Ronda Rousey Is Still Great

Ronda Rousey Is Still Great
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I’ve seen a lot of people contending that Ronda Rousey was “exposed” over the weekend — that Holly Holm’s kick-heard-’round-the-world is proof that Rousey was never all that good in the first place. Those people are wrong.

To recap for the 2.47 people who don’t know: former UFC women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey, one of the most dominant athletes in sports, got knocked out over the weekend. It wasn’t a fluke, either. She was dominated bell-to-bell. Her opponent, Holly Holm — previously a professional boxer with multiple championship belts under her, uh, belt — was elusive and measured in her approach. The perfect matador to Rousey’s recklessly charging bull. At times, the disparity between the two was almost comical. Rousey grew visibly frustrated, nearly smacking face-first into the fence when Holm ducked yet another punching flurry.

The fight ended in round two, with a beautifully timed head kick during a chaotic scramble. Rousey collapsed, looking less like the most dominant athlete in sports and more like a spilled sack of potatoes. The ref hesitated on the stoppage, allowing Holm to land two more (unnecessary) shots to Rousey’s battered, misshapen cranium. It was a finish equal parts gorgeous and ugly, but there was no question as to who won.

Since then, I’ve seen everyone from douchebro Twitter randos to Donald Trump and Lady Gaga piling on the “fuck Ronda Rousey” bandwagon. Many in the former category, especially, seem all too pleased to say things to the effect of, “Hah, she was never a good fighter. I could take her, easy. My masculinity is fragile, like a baby swan hatched from a snowglobe egg, and I say these things to protect my own sense of self from The Scary Questions.”

But there’s so much more to this than that. Rousey’s loss, in my opinion, reveals two key things: 1) fight fandom and celebrity culture are similar in their fickleness and 2) perceived “invincibility” creates a vortex of reality distortion that affects even the best fighters and the most ardent fans.

Point one is nearly self-explanatory. People are trying to discount Ronda Rousey for one loss after she obliterated everyone in her division, took the sporting world by storm, and put the mainstream eye on MMA like never before. Oh, and that came after she, you know, medaled in the goddamn Olympics. For many, she was (and still is) a role model, a pop culture heroine. If she were to retire tomorrow, her previous accomplishments would still be unassailable.

If you don’t like Rousey’s personality, fine. That is completely, 100 per cent cool, and I cannot blame you. Honestly, there are times when I don’t like her personality. She’s said some contentious-arse shit, some of which has been almost gleefully ill-informed. But going from “whoa she’s the most badass lady to ever live” to “she was shit all along” basically overnight? That’s the very definition of fickleness, and disliking her personally (or because she’s a lady or any of that) isn’t a great reason to do it.

But I’m not really surprised. Rousey — again unlike any MMA fighter before her (at least, outside of Japan) — straddles the line between mega-popular fighter and bonafide celebrity. There is, in both cases, a documented pattern of fans leaping from bandwagons like they’re aboard sinking fucking Titanics, almost always when a fighter or celebrity reveals their deepest, darkest secret: that they’re human, just like everyone else. A celebrity might age or say the wrong thing (something worthy of reprimand, certainly, but not abandonment or hate). And a fighter? Well, they lose. (Or, you know, they get popped for being a juiced-to-the-gills steroid balloon, but that’s not really relevant here.)

That brings me to point two: invincibility. It’s kinda at-odds with that whole “Actually She Was A Human All Along” thing. But it’s the double-edged sword of being a truly dominant fighter: you don’t get to be human anymore. People come to expect almost mechanical in-cage performances time in and time out, refusing to accept that — even at the top of the world — it’s possible for someone to have an off-night, or a bad training camp, or some other distraction. Somewhat ironically, the higher fighters climb, the more chances to make painfully human mistakes they receive.

In hindsight, it’s almost not shocking that Rousey lost to Holm. Rousey was at the center of the perfect storm of outside factors, across the cage from an experienced boxer with some of MMA’s most tactical coaches behind her. Her mum was publicly feuding with her coach, and — seemingly out of nowhere — her coach filed for bankruptcy under strange circumstances. Meanwhile, her new relationship with UFC heavyweight Travis Browne — a man recently accused of domestic violence — stirred up a storm of controversy that Rousey had to field. On top of that, Rousey had to contend with one of the most intense media tours of her life. And all the while, she was flirting with opportunities in boxing and pro wrestling. Perhaps because of hubris, perhaps because of ambition and some events that were outside her control, Rousey over-extended. She fucked up. She made a human mistake — or perhaps a whole bunch of them.

