[MMA NEWS ARCHIVES]
On this day six years ago, the seemingly unstoppable Ronda Rousey suffered her first career loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193. Rousey was never the same again. Here is an editorial published three years ago that examined Rousey’s post-MMA rebound and a past that many people wouldn’t let her leave behind.
[ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MAY 3, 2018, 10:55 AM]
She’s different, and don’t care who knows it. Something about her…not the same. She’s different, and that’s how it goes. And she’s not gonna play your gosh darn game.
What we have been witnessing for the past couple of years is a cold war between Ronda Rousey and the MMA media. Ronda Rousey has been branded a poor sport, ungrateful, and immature for not speaking about her losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes. All the while, Rousey did not return fire. She did not want to partake in any war of words, but rather she elected for peace. The MMA media would have none of it and continued to fire bullets at Rousey’s door in the hopes of driving her out of her house to face them at once.
It’s hard to gauge if Rousey has suffered any damage from the bullets. On one hand, there does seem to be a public conception that Ronda Rousey can’t handle losing and is a poor sport because of her MMA media blackout, but whether that has lost her many fans seems doubtful. Also, it is much more common to see negativity and dogpiling of a celebrity figure than fans coming to the defense of a celebrity on the wrong side of a media narrative. That’s part of being a celebrity. It comes with the territory. But how the celebrity chooses to cope with this criticism and excessive attention, however, is entirely up to that celebrity. Just as the journalist delivers a product to the audience to be bought, so, too, does the celebrity. But in the case of the celebrity, they are the product. The celebrity is the brand. How accessible the celebrity makes themselves outside of delivering their public performances is a privilege for those who would like to hear or see more from the figure; it is not a right the public is automatically entitled to.
She’s gotta different kind of walk.
Did the MMA media help Ronda Rousey become the star that she is? Perhaps. But I’d say it was Rousey’s undefeated record, Tyson-esque speed finishes, and physical appearance that accounted for 85% of her fame. In other words, she walked the walk. And from there, mainstream media outlets like ESPN, ABC, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, etc. picked up on her and gave her mainstream exposure. The media that is responsible for the majority of the other 15% of Ronda’s star appeal is the MSM, not the MMA media. And if I’m wrong, then, we’re less than 10 days away from UFC 224, with a main event that could use some buzz. So how about it, star weavers? We’ve got a champion who retired two of the most recognized and legendary names in women’s MMA in dominant fashion! How about using your magic to make her a star! I’m sure Amanda would be much more grateful!
The reality is, you don’t see the same exposure and discussion around Amanda because the media is not in the star-making business. It’s in the star-following business. And when a star goes off the radar so that they can’t be followed, then, there is a blow TO business. But that’s not Rousey’s problem. What we can learn from the coverage of Ronda’s silence is that Ronda does not even have to fight OR speak to generate headlines. And since so many of those headlines are negative, it’s not surprising that Rousey does not want to participate in this world now that she is no longer contractually obligated to. In fact, if we follow the timeline of Rousey’s downfall, it isn’t Ronda Rousey who needs to provide answers. It’s the MMA media.
She’s gotta different kind of smile.
At UFC 193, Ronda Rousey loss her bantamweight championship in devastating, one-sided, meme-worthy fashion. For a woman who had been built up by the mainstream media as this pop culture megastar and unstoppable force, and as someone who repeatedly made it clear that her dream was to retire undefeated, it’s understandable how fans and journalists would wonder how she’d respond to this loss. But we heard nothing. That is until Ronda Rousey appeared on The Ellen Show three months later where she tearfully confessed to the world that she contemplated suicide following her loss to Holly Holm. She openly told a national television audience that she thought about killing herself because she lost a fight. This was a far cry, literally and figuratively, from the radiant smile we had gone accustomed to seeing on Rousey’s typical media appearances. But somehow, there seems to be zero appreciation for how vulnerable it was for her to say those words to millions of strangers or, to my larger point, for how it is she felt about her loss.
Fast forward to the end of the 2016, and Rousey makes her big return to face new champion Amanda Nunes in an attempt to regain her championship. And the same woman who earlier this same year said she contemplated suicide after losing would lose once again in a fashion that was just as one sided, but only much quicker. And once again, she fell off the grid, much to the chagrin of the MMA media. They wanted to know what she had to say about the losses. Her fans deserve it, they said. It’s what a good sport would do, they said. Well, heading into Wrestlemania 34, she went on ESPN and she spoke, all right. And it was an unmitigated disaster.
She’s gotta different kind of talk…
On both Golic and Wingo and First Take, Rousey was rude, awkward, and abrasive. Even when Max Kellerman was on her side and defending her, the mere fact that he was talking about the two losses triggered her and she responded to Kellerman with biting sarcasm. The reasons for this are two-fold: One, she is not a good sport. That should be clear by now. You can’t force someone to be something that they are not. What you can do, however, is accept the reality of who they are and let it go. Secondly, and more importantly, based on how easily triggered she is by any question or comment about her losses, and based on her saying things like, “I remember walking away thinking God hates me,” and based on the very first interview after her Holm loss, where she discussed wanting to commit suicide, guess what, you don’t have to be Dr. Phil to see that the woman is legitimately traumatized by her losses. That may sound silly. You might not understand it. Maybe you can’t relate. I get it. But you don’t have to understand it in order to accept it. Sympathizing with someone who has been traumatized says much more about a human being than speaking about a loss in a competition. And by sympathizing, I don’t necessarily mean feeling sorry for her, but rather showing enough compassion to the degree that you can at least back off.
