Think about ever great fall from grace that you have ever seen in sports. A few that come to mind are Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, O.J. Simpson and Michael Vick. And the thing that each of those falls had in common was that the infamous incidents which led to each respective athlete’s ‘demise’ occurred off of the playing field in some capacity.
Tiger Woods had a cheating scandal. O.J. had a double murder trial. Michael Vick had a dogfighting ring. Lance Armstrong got busted for steroid usage. Never has there ever been a fall from grace as dramatic as these that did not include ‘outside the lines’ influences as the primary source of demise.
At least not until now.
It has taken all of 6 minutes and 47 seconds for Ronda Rousey to transform from the most dominant athlete in the world to a washed up has-been; and the primary factors for her fall from grace did not occur outside the lines.
In just two fights – a second round knockout to Holly Holm that took 5 minutes, 59 seconds and a first round knockout to Amanda Nunes that took 48 seconds – the fighter that Joe Rogan once called, “a once ever in human history fighter” is now done. No, she hasn’t officially retired yet, but Ronda Rousey is done.
What I mean by that is that, no matter what she does from here forward, the image of Ronda Rousey has been forever shattered and is done. The unbreakable, unstoppable, “once ever” woman that transcended fighting and had a legitimate case for greatest athlete of all time is done. What we have now is a shell of that woman who simply wants to be left alone.
Before I really get into this article, I just want to put this warning out there.
I respect Ronda Rousey. I respect all of the work that it takes to reach such a high level. I respect how she has changed the fight game forever and all of the women she has impacted. However, I do not like Ronda Rousey, and that will very clearly shine through here. So if you’re here to read a positive view of Ronda, look elsewhere.
I want to start this by staying within the octagon, because that is something that I can at least somewhat factually analyze without too much speculation and subjectivity.
Within the octagon, Rousey has always had significant holes in her game. Her biggest calling card has always been her Olympic level judo game. She used her excellence in the clinch and thunderous takedowns to physically dominate opponents, take them to the ground, and transition into her patented arm bar. Her gameplay was foolproof through 12 fights and nobody had even come remotely close to beating her.
Then, she got exposed.
She tried to strike with three-weight-class world boxing champion Holly Holm and to say it didn’t go well is a vast understatement. Rousey got absolutely destroyed, needing plastic surgery after the fight to keep herself recognizable. And on Friday night, in her grand return fight against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207, Rousey got thoroughly mauled again.
If we’re being completely honest here, Ronda Rousey is not a good fighter. She is worse than poor on the feet and does not have a strong jiu-jitsu game. As I said earlier, her one calling card has always been an extremely high level judo game, which she uses to take an opponent down and transition into her one submission. Honestly, it’s amazing that it took 12 fights for someone to figure out how to beat Ronda Rousey.
Rousey’s game is comparable to that of a baseball player who’s only skill is stealing bases. Once they get on the base paths, they are extremely dominant and dangerous, but combating that skill is simple; just don’t let that player get on base. Easier said than done, but still simple.
As Holly Holm showed last November, if you stuff Ronda Rousey’s initial takedown, she is useless and can be easily picked apart. In both the fight against Holm and Amanda Nunes, Rousey looked like an underprepared and untrained athlete attempting to get in the cage with seasoned strikers.
After her initial run of dominance, the fight game caught up with Ronda Rousey. She had no answer and was unable to adapt or adjust her game to match up with the game that had caught up with her. Great fighters make adjustments, and Ronda simply continued to stubbornly work her past game plan, and she paid the price for it.
One dimensional and too stubborn to make adjustments, Ronda Rousey was never a truly great fighter. After 14 fights, we now realize that.
Now, I’ve made my case why Rousey isn’t a good fighter, but I’m gonna take it one step further here. Ronda Rousey is not a great athlete.
Whoah whoah whoah, hold on a second. How can I say that an Olympic bronze medalist who dominated women’s MMA for over 4 years isn’t a great athlete? I can say it because all truly great athletes know how to deal with adversity.
Ronda Rousey let one loss break her.
If I’m supposed to believe everything that I’ve ever heard from people trying to motivate me, how you deal with success is not what makes you great; it’s how you deal with failure that separates the average from the great. And when Ronda Rousey faced the greatest failure of her entire life, she let it break her in humiliating fashion.
She spent a year away from fighting, cooped up in Idaho with just her boyfriend, Travis Browne, there to keep her company. She avoided all media except for a hefty paycheck from Ellen DeGeneres and talked about how she had contemplated suicide after her loss to Holly Holm.
Suicide?! Are you kidding me?! Please, tell me any other great athletes that have admitted to contemplating suicide following a big loss. Can’t think of any? It’s because every truly great athlete that has ever lived knows how to deal with failure. Ronda Rousey chose to sit and pout in Idaho for nearly a full year before deciding to make a comeback.
