Ronda Rousey More Than Just the World's 'Most Dominant Athlete'

Brian Oswald@@briancoswaldMMA Editor August 3, 2015

USA Today

Perfection is a false construct.

But in the here and now, Ronda Rousey, dubbed the world's most dominant athlete by Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, seems as close to perfect as one might get. It's a completely unfair label to saddle on anyone. But after Saturday night's destruction of Bethe Correia at UFC 190—a challenger who had very little chance of upending the champ—it feels like she can do no wrong.

In today's social-media malaise, Rousey appears to be a nearly flawless prototype for remaining front and center. She's Mike Tyson, but for a new age of fisticuffs. Mixed martial arts is well-suited for a world that seemingly becomes more attention-deficient with each new tweet and Instagram post. SportsCenter even shared a photo of Tyson and Rousey, noting Tyson's comment on "seeing himself in Rousey":

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

Mike Tyson said, he see's himself in Ronda Rousey. Nearly 30 years ago, he also improved to 12-0 w/ KO in 1st round. http://t.co/YZCdcQ4mHc

While boxing is the sweet science, fights often feel too long and lacking in action for today's fan. In the ashes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao, Evander Holyfield wrote for the Players' Tribune that boxing isn't what it once was. The most-watched prizefight in the history of mankind was nearly universally panned for lacking in substance.

While people have complained about Rousey's fights being over before they start, a generation that is in love with six-second Vine videos and Snapchat messages that self-destruct seems increasingly well-equipped to deal with a bout ending too soon versus one taking too long.

The great part about a clash ending too soon is that it was usually the result of intense bursts of action. Fights made for sharing. MMA has its fair share of boring matchups—look no further than some of the fights that preceded Rousey vs. Correia.

But in the end, Rousey's fight shined through.

The boxing vs. MMA debate has raged on for years now. It's brainless banter for the most part, and this article isn't trying to add fuel to that fire. More so, it's to highlight that MMA is very much here and now. And right now, Rousey is the perfect highlight for the sport.

And we can't ignore the fact that she's a woman. In the context of sports, Rousey is a fighter first. But as a pioneer, megastar and badass in MMA, being a woman means something. First and foremost, it means the sport she's chosen is reaching more women.

Her Cosmopolitan profile from this past week is a perfect example.

In it, she talks about how gaining 15 pounds made her feel more beautiful. You won't see Rousey counting calories if anyone should foolishly tell her she needs to drop a few pounds. Sure, she cuts weight for the mandatory pre-fight weigh-ins. But then she goes right back to feeling comfortable in her skin and picking up side work as a blue-jean and swimsuit model.

Bleacher Report MMA @BR_MMA

Ronda Rousey’s weight cuts are consistently unbelievable. #UFC190 http://t.co/qIMTxVhStf

To many, the woman whose on-the-job performance convinced UFC President Dana White to give women's MMA a chance has become a role model; she's someone who's used her platform to break down gender barriers. For her part, Rousey doesn't feel comfortable calling herself a role model.

That said, she's clearly using her platform.

Rousey pulled no punches when talking about her own physique in a pre-fight episode of the UFC’s Embedded video blog series.

When people try to say my body looks masculine or something like that, I'm like, listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than f--king millionaires doesn't mean it’s masculine. I think it’s femininely badass as f--k, because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose, because I’m not a do-nothing b---h.

Her term "do-nothing b---h," or a "DNB," is one she uses for the kind of woman her mom raised her to not be. It's a label she has for the kind of "chick" (her words, not ours) who tries to be pretty and be taken care of by somebody else.

She clearly holds some strong beliefs surrounding women in today's culture. And she's not afraid to be brazen in her approach. She'll certainly never be mistaken for a Stepford wife.

Rousey is also a budding actress—possibly a star-in-the-making. She has the same Hollywood agent as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. That's pretty good company. Johnson's done a nearly pitch-perfect job of leveraging his wildly popular run in the world of professional wrestling to transition into becoming one of the past decade's biggest action stars.

Folks already got a glimpse of what it would look like for Rousey and Johnson to share the stage, as they did at this year's WrestleMania. Pro wrestling fans not only knew who Rousey was, but they also cheered her as if she were one of them. Dare we say: She stole the show.

Don Feria/Associated Press

Beyond her ability to pack every bar in town on fight night; beyond her pride in her own body and on her terms; beyond any movie she ends up making; what really allows Rousey to work so well in the limelight is her personality.

She's vindictive but vulnerable. She told Correia not to cry after losing Saturday night—something Correia told her not to do at the weigh-ins the day before, per Damon Martin of Fox Sports. But she has admitted that she's a big crier. She's funny and disarming, but she can get serious in a second. Rousey has shown a wide range of emotions under the bright lights.

She often wears those emotions on her sleeves for all to see. You can tell she is shy to some degree when asked to answer certain questions. Saturday night at the post-fight presser, she started to clam up when reporters repeatedly asked her a question. But when the moment calls for it, she's ready and willing to be the supernova fans and critics alike cannot look away from.

She's both a rolling stone and a wallflower—especially, according to her, the latter.

She told Cosmopolitan, "I'm the most chill couch potato you could ever meet. I just like to hang out with my dog and watch Planet Earth documentaries, play Taichi Panda [laughs]. I'm actually really lame, to be honest. I don't party at all, and I'm pretty lame to hang out with."

The biggest personal takeaway with Rousey, after having covered her for several years, is that she feels about as authentic as it gets, for better or worse, especially for an athlete whose star has been climbing at a jaw-dropping trajectory. What you see is what you get, as the saying goes.

That doesn't mean she's skirted scrutiny. Some in the MMA community, including Mike Fagan of MMASucka.com, think she's not worth celebrating. Given that she doesn't have much of a filter, she was bound to create some controversy.

Her crude comments on Fallon Fox took center stage in a heated discussion within the MMA community on transgender fighters competing in the women's division.

Rousey went on to clarify to HuffPost Live (via Kira Brekke of the Huffington Post) that she never refused to fight a transgender athlete, but she does have concerns over what she sees as a possible competitive-advantage issue, though the Post noted, "Many medical professionals have debunked comments similar to Rousey's for not being based in science."

In time, Rousey may speak on the issue more, further clarifying where she stands. In the wake of Caitlyn Jenner's story of personal triumph, it's clear the fight for transgender athletes' rights is an important issue whose time has come.

That aside, at 28, the world appears to be Rousey's oyster. LeBron James tweeted her good luck. Kobe Bryant hashtagged her performance "#mastery." White said at the post-fight presser, "I don't think we've ever had an event with so many athletes and celebrities tweeting about it."

LeBron James @KingJames

Good luck to @RondaRousey!! Getting ready to watch you kick a** #ShesABeast #StriveForGreatness

She'll be taking a break from her day job to co-star alongside Mark Wahlberg in Mile 22. Maybe she'll take on a bigger role at next year's WrestleMania in April. Before that, she'll fight her biggest rival to date, Miesha Tate, possibly at AT&T Stadium in December, and alongside her current male counterpart, Conor McGregor.

And in between all of that, maybe Rousey, far from perfect—because nobody is—will get some downtime to hang out with her dog and catch the latest Planet Earth documentary.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.