And yet, this perception that she was invincible still distorted the views of fans and pundits alike. In the MMA world, especially, all the above stuff was known. Rousey’s closet was wide open, and people were digging out skeletons left and right. But still, the betting odds remained overwhelmingly in her favour. Still, everyone felt her victory was a foregone conclusion. At best, some (myself included) figured, Holm would last longer than most of Rousey’s opponents — actually make a fight out of it.

I think people are in such uproar about Rousey’s loss in part because it was a sobering reminder that nobody can escape their humanity. Nobody can climb that far. We hope for superheroes, but we get human beings. Every single time.

Despite all that, I’m actually glad Rousey lost. As I said in a previous article, the way she recovers from a loss will be infinitely more interesting than another dozen wins. Based on the path Rousey seems to have been headed down, I think it will be good for her too. She was getting distracted, failing to keep her eyes on the prize. This loss, hopefully, will refocus her — force her to add new dimensions to her game and become more well-rounded. Ronda Rousey is still great, but perhaps she can become greater.


  • The fight was so one sided I was honestly a little stunned…

    However, I believe they were both undefeated in their UFC history before the fight, so one of them was going to lose that streak regardless.

  • My masculinity is fragile, like a baby swan hatched from a snowglobe egg. -Laughed so damn hard at that.

    It’s nothing new for people to turn on somebody when the card flips, especially in sports when dealing with dominating figures. We love to see somebody rise and live it twice as much when they fall.

    At the first sign of weakness, many have leapt on Rousey and turned her into some despicable human being, the celebrities trying to capatilise on the public switch to gain fans and attention is equally as lame.

  • Yeh she was/is one of the most dominant athletes out there, but how big has the field been? She’s a pioneer. And don’t get me wrong I don’t discount what she’s done but we’re now just seeing (hopefully) some true competition.
    It’s like the early days of the WSOP. Doyle Brunson & Phil Hellmuth dominating and winning the most bracelets but up against a smaller and weaker field than when it truly became competitive.
    And that is what makes Sunday’s result exciting.

  • I look forward to the rematch. Hopefully she checks her ego at the door, learns some humility and refines her tactics. Rousey’s an amazing fighter, and Holm a worthy opponent.

  • A lot of people are pissed at her because it’s been revealed she used domestic violence on her ex-bf, and no one is batting an eyelid.

      • She said in her autobiography that she hit her Ex after he took nude pics of her without her knowledge.
        Because she was outspoken about the boxer fella who smacked ladies around, people have been calling her hypocritical by connecting the two.

        • So taking photos of your partner with out their knowledge is not frowned upon in the circles you run in? What did he expect was going to happen?

          I’m not sure on the details of that boxer fella but I doubt those ladies did anything to deserve the beating they got.

          I don’t condone violence in anyway, shape or form. But its not like he drank all the milk and put the container back in the fridge. He took nude pics of some one with out their consent, that’s not domestic violence that’s cause and effect.

          • Reverse the genders. Would you still think “what did you expect to happen?” if the guy beat the piss out of a girl for taking the photos?

          • No one is saying it’s ok to take nude pics of your spouse without consent, but that doesn’t make her innocent of domestic violence. I’d fully expect to be smacked around by my wife under the same circumstances, but if she hit me, she still hit me, no matter how justified it might seem.

          • If you’re taking pictures of some one when they are nude with out their consent you’re a piece of shit. Regardless of being a female or male. This guy got off lightly, I’m not sure what type of sentence he would have gotten if he was convicted. If he was found guilty he would have been registered as a sexual offender.

            I agree was it the right road to take no, would I smack my Mrs around because she was taking photos of me? No, what for? if she wants to brick her phone that’s on her.

            All this reminds me of an ancient Chinese proverb. Talk shit, get hit.

  • I feel like people keep forgetting that she beat up her spouse, Then publicly challenged mayweather for doing the exact same thing. Personally I’m glad that spouse beating bitch lost, I don’t understand why the public perception is so different when the genders are reversed. I expect to get downvoted to oblivion for this but it’s the truth.

    • I feel like most people don’t even know that she did this, it’s not exactly widely reported. I agree with you completely that she gets far too much of a free pass on it either way though.

      However, I would say that the context of the violence is pretty important. I think domestic violence is so insipid because it’s perpetrated between people who are supposed to trust each other. So it makes one person powerless and so on. Man on woman violence is also viewed more negatively because in general women are not as able to defend themselves as well. I don’t see too much reason to get excited about this, it’s similar to hitting children in a way in my view. What I mean is that for myself and everyone I know, me hitting my GF would have a very different result to her hitting me (this isn’t to discount domestic violence against men, I’m just talking the generalities of it).

