The following words come to you via TUF 18 alum and Invicta FC competitor Peggy Morgan:
I know this because I heard her say so. A couple years ago, I was on a reality TV show called The Ultimate Fighter in which sixteen mixed martial artists are divided into two teams. Each team is coached by a well-known UFC fighter. Ronda was my team’s coach, so for six weeks in the summer of 2013, I spent a considerable amount of time with her.
One afternoon, my teammates and I were all hanging around our locker room after practice waiting for the van to pick us up and take us back to the house in which we were confined. Ronda took her cell phone out and began scrolling through, and we gathered around her like indigenous forest dwellers enthralled by the glowing magic word box in her hand. Our cell phones had been confiscated by the show’s producers before filming began, and three weeks later the sight of an iPhone sent us all into paroxysms of wonder.
‘What are you doing?’ we all wanted to know. ‘What are you looking at? Is that Facebook? Twitter? Tinder? YouTube? Play us a song! Let us watch you play Candy Crush! Text Sylvester Stallone for us! Please, Ronda, please! We love phone!’
“I’m not looking at social media,” Ronda told us flatly. “I don’t even read my tweets anymore.” Why ever not, we wondered. And to explain, Ronda logged into her twitter to show us the continuous stream of notifications alerting her that someone had mentioned her in a tweet. “It’s overwhelming,” she said. “And besides, most of them are mean.”
This was over three years ago, at the height of Ronda’s career, when she had seven wins and zero losses and none of her fights had gone past the first round. She was widely regarded as the most dominant fighter in the UFC and was credited with being the sole reason UFC president Dana White had reversed his declaration that women would never fight for his organization.
Not surprisingly, Ronda was a little bit cocky. She walked with the hip-switching swagger of a Russian femme-fatale and was known for making grandiose statements reminiscent of Muhammad Ali’s well-known proclamation, “If you even dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize.” She was thoroughly and unapologetically arrogant. “Some people like to call me cocky,” she said on more than one occasion. “But I just think, ‘How dare you assume I should think less of myself?’”
Of course, this rubbed many fans the wrong way. She was criticized for her bratty attitude and her bitchy demeanor and for what many perceived to be an unsportsmanlike attitude toward her competition, particularly Miesha Tate, who coached the rival team on our season of TUF and with whom Ronda had an ongoing feud.
There were also many fans who loved Ronda for her outspoken candor and blunt honesty. These fans viewed her as an exemplar of female power and a role model who taught girls that it’s okay to stand up for yourself even if it makes other people feel uncomfortable. Ronda was not a peace-weaver but a warrior, and it resonated strongly with many fans.
Ronda was, in short, an incredibly polarizing figure, which was a big part of her appeal. Those who loved her watched her fights because they wanted to watch her dominate. Those who hated her watched in the hopes of seeing her crushed and humiliated. Either way, the PPV dollars streamed in.
Fast forward to November, 2015: Ronda Rousey loses to Holly Holm via KO from a kick to the head 0:59 into round two. The internet goes crazy. The queen has been dethroned. Memes featuring pictures of Ronda’s face rippling from the force of impact at the precise moment Holms’ leg hits the side of her head proliferate social media. Her detractors are jubilant. Finally! She’s been humbled! Her supporters avow that this is merely a bump in the road. Everyone loses eventually. Ronda will be back.
December, 30, 2016: Ronda loses to Amanda Nunes via TKO to punches 0:48 into round one. The internet goes crazy, again. More mean memes. More celebration among those who dislike her. More compassionate disappointment from her admirers.
December 31, 2016: I tweet the following: “All the criticism of Rousey from people who are too cowardly to risk failure themselves bothers me. Draw a pic of write a poem or something.”
The internet goes crazy. Ronda is a bitch. I am a bitch for calling people who criticize Ronda ‘cowards.’ They paid $59.99 for that PPV, so they’ll say whatever the fuck they want. I’m an angry feminist who assumes that anytime a woman is criticized, it must be because she’s a woman. Some guy from Detroit says he could beat the shit out of Ronda with one hand tied behind his back and both his eyes closed. Some guy from Chicago says he could beat the shit out of me with both his hands tied behind his back, both his eyes closed, and only one functioning kidney. I’ve tweeted the stupidest thing the internet has ever read. I am the stupidest person who has ever had access to social media. My boyfriend should probably hit me. I will never have a boyfriend because I am so stupid and unattractive. I am probably a lesbian. Also I’m stupid. And ugly. And fat.
Before moving on, I’d like to address a few points about the tweet itself.
#1: It was composed at 8:41 pm on New Year’s Eve after four hours in a dive bar shooting Dr. McGillicuddy’s and drinking vodka soda. My faculties may have been slightly compromised.
#2: Tweets are limited to 140 characters or fewer. It’s kinda difficult to adequately convey anything in 140 characters or fewer. Expecting fully developed and precisely articulated arguments on twitter is nearly as stupid as I am purported to be.
#3: As a consequence of both #1 and #2, my statement was not as clear as it might have been. The main point I want to clarify is that I am not suggesting people should draw a pic or write a poem because I consider these to be the pursuits of cowards. I am suggesting that rather than picking apart an absolute stranger who’s probably already feeling pretty shitty since she just got her ass kicked in front of millions, people might be better served by actually doing something themselves. You know, create something worthwhile rather than expending energy being a negative wanker on social media.
Normally, mean tweets don’t bother me much. One of the things that happens when you become even a very low-level public figure is that you get accustomed to absolute strangers saying incredibly rude things to you for no good reason. In the beginning it was shocking and even a little scary, but then I got used to it and stopped caring so much. Sometimes I taunt them a little. Most of the time I just ignore them.
The thing with Ronda disturbs me, though, mostly because of just how irrationally, rabidly angry many people seem to be. I understand that people felt very strongly about her both as a fighter and a human, but the level of vitriol I’ve seen directed at her is alarming. Like people are really, really personally angry with her in a way that I find difficult to comprehend and which I suspect might be a symptom of some deeper and seriously fucked up issue within our culture.
I’m not sure exactly what’s going on here, but it seems to me that it’s something worthy of consideration. The fact is that there are many thousands – maybe even millions – of people these days who spend valuable moments of their finite existences personally attacking people they have never met for things that don’t really affect them in any meaningful way. Ronda Rousey did not poison their dogs or steal their boyfriends or cheat them out of their inheritances. Yet they are actually, really angry with her. Like accelerated heartrate, fight-or-flight, waste-the-day-arguing-on-twitter angry.
It’s a travesty. Not against Ronda, but against existence itself.
Here’s the thing: existence is fucking amazing. Whether you believe we evolved serendipitously from some sort of primordial bog salamander or were lovingly crafted by a bearded deity with a warm heart and an iron fist, the fact that we are here at all is so astonishingly, stupendously, overwhelmingly incredible that it cannot be adequately articulated. What’s even more astounding is that we have the capacity to even attempt to articulate it. Here we are: sentient beings, confronted by the grand mystery of our own existence and surrounded by the wonder and majesty of the universe. And what are we doing? Arguing about Ronda Rousey.
We are better than this. Or maybe we aren’t, but we could be.
We fucking should be.