…drives the critics kind of wild.
Rousey’s acclaimed Wrestlemania 34 performance and her comments afterwards finally brought closure to the MMA chapter of her life and the beginning of her new one. She says that for the first time, she is grateful for those two losses because it got her to where she is today. She then offered words of inspiration to her millions of fans, ensuring them that no matter how dark the landscape may be in the moment, in time, the sun always rises again. It seemed that maybe, just maybe, all parties involved could feel a sense of closure cascading down upon them. Then, she spoke….about not speaking.
“We live in an age of trial by Twitter. What is really gained by stating opinion on anything? It whittles people down. It gets cut and pasted 10 times and it’s in (a) headline.” With the context of the above quote, I submit the ensuing controversial snippet from the Q and A hosted by Peter Berg:
“(Public figures) keep more and more of it to themselves. Why should I talk? I believe hearing me speak is a privilege, and it’s a privilege that’s been abused, so why not revoke it from everyone? I don’t believe public criticism beating you down is the right thing to do.”
Here, Rousey is complaining about how words of public figures are taken out of context and is “abused” by the media, which, predictably, is precisely what happened with this very quote. First of all, hearing Ronda Rousey speak is a privilege for her followers. That may sound outrageous, and it may come across as a very conceited thing for her to say, but if it were not a privilege, people would not be complaining for the better part of two years about her NOT speaking. Anybody who complained because another human being opted not to speak gives validity to her statement hearing her is a privilege. It’s a privilege not because she is better than anybody as a human being but because people care about her speaking, as evident in the coverage of her silence. Celebrity is a phenomenon that has existed for as long as human history has been recorded. It may not be logical, but it’s a fact of society: some people speaking is more valuable than others. That’s why things like speaking fees, autograph signings, and interviews are so valuable. Because witnessing the appearance and/or speaking of this figure is considered a privilege by those who have requested it, paid for it, or, in this case, petulantly demanded it.
But here’s the quote from the very same interview that didn’t make the headlines and has virtually been ignored:
“I did a whole lot of crying, isolating myself, (Travis Browne) held me and let me cry and it lasted two years. I couldn’t have done it alone.”
There. She’s literally talking about the two losses. And she once again is stopping hairs short of directly telling the world that she was traumatized by the two losses. And once again, it is falling on deaf ears.
So maybe it’s not about whether or not she talks about the two losses. Maybe it comes back to the MMA media thinking she owes us something. But let’s be clear. Ronda Rousey became a star through her own efforts in pioneering WMMA in the UFC and putting forth a campaign as world champion that has yet to be paralleled. While I don’t believe any figure is obligated to speak when they don’t want to, the “owe us something” narrative would perhaps apply more to performers like Mackenzie Dern, Sean O’Malley, and Mike Perry, stars whose fast-rising fame could much more directly be attributed to the overwhelming media coverage (along with company promotion, of course) that preceded any actual achievements in the sport. But it doesn’t fit with a woman who earned her fame in the Octagon much more than many people seem to give her credit for.
In the end, Rousey has shown and, contrary to the common misconception, spoken on her two losses and demonstrated how much she cares about the sport in the process. Not everyone is going to appear and spout recycled platitudes after a loss like, “I’ll come back stronger,” “I’m going to grow from this.” “This is going to make me a better fighter.” Quite frankly, none of those things would have been true, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s best that she didn’t appear to utter these empty clichés. Rousey is a living example of the song “I’m Different” by Randy Newman that has been remixed throughout this piece. She’s different and doesn’t care who knows it; and she’s “not gonna play your goddamn game.” Oh, and by the way, she still doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation.
The truth is, from the looks of it, she won’t be coming back. And at the time, she did NOT think she was going to grow from it, but rather she sunk into a very dark place immediately following both losses. She has told the world how dark the place was that she resided in for the past two years was. She has cried openly on national television and even spoken of suicide. And overwhelming, the MMA community’s response has been,
“Get over it. You’re a bad sport, and you are ungrateful.”
Since Rousey isn’t directly addressing the MMA media and community, allow me to speak on her behalf:
It’s been two years. Get over it. Accept that she is a bad sport, but do not let that turn you ungrateful for her great contributions to the sport of MMA. And the best way to show gratitude is to move on after a bad breakup without trashing the ex every chance you get. And who knows, maybe obvious rebounds like Mackenzie Dern will turn out to be the real thing. But whether you experience another great one or not, it should not prevent us all from showing gratitude for the great times we shared. In doing so, you would be behaving more “proper” than Rousey after suffering a loss. Because no matter how you spin it and how sour things ended, Ronda Rousey leaving the sport is a loss to MMA. Now all that’s left to do is to just be good sports about it.
Where do you stand on Ronda Rousey?