      When it’s a woman who can fight and a man who is obviously not afraid of her (judging by the account of the tale), then I just feel like it’s closer to a fight than it is abuse. This is just my 2 cents on why I think perception is different when the genders are reversed.

      • You failed to leave out why she did hit her ex partner. It was because he was taking nude pictures of her with out her consent.

        • At which point being cracked in the mouth is kinda what one deserves… Whether you’re male or female.

          Commit to a shitty action, get a shitty reaction in turn. Go figure.

          I don’t much care for Rousey one way or the other, but I believe legally she was in the right IF things actually did occur in the way I’ve seen described in various statements. Supposedly the guy wouldn’t let her leave the apartment, etc.

          Whether the account of the situation is accurate or not, well that’s a whole other deal.

        • This fails logic at every level.
          1) We only have RR’s word that he was taking photos of her without consent.
          2) If they are your partner, the argument has significantly less grounding, because you’ve probably already shown your naked body to them, on numerous occasions. That would imply consent at a base level.
          3) I took a photo of my girlfriend the other day, without her consent. Do I deserve to be beaten to a pulp ?
          As it happens, she was asleep and looked peacefully cute, and I thought it worthy of a photo.
          Of course, she disagreed when she saw her pimples, but it didn’t devolve into a physical beating. We did what most couple do, and talked about it.
          4) Abusers will say anything to justify their actions.
          Typically, the easy way to tell is if they blame the other person for their actions. Oh my, I think we have a winner.
          5) Even if the situation was exactly as she described, it still doesn’t warrant physical abuse. You seem to think it’s easily justified, which is alarming, because the very tenant of our society is that we do not physically assault each other, unless it is in self defence or the situation warrants it.
          This case fell into neither of those scenarios, and yet you appear quite happy to ignore those safeguards, based on some unverified claim, by the abuser herself.
          6) If the genders were reversed, there would be a howling firestorm of condemnation, from the head of UFC down to the Parramatta Womens Knitting Circle. Why should RR be treated differently ?

  • great article.
    i personally like Rhonda, i dont follow her closely and i havnt heard much of her stupid comments.
    i saw an interesting comparison on 9GAG of all places, it was comparison of the pre-fight stare down between Rhondas composure against Beth Coreira (?) and then Holly’s composure against Rhonda.
    and it said something like confidence is quiet, insecurity is loud.
    i think Rhonda lost it mentally heading into this one. she cracked under expectations. that’s not to detract from Holly’s skill or anything, but if Rhonda had been calm and collected and focused, it could have made for a very different fight.
    they’re both going to have ups and downs, hopefully they learn to grow through it.

  • Okay, can someone explain to me what Rhonda Rousey and UFC have to do with Gaming, anime, manga, comics and to a certain degree pop culture?

    Yes, she enjoys playing pokemon and loves Dragonball Z and I quite like her, but for real, why are we continually having these Ronda Rousey circle jerk articles on Kotaku?

    I could avoid these articles but my question is pretty damn valid.

    • UFC articles have been getting a lot of clicks recently, so Kotaku sees no reason to stop? I’m more bemused than offended though. It’s all part of the rich tapestry of nerd culture, right?

      • That’s basically the reason, but by that rationale they should just post porn to rake in the clicks. There are porn games, so it’s just as related as MMA. More gamers like porn than MMA so why not?

    • Do you want an honest answer? Because every time someone asks this question they never seem to accept the responses.

  • I have never understood the fanaticism behind Rousey is it just because she’s female and doing (did) well? I mean i get that she dominates her opponents early but why didn’t Lalia Ali generate the same buzz (she went 20 something and 0 i think – boxing world champion).

    Can’t help but think its just because she’s female and reasonably good looking which is a shame as there have been those before her more deserving of admiration yet never had the media attention.

    • The difference between the two is purely promotion and timing.
      The UFC as a singular organisation spends a lot more effort and resources promoting their fighters on the back of the sports popularity where as the fractured world of boxing has been around for ages and hasn’t been able to generate as much mainstream buzz as it used to. (Though it’s still hugely popular)
      Woman’s boxing has been around for ages, nobody is bad mouthing it the way Woman’s UFC used to cop at the start, so it’s not capturing the public attention as much. I mean barely anyone outside Judo and Olympic circles knew who Rhonda was before UFC, nor Holms outside woman’s boxing.

  • I have to agree with some of the comments here… isn’t this website supposed to be about gaming, popular culture, comics, anime etc?

