It’s been a little over a week since the world witnessed the return of Ronda Rousey and her devastating defeat by the hands of Amanda Nunes. In the space of those 7 days, nearly everyone has had an opinion on Ronda’s performance and a number of people in the media and across social media platforms have questioned if she was ever really that good in the first place?
Let’s get one thing clear from the get-go, Ronda Rousey was no ‘hype-job’ on the UFC’s part. She was a world-class Judoka, an Olympic medallist and within WMMA; a true pioneer for the sport. She brought in new interest to the sport and was almost single-handily responsible for ensuring women fight in the UFC today. If you are to look back at her record as things stand it sits at 12–2. Ronda’s first 7 fights didn’t make it out of the 1st round and each of her victories have come via submission or stoppage. “Death, taxes, Ronda by arm bar” is a t-shirt my girlfriend once proudly got printed 4 years ago, having tried to get her interested in my passion, it wasn’t until she watched Ronda headline UFC 157 that she truly started to appreciate the excitement of MMA.
I have no doubts that Ronda has been responsible for influencing many other young females to the sport and at one point she was arguably one of the most talked about sports athletes in the world. All of this came down to her ability, attitude and likeability factor that too few combat sports stars had lacked for many years. The world sat up and took notice of this female ‘professional ass kicker’, whenever Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’ introduced Ronda there was a buzz and excitement in the air, something that only Conor McGregor has been able to capture since. Here we were witnessing an athlete, who garnered mainstream attention and crucially in a sport filled with testosterone-fuelled antics, this athlete was female. The MMA hardcore were sold, the world of Hollywood was starting to take notice, little girls were desperate to be like her and a legion of sponsors would follow suit. In 2014 to 2015, there was no bigger star in MMA. Ronda had become a pop culture icon. How far could she go? We were about to find out.
I was lucky enough to see Ronda fight Alexis Davis in person at UFC 175; Ronda finished the fight in 16 seconds through strikes. At the time I was astonished, Ronda had met her in the middle of the cage and exchanged a few shots before stunning Davis, judo flipping her and repeatedly punching her for perhaps an unnecessary amount of time until Yves Lavinge put a stop to it. Upon my return back from Vegas, I decided to rewatch the fight and noted that Ronda had taken a few shots that might have gotten her into some trouble with someone in the division who was a level above Davis’ striking.
Cat Zigano would be next to take on Ronda and she lasted even less time, 14 secs to be precise. It was only in the Bethe Correia fight (and in my opinion, the peak of the Ronda phenomenon), that Ronda’s stand-up began to look slightly off, but unfortunately for Bethe, her striking didn’t trouble Rousey and she was made to pay dearly for the bad blood between the two in the build-up. Another dominant win and this time a KO. By the time Holly Holm came around 99% of the world expected this to be another early nights work. Something was different this time, Rousey’s demeanour had changed, during the weigh-in’s the world witnessed her lose self-composure and short scuffle broke out.
She looked like a woman possessed and not the calm, cool and coordinated professional we had seen in countless fights previously. I always thought Holly Holm would prove to be Ronda’s ‘acid-test’, but at no time did I think she would shock the world. My money was always on a tough, decision victory where Holly would try to frustrate, but Ronda would gain plaudits for her ability to deal with a tough and durable striker. How wrong was I?
In the aftermath of the KO heard around the world until it was announced she would return to ‘The Octagon’, I have watched the fight at least 100 times, each time it shocks me to my core. I vaguely remember Mike Tyson being knocked out by James ‘Buster’ Douglas and how much that shocked the world, but this KO will stick with me forever. The comparison of Tyson and Ronda is ridiculous and one which has always made me feel uneasy, but their presence mirrors one another in their early fight career, the ice cold determined stares, the aggression and aura they were able to exude. When Tyson was defeated for the first time there was a seismic shift in boxing, things had changed forever. Rousey being defeated in the manner in which she did had a similar effect within MMA.
Which brings me to the whole point of this article and makes me wonder what life would be like for the Mike Tyson of back then in today’s world. Had Buster Douglas KO’d him in devastating fashion last week, would the meme’s have started? Would certain quarters of the sports world question his entire legacy? Would social media have a field day at Tyson’s apparent demise? The answer is unfortunately, yes.
We live in a world today where we are almost as interested in tearing someone down, as we are to build him or her up. I’m not excusing Ronda’s actions over this past year; she is entitled to do as she pleases. However her lack of appearances in the public eye and choice to only do press that had approved questioning from her team is quite frankly disappointing. Her lack of owning her defeat to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes will live with her from now until the end.
The UFC 207 debacle was handle poorly and has given the naysayers an opportune chance to kick her when she is down, but the fact remains that Ronda Rousey was and is a highly talented Mixed Martial Artist who’s ability to be world-class at one aspect of fighting masked her deficiencies elsewhere in the cage. We will never truly know what was done to avoid the mistakes that led to her first defeat 12 months ago and likewise no one outside her inner-circle will know the types of choices she made in her fight camp against Nunes. What is apparent to see is a real lack of fighting IQ and the moment the first jab was connected by Nunes, Ronda had no plan B. Had the impact of this blow brought her back to November 15th 2015 in Melbourne? Quite possibly.
So where does she go from here? If she does leave it all behind, she leaves a career littered with achievements. Six successful title defences for the UFC’s bantamweight title (5th highest of all the time), the first ever female champion in the UFC, a Strikeforce champion, most finishes in the division, 3 PPV’s which achieved over 1 million buys and other accolades that 99.9% of the MMA world will never attain. Put simply, she was a trailblazer for the sport and WMMA will never witness her crossover appeal for years, possibly decades to come.
However, if she does choose to give it another go, fundamental changes MUST happen. She MUST change camps immediately. Edmond Tarverdyan has taken her as far as he possibly can. Ronda needs to strip everything back immediately and the GSP route of a comeback in my opinion is the most sensible option. Dividing her time between Jackson/Winklejohn and Tri-Star is her route back to greatness. Seeking out additional assistance from Virgil Hunter in developing defensive boxing and ability to evade unnecessary exchanges would be hugely beneficial should she be serious about her career in UFC.
Will it happen? It is anyone’s guess at this stage, but the next few months should tell the world if Ronda Rousey wants to make a 2nd comeback and become a hungry contender again. Rousey 3.0 has a ring to it.
This article comes to us by way of @LeithMonz