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Ronda Rousey Would Like to Remind Everyone That Women’s MMA Is Kind of a Big Deal

After making her professional debut last March, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey has now earned herself a Strikeforce title — in a matter of seconds. The prize money was also a nice bonus, considering her only reward for her amateur victories was, well, victory. And while she’s enjoying her rapid rise to the top of the women’s division of the sport and becoming better and better at what she does, she’s also finding herself in a role model position for other girls who might want to give athletics a try. But don’t go calling her the new face of women’s MMA just yet — Ronda Rousey kicks ass in the name of teamwork!

Rousey’s fights generally end very quickly — the total amount of time her amateur fights took before she won: 104 seconds — and using the same method: the armbar. It’s a classic judo technique, a very popular game-ending grappling hold that involves placing one’s legs across an opponent’s chest, with one of his or her arms pulled between the thighs, elbow joints against your hips. The opponent’s forearm is then pulled up to your chest, and then locked when you lean back and arch the hips. This causes some serious pressure to occur in the elbow joint, and the opponent is usually forced to tap out, ending the round. (Think of it as a more violent, ancient version of “crying uncle.”) But some people don’t tap out. Like Rousey’s opponent, former Strikeforce title holder Miesha Tate, who instead allowed her elbow to become dislocated. Ouch.

A fourth-degree black belt in judo, Rousey has been training in martial arts since she was a kid. When she was 17 years old, she qualified for the 2004 Olympics in Athens and became the youngest judo player to compete that year. The same year, she won a gold medal at the World Junior Judo Championships in Hungary. When she won a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics, she became the first American ever to win a medal for judo. In short, Ronda Rousey is a very accomplished fighter.

And now that she has everyone’s attention, she’d happy to say that women’s MMA is gaining a lot of speed, but probably not enough for her liking.

“Our sport is still very much in its infancy but I only expect it to keep growing. It’s more of a struggle for women to get the same respect guys do in anything, be it sports or piano playing or comedy, in the business world.”

However, while she acknowledges that women have more obstacles to overcome than men do, she will not be wasting her time complaining about it:

“Everything takes more work if you’re a woman, but instead of whining about it I’m just going to do the work.”

Worth noting, Rousey is also known for her trash talk before matches, even sometimes credited with introducing it into women’s MMA. A very popular instance of this was to Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (hey look! MMA fighters are geeks, too!), who beat none other than Gina Carano back in 2009, but with an asterisk: Santos later tested positive for steroids. Santos posted a picture of a beaten up Carano on Twitter as a reminder of her dubious “accomplishment,” and Rousey didn’t hold back:

“You don’t just have a [expletive], you are a [expletive] for posting that picture of Gina, you cheater.”

Rousey believes that such talk enlivens the competition, despite it going against the rules of the sport that ask the athletes to have respect for each other in and out of the ring. But this particular fighter, whose mother was also a judo champion, thinks that when someone tries to act like the new face of women’s MMA (like Santos) or make the sport about a head-to-head battle between just two people, it takes away from “a pool of athletes” who all deserve attention.

That pool could also include girls like Rousey’s own younger sister, Julia, who is 14 years old and starting to dabble in athletics herself. However, the elder Rousey knows that for every time she curses someone out on TV, her sister might be watching and might get the wrong idea about how it works in the wide world of sports:

“I have the burden of having a little sister who thinks I’m the coolest thing since sliced bread and that really makes me take a second look, because everything I do she thinks is cool. … When I think about being a role model I think about how I want my little sister to see me. I want my little sister to be able to speak her mind and swear when its appropriate.”

She does not, however, feel the need to encourage into pursuing fighting sports and getting “punched in the face like her big sister.” Julia is into soccer. Which is just as cool.

(Reuters via Gymologist on Twitter, additional info via Wikipedia, MMA Junkie)

Previously in Women’s MMA

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  • Anna B

    Dana White needs to introduce a new batch of fighters in the next season of the Ultimate Fighter–members of the women’s MMA. He constantly mixes up the reality show, anyway, like when he has a group of training/fighting heavy weights, then also, at the same time, a group of middle weights. So this time, he could just have one group of fighters that are men and the other group, women. That would be so awesome. I’ve grown tired of the show since after Mir and Noguiera coached the teams. Introducing Lady MMAs would definitely be awesome and fresh.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with that but I think they deserve their own show!
    I have seen the second season of Fight Girls and it was great! 

    For those who don’t know Fight Girls was a reality show about women training to become a team, in order to challenge a Thai team of women. Gina Carano was on the first season (I think) and was a guest coach for the second season. It was pretty much just like The Ultimate Fighter but instead of two teams figting each other for a few spots in the UFC, this group of twelve women were competing to be narrowed down to a team of 4 or 5 to go to Thailand. I think something like that for Strikeforce/UFC would be a great way to attract new talent. 

    Since Strikeforce’s predessesor Elite XC went under I’ve heard comments from the management of both organizations that there is a lack of interested female fighters to join. Holding an annual tryout for a show like that I think would be the perfect way to solve the problem. I look forward to seeing a champion at every weight class for the women’s division, and great stable of challengers hungry for their shot!

  • Lacey Wood

    Rousey’s professional debut was way back in March 2011, and her championship-winning performance was her 5th pro fight.  Sorry to nitpick, but it’s not like she magically got a title shot against Meisha Tate based on her amateur record alone.  It’s stupid that MMA pundits thought 4 first round pro submission victories (preceded by 3 amateur first round submission victories, plus her Olympic bronze medal in judo and her other judo championship credentials) weren’t enough to qualify her for a fight with Tate, but she went out there and proved she can go into a fight with someone who knows her tactics, thinks she’s one-dimensional, and still can’t defend against her takedowns and submissions.

    War Ronda.

  • Anna B

    I love the idea of them having their own show! And maybe have the Tap Out crew sponsor it–even produce it. The Tap Out dudes did an awesome job having that one episode about women in the MMA, though Mask was the one who drove that show, and his admiration for women as fighters was totally sincere, and with Mask gone… well…

    On the other hand, I also sort of feel that mixing them into the men’s MMA scene would help the cause a bit more getting into mainstream, since men’s MMA is already there. I have my reservations about Dana White, but the guy knows how to promote.

  • Colin

    Late, I know, but you should really read Teppu. It’s about a bored schoolgirl entering Japanese women’s MMA. It’s unique for two reasons: a) no fanservice or romance whatsoever b) the main character gets into MMA because she wants to pound the smile off her rival.
    Unfortunately, it isn’t available in the west, so you’ll have to read it off Mangafox.