    Oh well, since we’re talking about it…

    With all due respect, I am a fan of Ronda Rousey, especially since she has a judo background. I’m a judo player myself, of course no where near her level, she has incredible judo, won bronze at the Beijing Olympics, is a pioneer for women’s MMA. She has achieved so much, more than we can dream of.

    In saying that, Ronda honestly portrayed very poor sportsmanship before that fight with Holly Holm. For starters during the weigh in, as always, Ronda essentially charged at Holly, right in her face, then seemed surprised when Holly put her fist up against Ronda’s face? Really? What was Ronda expecting Holly to do? Back down? Ronda wanted a reaction and she got one.

    Secondly, seconds before the bell went off, Ronda didn’t touch gloves with Holly, while Holly offered to do so. I’m sorry, that’s extremely piss poor, especially since Ronda comes from a judo background. In judo, you can get in serious shit if you do not bow to your opponent in randori training or in competition. Judo is about respect. Ronda might be doing MMA now, but she comes from a long, prestigious judo background. Touching gloves is in a sense, the MMA version of “bowing”, which Ronda did not do. That’s not only arrogant, but completely disrespectful and honestly, it made her look foolish.

    I’m also very disappointed to hear that Ronda was involved in domestic violence at home, as the instigator. Yes, what her partner did was horrible and unforgivable. Really, the man got what he deserved, which was a thrashing from Ronda… but then Ronda tried to call out Floyd Mayweather for his domestic violence, while Ronda is now dating someone who also beat their former spouse? Bloody hell. I was very sad to hear about this.

    In the match, Holly certainly fought better. Her strikes were more accurate, more powerful, she kept her distance while she kept moving and she avoided Ronda’s take downs. It’s difficult to say who is the better fighter overall, but the better fighter for that match was Holly.

    I think Ronda is a fantastic fighter, an amazing judo player and as I said, she has done and achieved so much more than any of us… but lately, her character has really disappointed me, and it’s crushing because I call myself a Ronda Rousey fan. Like it or not, Ronda Rousey is a role model who people look up to. She should bloody well act like it.

    • A big discussion point (with accompanying slow-mo gifs) that made the rounds on reddit was that Rousey had her fist up in Holm’s face for the “face off” promo pics at the weigh-in. Holm responded in kind, with her arm “outside” Rousey’s. Rousey then moved her arm to be “outside” Holm’s and leveraged Holm’s arm so that Holm’s fist into her own (Rosey’s face) face. Rousey then proceeded to charge at Holm as if she were the affronted party and Holm the aggressor.

  • called out and claimed she could beat the most technically proficient defensive boxer to ever live; can’t even beat mediocre female opponents in her own hillbilly sport.

  • I don’t mind Taz’s theory (ex WWE, TNA, ECW champion, current radio show host) that it was a work.

    Not the fight, but the outcome. Holm wasn’t in on it. There’s more detail of his take on it at this link –

    In fairness – Taz may be be biased by his “Sports Entertainment” background – but it makes sense. It’s an old saying but – The Money’s in the rematch. No one really cared about who Rousey was fighting beyond ” who would RR destroy next?”. By putting Holm over – and being particularly heelish about it – she’s set the story for her redemption and comeback (culminating in a new autobiography where she can address PR concerns of the previous one re: Domestic Violence and how she conquered her anger management issues post Holm) – she can have her few months off filming Roadhouse, UFC lose their star champion for a few months (as they were going to anyway due to RR’s filming) – but can put “the champ that beat RR” top billing – which is better than no title match at all – and can build RR’s comeback, as her own media team crafts her story. It’s quite clever for both her and UFCs medium to long term management of her career. And building/culminating in 200, and the release of Roadhouse.

    Holm had no idea. She did her thing against a misfiring RR – and was genuinely surprised. But now in UFC – she’s the story, while RR starts to build hers in Hollywood (and the WWE no doubt) for a few months.

    Vince would be proud. He hasn’t pulled off a swerve this major in years.

  • “She’s said some contentious-arse shit, some of which has been almost gleefully ill-informed”

    She’s a not an infant, the trans-phobic comments about Cyborg and Fallon Fox are hers to own. Being from one of the most progressive states in the most developed county in the world I think she’s more informed than most.

    “creates a vortex of reality distortion”

    Thank the media for this one constantly pumping out articles to perpetuate the myth.

    “People are trying to discount Ronda Rousey for one loss”

    I don’t think people are discounting her ability. They’re discounting the aura of invincibility created by Rousey and the mainstream media.

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