I was worried about Ronda Rousey before her fight with Sarah Kaufman. Worried enough to lose my mind and pick Kaufman to win the bout. In retrospect, pure insanity. But there was a method to my madness. It seemed so simple then, in the days before Rousey grabbed Kaufman's arm and refused to let go.
Ronda had gone from working menial jobs just to make rent, even living out of her car at one point, to worldwide fame in just a few months. That kind of change can wreak havoc on an athlete's psyche. Ronda was everywhere, at the New York Stock Exchange, at what felt like every UFC event, heck, cutting the yellow ribbon at McDonald's openings nationwide for all I know. If there was a media opportunity, she was there.
It's easy to lose focus, to enjoy the red carpet a little too much, to let money and fame blind you to what made you such a success in the first place. Fame can be overwhelming at first. A little can go a long way and Rousey, with an ESPN: The Magazine cover and an appearance on Conan, had more than a smidgen.
Plenty of great fighters have lost their edge living the good life. It seemed like that might be happening to Rousey.
Appearances can be deceiving.
When the bell rang, Rousey did what she lives to do. She charged across the cage, put Kaufman on the ground with a leg sweep and like magic, immediately transitioned to an armbar. Kaufman, like everyone in the building and watching at home, knew it was coming. But knowing is just half the battle. The rest of it is a physical test of wills, and Rousey won that contest. She always does.
Can anyone beat Ronda Rousey?
Six fights, six wins, six armbars. The sport has never seen anything like it. Rousey, an Olympic bronze medalist, is on a different level athletically than any of her competitors.
After the fight, Rousey called out Cris "Cyborg," the former 145-pound champion who is serving a suspension for a failed steroid test. As the champion, Rousey demanded Cyborg come down to 135 pounds to face her. You come to the champ. She doesn't come to you.
It's a fight that makes sense. If it can't happen, for whatever reason, Rousey rival Miesha Tate set herself up for a rematch with a thrilling armbar win of her own, a furious back-and-forth contest with Julie Kedzie that some were calling the fight of the year in the immediate aftermath.
One thing is perfectly clear: Ronda Rousey is here to stay. So is women's MMA. And for fans of the sport, that's a very good thing indeed.