Ronda Rousey broke her mom’s hand during a fight when she was a kid. But that’s OK. It was a consensual fight.
Her mother, Ann Maria Rousey DeMars, was the first American to win the World Judo Championships in 1984, and she regularly sparred with her little girl to sharpen her instincts.
“When I was 13 or so, she stopped” sparring, the younger Rousey says. “I didn’t know why. She told me later I broke her hand or something. … My mom’s so tough!”
Little Ronda followed her mom’s footsteps by earning a judo world championship at 17, then wearing an Olympic bronze medal in 2008.
Today at age 25, Ronda Rousey is the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first female fighter – a tough and outspoken warrior who is so popular, she barely has time to go surfing anymore off the coast of Venice, Calif.
In the octagon, she doesn’t just try to win fights, she tries to devastate opponents.
“Every time I beat somebody, I want to make sure that person never wants to see me again,” Rousey says.
Her mother taught her that aggression.
“My mom would say, ‘The best time to throw somebody is within the first second,’ because within that first second is the adjustment period when people are not adjusted very well.
“So usually, I come out right away, right at the bell, and it’s in the girls’ heads that I’m going to do that and immediately be in their face.”
As a result of Rousey’s power, and her quotable persona, and her sex-symbol status, she is a fan favorite.
At 2012’s UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas, about as many fans lined up to meet her as those who waited to see the legendary Chuck Liddell.
Part of Rousey’s appeal is her uncensored mouth.
Last year, she called Georges St. Pierre – a fellow UFC sex symbol known as GSP – a “boring” champ.
When I ask her about GSP now, she says he’s still boring.
“I respect Georges St. Pierre as a businessman and an athlete,” Rousey says. “I don’t have anything against him personally. But he’s not the kind of fighter I like watching.”
GSP’s problem, she says, is he plays it extremely safe in the octagon.
“He fights to win matches. He doesn’t fight to defeat his opponents.”
That current style of GSP’s (he used to be less cautious) bothers her, because she sees herself (in a way) as his opposite.
“I lost a lot of judo matches because of points fighters. It was extremely frustrating for me. And when I see that same style being played out in a different sport, it brings out the same reaction in me.”
Rousey hasn’t heard from GSP since calling him dull. But she has met him. He’s nice, she says.
She has, however, heard people compare her sex-appeal status to GSP’s.
“Everybody keeps coming up to me and saying, ‘Oh, do you think if you didn’t look such a way, people would like you so much?’
“I’m like, ‘Dude, if GSP was butt ugly, you wouldn’t want to know who he is so much.’
“I think he lucked out a lot that he’s Canadian. I love Canadians. They are the coolest, nicest, most patriotic people, and they will support their countrymen no matter what, and I think that’s commendable.
“But if GSP wasn’t really good-looking, and really Canadian, he would be really unknown.”
It makes sense then that Rousey’s favorite fighters have been aggressive, such as Fedor Emelianenko, B.J. Penn and Nick Diaz.
“I like fighters that go into it to finish it. They’re not afraid to take risks,” by saying, “I’m going to try to do something crazy, and if I end up in a bad position, I know I can handle it.
“That confidence gets me excited.”
That mouth of hers led to a media field day last year, when she said she wants to have a lot of battle sex before a fight. But she tells me she talks about sex only because we journalists keep asking her about it.
“I don’t have a sex chamber set up or anything,” she says. “People ask me the question all the time. I don’t want to talk about it all the time. I just feel like I’m the only person open to talking about it.”
She answers intrusive questions because she figures she might as well adapt to the position she is in, of “spending my life under this amount of scrutiny.” Besides, when famous people try to hide their personal lives, it backfires, she says.
Also, the upsides to being candid are tremendous.
“The whole bad girl thing allows me to mess up sometimes,” she says. “And I have freedom to say more of what I want to.”
So I asked her what she really wants to talk about, and it’s three things.
First, she hopes to win some awards Friday at the World MMA Awards in the Hard Rock Hotel.
Second, her next fight is the Feb. 23 main event against Liz Carmouche during UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif.
And third, she wants fans to help feed the hungry through her charity spinoff (http://freerice.com/content-group/rondamma). When fans answer trivia questions at that site, rice is donated to the World Food Programme.
“We’ve donated millions and millions of grains,” she says.
Rousey was turned onto that FreeRice charity through, naturally, her mother, whom she can’t say enough about.
“My mom is the biggest badass of all time, dude,” Rousey says. “She’s like an amazon matriarch.”
Rousey boasts that when her mom won her own judo championships, she was a single mother working as an engineer and earning a Ph.D. (Her mom and stepdad, “a rocket scientist,” are currently developing a video game.)
“If our family was ‘The X Men,’ she would be Professor X,” Rousey says.
So which “X-Men” hero would Rousey be?
“Me? I’m Jean Grey,” she says. “I can turn on my Phoenix at any time!”
Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.