In one month, on March 3 at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, I will challenge for the women’s bantamweight championship of the world.
While I may only have four professional mixed martial arts bouts to my name, I’m far from inexperienced. You might think that, but you’d be wrong. Miesha Tate, my next opponent and current Strikeforce world bantamweight champion, is convinced I’m inexperienced and therefore undeserving of a shot at her belt on March 3rd. Again, she is wrong, deluded even, wary that I have the ability to make her look ordinary and one-dimensional, regardless of how many MMA bouts I may have taken part in.
If anything, I am actually more experienced than she is, at least in terms of competing and fulfilling my potential at big events, under intense pressure and scrutiny. Yes, Miesha may have been involved in more MMA bouts than I have and, yes, she may have been training MMA for a longer, but I have been fighting, in one way or another, all of my life and have been striving to become the best in the world at absolutely everything I have ever tried my hand at. Let me explain…
A pale white girl with a thick North Dakota accent, studying in a 99% Mexican-Catholic school, it’s fair to say I never really felt as though I fitted in while growing up. I didn’t have that many friends and found it hard to find my place in the world. I started doing judo on my eleventh birthday – a little late, perhaps, when you consider most kids start when they are five or six – and that acted as the social outlet I was in need of at the time. When it came to judo practice, nobody was judged and there were no preconceived notions. You would just turn up, train, learn and then later compete. You were allowed to just be yourself.
I took to judo right away and it soon replaced swimming as my number one passion. Swimming was very one-dimensional in comparison. You could do the breaststroke one way and the butterfly one way, but, once you’d mastered those skills, there was little room for creativity. Judo, on the other hand, really encouraged creativity and individual flair. It allowed me to create my own style and personality and play around with the textbook. You could try things out, improvise a little and think outside the box. There were just so many different things to learn and pick up on, and that really excited me. I didn’t feel I could necessarily learn how to become a better swimmer – you simply practice and practice until you hopefully one day became one. Judo was very much a learning process for me, though. It was something I could get my teeth into and study.
My mom (Ann Maria Rousey DeMars, the first American to win a World Judo Championship) was against me doing judo at first, because she felt people would expect too much from me given who she was and what she had achieved in the same sport. It was actually her team-mates, who were my coaches at the time, who persuaded my mom to let me do it. In all honesty, I didn’t feel any additional pressure because of the fact my mother was previously involved in the sport. If anything, I’m the one that puts pressure on myself when it comes to goal-setting. I don’t feel right unless there is some element of pressure. You need that in order to bring the best out of yourself, I think. Six years after starting out, later I made my first Olympic team. I really had a knack for it.
The whole reason I focused on judo to begin with was so that I could one day reach the Olympic Games and win a gold medal. That was literally my sole aim from day one, and nothing else crossed my mind from that point. I wasn’t interested in being involved in judo to become a mere also-ran. Even after my very first practice, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Yep, this is definitely going to work out – I’m going to win the Olympics’. It was all or nothing for me, and I’m sure my mom shared a similar attitude when she first started out in the sport.
Some may call it arrogance, but I like to think I’m just ultra competitive. Even after winning the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, I stopped judo and started working as a bartender, believe it or not, and was convinced I was going to be the best goddamn bartender in the world. If they had an Olympic Games for bar-tending, I was going to crush the competition and take home that gold medal. It’s funny because some people would treat a job like that as just a means of making money, whereas it quickly became a genuine passion for me. I would spend much of my spare time researching drinks mixes and recipes or asking our customers questions, probing for ways in which I could improve my own job. I wanted to get all I could out of the experience and I wanted make sure that I was the best bartender I could possibly be. Ultimately, if I get my claws into something, it very quickly becomes an obsession.
Mixed martial arts and Miesha Tate are my current obsessions, and I plan on getting my claws into her world championship belt on March 3rd…
Follow Ronda on Twitter @RondaRousey
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