UFC 2012: Ronda Rousey, Today's Greatest Female Role Model in Sports

Matt Saccaro@@mattsaccaroContributor IIINovember 9, 2012

August 18, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA;   Ronda Rousey (black shirt) as she defeated Sarah Kaufman (blue shirt)during their Strikeforce MMA women's bantamweight title bout at the Valley View Casino Center. Rousey won in 54 seconds of the first round. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

“I would beat the crap out of Kim Kardashian,” she said about the Hollywood starlet. “Get over yourself, all you do is swim,” she said concerning legendary Olympic athlete Michael Phelps.

The woman who uttered those brazen sentiments would end up becoming the very first woman in the UFC—Ronda Rousey.

Rousey is an Olympic bronze medalist in judo as well as an undefeated mixed martial arts fighter and now a trailblazer for female fighters everywhere. If the glass ceiling is the barrier women in the office world face, then Rousey broke the caged ceiling—the barrier that had been keeping women out of the world's foremost mixed martial arts promotion.

However, she is more than just a fighter and pioneer. She is the greatest female sports role model of the times. 

How can she be that influential?

The answer can't be summed up in a sentence or two.

First, let’s take a closer look at her diatribe from some months ago against Kim Kardashian. Rousey’s initial verbal jabs came at the unveiling of the most recent ESPN, The Body issue:

You know what? I would beat the crap out of Kim Kardashian actually. Any girl who is famous and idolized because she made a sex video with some guy and that’s all you’re known for, ‘Oh, I got my fame for sucking [expletive],’ I think it’s pretty stupid, sorry, but it’s true.

Why is everyone slipping it under the carpet now? She’s selling Sketchers to 13-year-olds. I don’t want some girl—whose entire fame is based on a sex video—selling Sketchers to my little sister.

Girls like Kim Kardashian are being pushed in my little sister’s face, and it’s just not healthy. She shouldn’t need to have role models like this, and that’s why I’m doing stuff like ESPN Body because someone needs to do it.

A second tirade soon followed live on TMZ, “This girl should be selling lube or something like that instead. Why is she selling shoes?” Rousey said.

In an age where girls as young as six view themselves as sex objects, Rousey's stance as a foil to Kardashian is crucial. There are no other females in the sports world today taking such a vocal stance against such sordidness. 

In fact, Rousey might be the only positive female role model in general.

When you turn on the television, do you see a Marie Curie inspiring women to unlock the secrets of chemistry and physics? Do you see another Billie Jean King convincing women they are athletically equal to males? Do you see the success story of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer being shared with young women?

No. There are only the idiotic ravings of the Kardashian family and Snooki, the classless dregs of society displayed on 16 and Pregnant and the pathetic, selfish characters on Girls. Even in sports, what are the prominent female athletes known for?

The Williams sisters are talented but don't seek to purge the culture of corrupt influences. Other female athletes reduce themselves to sex symbols. Lolo Jones might be considered a more positive figure to look up to, but that was simply because she claimed to be a virgin, a fact which captivated the media for some reason.

Rousey questioning a figure's cultural worth is therefore a step in the right direction as far as female role models in sports are concerned.

Furthermore, Rousey didn’t acquire fame through engaging in sexual activities with a C-list celebrity and/or having a droll “reality” show. Rousey worked tirelessly in judo (even dropping out of high school to attend the Olympic Games in 2004 at age 17) and earned a bronze medal in 2008 for her efforts.

Succeeding in one field wasn’t enough for Rousey, who set her sights on professional mixed martial arts in 2011. She captured the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight championship (arguably the most prestigious female title in the sport) a year after her pro debut as a fighter. Now she's in the UFC.

How do her skills—throwing people around, torqueing limbs and beating people up—help young girls?

The answer doesn’t lie in her literal skills, but in her story in general.

Ronda Rousey achieved. She didn’t stumble upon, she didn’t coast, and she didn’t get lucky. She achieved greatness, and not through sordid means or decadence, but through mental and physical fortitude as well as unshakable determination. She’s a worker, not a lazy, complaint-prone (sub)urbanite.

Her presumptuous demeanor might raise the eyebrow of a skeptic since, after all, who in their right mind calls out the most successful Olympian in history, as Rousey did some time ago?

A clever woman, that’s who.

Rousey’s critique of Michael Phelps is based off her experiences in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. It was here that Phelps acted like a bit of a diva, secluding himself from the other Olympians at a party. She said:

Yeah, Michael Phelps kind of annoyed me a little bit…Michael Phelps needed his own private section of the club to be private, for him. Even the NBA players—who are a bigger deal than this guy—they’re all hanging out with the rest of us. We're your teammates! We're not a bunch of groupies! Come hang out with us. Who the hell are you? Then we had the Oprah thing…they had all the medalists on there…Michael Phelps had to be kept separate in a different backstage area so he wouldn’t be harassed by all the other Olympians. I don't like being somebody's teammate and being treated like I'm a groupie...Get over yourself. All you do is swim. If someone slapped you every single time you jumped in the pool then I'd have a little more respect.

Despite sounding boorish, Rousey conveys a good message with her “rant” against Phelps. An accomplished woman—or any accomplished person for that matter—shouldn’t accept being deemed unworthy to grace a more “famous” person’s presence (or, as Rousey herself put it, being relegated to “groupie” status).

There is also intelligence behind the callous words. Rousey catapulted herself to stardom in the MMA world by saying outlandish, controversial things. She’s made herself into a character that people love or love to hate. This persona is the product of understanding how the world works.

Rousey knows that being nice and quiet doesn’t sell tickets or generate press, so she’s not “nice,” and she’s not quiet. Some would say that this "questionable" moral fiber makes her a poor role model, but those people aren't seeing the big picture. 

Rousey says these things because they’re good for her career. Chiding well-known figures like Kim Kardashian and Michael Phelps generates articles, which generate more knowledge about Ronda Rousey and her career in judo and MMA.

And what's wrong with having an edge? It's the sports world, after all. All athletes should have a bit of fire to them, and that fire should rub off on their fans. 

An additional point to make about Rousey is that she has the perspicacity to understand how to promote herself, yet she never completed high school or went to college. Being “uneducated” doesn’t put her out of the role model category; saying otherwise is myopic.  

The American education system is undergoing a paradigm shift. No longer is a college degree going to get you a good, or even decent, job. Degrees are swiftly becoming worth less than the paper they're printed on, yet the prices of obtaining them are constantly skyrocketing.

Rousey is a sports role model that reflects this change in the world. Her success teaches children that they can find their own path outside of the declining education system. Blowing $40,000-plus on a degree only to be a lifer at Starbucks or some other equally miserable fate isn’t the only option anymore. Find another female sports star that demonstrates this message in such a way.

Ronda Rousey is the greatest female sports role model in sports today. There is no woman competing today who can convey as many positive lessons and dictums as Rousey can. 

If her story spreads across the sports world, young girls will learn to emulate this successful, strong-willed athlete rather than the more questionable female characters out there, all thanks to a brash, fiery MMA fighter with steel in her heart and silver on her tongue. 



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