following day, during Monday Night Raw, the newcomer further endeared herself to fans when McMahon attempted to kiss up to Rousey, only to get thrown to the mat for another arm bar.
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