Now, the story of Ronda Rousey could be far from over. She could prove all of my words wrong and humble herself by coming back to the UFC, accepting a non-title fight against an opponent of far less significant stature, and try to pick up the pieces of her career. This could be just the beginning of a comeback story.
But she won’t.
Instead, Ronda Rousey will choose to quit. She’ll let two failures define her and she will quit mixed martial arts.
Now, I can understand quitting because you don’t have anything left to give. Miesha Tate quit the sport because she said she, “doesn’t care enough anymore.” That’s completely understandable. But, if I’m supposed to believe everything that I hear, Ronda Rousey is going to quit martial arts because she cares too much.
In a statement released by Rousey’s mother following Amanda Nunes’ destructive performance at UFC 207, the general public who criticizes Ronda Rousey for not being able to shrug off a defeat, “doesn’t understand that what made Ronda so successful is that she cares DEEPLY about winning to an extent that I don’t believe the average person can wrap his/her head around.”
My goodness, there’s a lot to unpack about that statement.
Firstly, as an “average person” myself, I believe I can speak on behalf of the people that Ronda’s dear mother is belittling in this statement. Yes, we get it, your daughter cares about her sport. Yes, we also understand that losing is hard – everyone has lost and knows the feeling. Yes, I can understand that I, an “average person” may not be able to understand just how deeply Ronda cares about mixed martial arts. But really? Am I really supposed to believe this?
Let’s look at some examples.
On the very same UFC 207 card, Dominick Cruz lost his bantamweight title to Cody Garbrandt in a hard fought, 5 round decision. This was Cruz’s first MMA loss in nearly 10 years. Afterwords, he congratulated Garbrandt, was gracious with the media, and vowed to come back stronger. The defining quote from Cruz’s sparkling press conference – seriously, go watch it, it’s incredible – was this: “This wasn’t a tough loss. Loss is part of life. If you don’t have loss, you don’t grow. This wasn’t tough, this was life.”
Now, are you gonna tell me that Dominick Cruz enjoys losing? Am I supposed to believe that anyone who can, “shrug off a loss” enjoys losing and can’t “wrap their head around” the extent to which a professional athlete cares about his profession?
Give me a break.
Let’s take another fighter for example; Jose Aldo.
In December of 2015, Aldo suffered the ultimate humiliation at the hands of Conor McGregor. For months leading up to the fight, McGregor belittled and taunted Jose to the point where Aldo seemed legitimately infuriated, yet Aldo remained quiet and insisted that he would let his fighting do the talking.
Then, on fight night, McGregor knocked him out in 13 seconds, took Aldo’s featherweight belt, and handed Jose his first loss in over 10 years.
Also was clearly devastated. He went into hiding for several months, yet collected himself and vowed revenge. He didn’t hide away and wallow in his sadness, avoiding all media. He sought out another fight to prove his greatness and swore that he would get his retribution someday.
Aldo’s comeback culminated with a convincing win over Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 to reclaim his featherweight belt, and while he continues to wait for his next chance at McGregor, Aldo has reminded the world of his greatness and proved that one night in December of 2015 was just an outlier.
But, if I’m supposed to believe Ronda Rousey’s mother, those two men’s ability to not be so totally and completely broken by their losses equates to them not caring about mixed martial arts to the extent of Ronda Rousey, and I just plain refuse to believe that.
Ronda Rousey never won with grace, and she doesn’t lose with grace either.
Which extends into my last and final point, the fact that Ronda Rousey is no longer a role model that I want my future daughters to look up to.
What she has done for women’s MMA and women all over the world is undeniable. She broke barriers, stereotypes, and paved a way for women in combat sports; and I barely even scratched the surface of her global impact. In that right, her legacy is secure.
However, role models that I want my future daughters looking up to know how to deal with and fight through failure. The women in this world with true strength and true grit have been knocked down one million times and have gotten up one million and one times.
Ronda Rousey has been knocked down twice now, and instead of getting up, she’s curled up in a ball and told us to leave her alone.
Is that really the model we want our daughters looking up to? “Hey kids, remember that the most effective method of dealing with failure is to seclude yourself from society, seek sympathy and tell everyone to leave you alone so you can wallow in your sadness.”
It’s a powerful and poignant example of how not to deal with failure.
And, one last thing. Yes, I’m a clueless member of the media who is criticizing an athlete with a job much tougher than I could ever dream of, and I know that this will simply infuriate LeBron James and Jon Jones and Kobe Bryant, among all of the other athletes who can empathize with Ronda and encourage her to keep fighting and get back up.
But that’s what Ronda gets when she hides from the media. We get to make up our own storylines and narratives.
The queen is dead, and she’s not rising.