How many times have you been told men are stronger than women — that it’s a “biological fact”? This ardent feminist and lover of Serena Williams has always been frustrated that women are some how considered to be lesser athletes (and, basically, people) than their male counterparts. I don’t know about you, but stuff like this just makes me want to hit something. Hard. Which is why I was so excited when I heard about the new female athlete who is single-handedly changing the way people think about women in sports.
Ronda Rousey is the Ultimate Fighting Champion of the world. With a background in Judo (her mother was a Judo champion), she transitioned into MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) Fighting in 2010. Rousey is one of the most intense and compelling athletes to watch right now, totally dominant in her sport. After I saw Rousey knockout Bette Correia in just 34 seconds on August 1, maintaining her undefeated record, I wanted to know everything about her.
Luckily she’s written a memoir, My Fight/Your Fight, with the help of her sister, who is a sportswriter. The book just hit No. 6 on the New York Times Sports Bestseller list, and has been optioned by Paramount for a feature film. And it makes sense that people are completely gobbling it up; her story is one of the most inspiring I’ve read in years.
Here are just a few of the life lessons I took away from Rousey's book. They can be applied to any situation, whether you’re engaged in mortal combat... or just trying to get through Monday. Both can berough.
When She Overcame Her Speech Problem
As a child, Rousey was slow to speak. But her dad always knew she’d be fine. “You are going to show everyone one day,’” he told her. “You’re just a sleeper. You know what a sleeper is? A sleeper just waits and when the time is right, they come out and wow everyone. That’s you, kiddo. Don’t worry.” When she was 4, her family moved from California to North Dakota. “‘I like North Dakota more than California,’ I said. It was the first complete sentence I ever spoke.”
When She Weathered Enormous Tragedy
When she was just 8 years old, Rousey’s father committed suicide after breaking his back and struggling with traumatic pain for years. After she had made it to the UFC, she returned to North Dakota and decided she’d like to visit her father’s grave. “I told him about the journey I was on. I begged forgiveness for my failures and asked for his guidance ... I don’t know how long I was there, but I eventually I stood up and promised to come back someday.”
When She Knew She Needed To Challenge Herself
After training with one coach in Judo, Rousey felt she wasn’t being challenged. At the age of 17, she researched and pursued a coach she would work with for the next several years. She writes: “If you are unwilling to leave someplace you’ve outgrown, you will never reach your full potential.”
When She DGAF About Others’ Advantages
“Other people’s advantages are not an excuse for you to lose; they should motivate you to beat them. Just because a person has all the development resources ... just because a person won the last Olympics of beat you the last time you met or is pumped full of steroids, they don’t get an extra score on the board when the fight starts.” PREACH.
When She Battled Bulimia
Rousey competes at bantam weight (135 pounds) but in real life, she weighs closer to 150. She now has a nutritionist and coaches that help her “make weight” in a safe and healthy way before each fight. But as a young judoka, she struggled with the pressure to weigh in. “Once it got to a point where I ate so much I felt like I couldn’t compensate for it through exercising, I would just throw it up.”
When She Persevered In Spite Of Her Lack Of Support
Judo is not exactly a popular sport in the U.S., meaning that American athletes don’t have as many resources as their Japanese counterparts, for example. In competitions the lack of support was obvious. “I didn’t have a coach [to take notes on the other players] for me, so I had to do it myself,” Rousey writes. “I watched as a member of the British coaching staff took out his little notebook ... ‘You don’t need to write this one down,’ I wanted to say, ‘After we’re done out there, this bitch will remember me.’”
When She Walked Away From Judo
After taking a year off from the sport, Rousey was introduced to MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting by a male friend. “I didn’t even know women fought in MMA,” she writes, after seeing a fight on television. “I kept seeing all the mistakes the girls were making, all their lost opportunities, and I knew, even then, even though I had never done MMA, that I could beat them.” Her mom, a Judo champion, wasn’t so sure. When Rousey told her she was leaving Judo for MMA she responded: “That’s the stupidest fucking idea I’ve ever heard in my entire life.”
When She Would Not Be Ignored
When Rousey started training in MMA, she was practically the only woman at Glendale Fighting Club. She was desperate to train with the owner, Edmond, but he wouldn’t give her the time of day. For months, he made excuses when she asked if he would teach her how to strike. Finally, she’d had enough.
R: Edmond, can you hold mitts for me today?
E: No, I don’t want to sweat in this shirt.
R: THIS IS F*CKING B*LLSHIT!
“Years later, Edmond said the morning I yelled at him was a turning point, because he saw I had the balls to say something . . . he saw how much I wanted to train and it made him realize I was worth training. In that moment, I found my coach.”
When She Would Not Apologize For Being Emotional
“People will mock you when they see that you are emotionally ravaged by caring so much. But it is exactly that passion that separates you from them; it is that passion that makes you the best.”
When Rocky Was Impressed With Her Biceps
Sylvester Stallone wanted to meet Rousey to talk to her about a potential role in Expendables 3. “Look at the size of your arms!” he said, upon greeting her. “I tensed up for a second,” she writes. “It was the kind of comment that had made me so self-conscious in high school.” But Stallone continued: “Man, those are awesome.”
When She Mastered Visualization And Positive Thinking
“I am often asked if I could have ever envisioned achieving all that I have accomplished since I stepped into the cage that night. People are often surprised to learn that the answer is unequivocally yes. Everything that has happened since that moment is exactly what I had in mind when I executed that first exchange.”
When She Threw A F*ck Boy Down The Driveway
Rousey is honest about her struggles with less-than-stellar dudes. One she (appropriately) calls “D*ck IttyBitty” would constantly compare her body to other women. When she discovered another boyfriend (also a fighter) had taken naked photos of her without her knowledge, she told him to get out of her apartment. When he wouldn’t move out of the way of her car, she screamed, “F*ck you pervert!” and threw him down the driveway.
When She Acknowledged There Is No “Perfect Moment”
“You can spend your entire life waiting for perfect. The perfect job. The perfect partner. The perfect opponent. Or you can acknowledge that there is always a better time or better place or better opportunity and refuse to let that fact hold you back from doing everything to make the present moment the perfect moment ... I’m not undefeated because I had the perfect circumstances leading up to every fight. I’m undefeated because, regardless of circumstances, I still win.”
Image: Courtesy of Jessica Ferri