Over the weekend the UFC exploded into the new year with the long awaited return of Ronda Rousey to the Octagon after her devastating KO loss to Holly Holmes. Would the once indomitable force of woman's MMA be able to brush off the the painful scars of defeat to regain her throne as the queen to become immortal in the halls of Valhalla??? Anyone watching Friday night knows the answer...
So what happened? How did RR's downfall come so suddenly and why wasn't she able to spring back to the same juggernaut form from her first 12 fights? Here are a few take aways from not just the fight, but the many events leading to her demise that I feel eventually caused this epic train wreck to derail.
First, Ronda was and still is an amazing athlete and competitor, whom, even if she never steps back into the cage again, will go down not only as the most dominate female fighters of all time, but one as one of the most dominate fighters period of all time. What she accomplished over her UFC tenure will be very difficult to duplicate again by any fighter male or female. She was the Mike Tyson of our era. This is extremely important to recognize because it is essential to understanding the psychological breakdown that undid her.
Whenever an undefeated fighter finally loses, the real test is to see if they have the mental toughness to recognize that a loss is just a loss and 99.9999% of competitors have one. So just lick your wounds and start over. You still have the the same exact skills and abilities that made you undefeated, your opponent was just better that night. The end. Now, where this is very easy to say, the problem arrises with the psychology of a loss, and that negative cancer is compounded exponentially with combat sports, especially when the fighter loses in as brutal a manner as Ronda did. The belief in invincibility has been shaken and as you might have imposed your game plan undeterred before, now in the back of your mind there is the constant reminder of being unconscious on the floor, abandoned and alone, knowing that even you can get caught, and that small spark of fear can haunt and cause hesitation instead of action. And in this sport of brutal absolutes hesitation is not an option at the highest levels. After watching the fight I believe the first time Rhonda took a solid shot she was reminded of losing, and all of the horrible things that came after, so she froze up, and eventually suffered another disastrous outcome.
Second, her coaching is abysmal, in particular her striking coach. Let me preface this by stating that I have an extensive boxing back ground, so I can tell when someone is not fundamentally prepared. She wasn't and never was and while it's easy to blame Edmond Tarverdyan, I'm not really sure if the buck steps with him or not. He is her head striking coach and let's face it, maybe the biggest conman to corner a fighter in the history of MMA. Every fighter he has coached in the UFC has left him with a losing record. It's true google it, I did. However, watching RR's last two fights I'm not sure that anyone is allowed to hit her during her sparing sessions. Even more to that theory, I've never seen one video clip of her sparing striking alone. Seriously, if anyone of you can find some please send a post of it on my Facebook page. So who is to blame for that? It's easy to point the finger at Edmond, but maybe she just didn't want to get hit. Maybe her game plan revolved around her Judo. Watching most of her wins she just absorbed punches to the chin with no head movement or defense until she got close enough or an eager opponent made the mistake of rushing in then RR got the take down, then the arm bar, then game over. Time and time again this worked, until it didn't anymore and whoopsie, what now. Was her star power enough to fuel her ego to the point of feeling she didn't need to do things like other fighters. I mean getting hit in the face sucks, really bad, but it's needs to happen so you are ready. It would be very difficult to find another fighter at that level with less rudimentary striking knowledge and it's glaringly obvious she had never been accustomed to dealing with having her bell rung. She looked like a random drunk at Joe Bob's tough man competition fighting the house pro for a $100 bar tab. No movement, no clinching to try and stop the punches, no evasive footwork, her arms were either straight out and locked or throwing up a laughable high guard. In all honesty she just stood there and got punched in the face then ran away with her chin straight up in the air until she finally slouched against the cage waiting for the kill shot. Anyone with even an amateur level striking background knows how horrible it was to watch. So who is to blame? Her coaches, Dana White, they both had to know she just wasn't ready. But she was a truly great champion that deserved a chance to redeem herself, so I guess they thought let's give it one more shot and all get paid!!!
Lastly we need to discuss RR's overall mental state. Now while I am far from a professional psychologist, I do know athletes. I have been a coach for a long time and I understand what drives them to succeed and what motivates them. Ronda is a special bird in that regard. She is undoubtedly an amazingly tough, gifted, and determined athlete. But she also possibly has the worst sportsmanship I have ever witnessed outside of a job I once had teaching at a basketball summer camp for emotionally challenged teenagers one step away from juvie hall. Some of her actions were disturbing. Blatant and unprofessional interactions with fellow fighters and absolute disregard for any and all unwritten rules of combat sports etiquette. All seemingly endorsed and praised by the powers that be of the fight world. I know the first thing all of you are going to say too, "Well Coner McGregor gets away with it." Well, Coner is a showman and he wants to sell fights, but at the end of the day he respects the sport. I've never once seen him not shake his opponents hand after a fight, or fail to complement them in the post fight interview. I've seen Ronda do both, on several occasions. She appears to have no regard for her opponents and it's creepy. Chemically unbalanced creepy. She acted so repulsive on so many occasions that I was often sick to my stomach that she was the face of women's MMA for so long in it's relatively formative years. Young fighters were looking to her to see how to act, and I hated it. Then after her loss to Holly Holmes she slipped off into nothingness for over a year. No press conferences, no media appearances, no nothing. That's not normal. So now, watching her routine prior to this fight makes me even more concerned. No interviews, no photo shoots, weighing in early with minimal press presence, how can she 1) get away with that with the UFC brass and 2) not set off bells and whistles about her mental state. So then we go back to her coaches, maybe they were just along for the ride while the Ronda Rousey Show blew through town, perpetually placating her ego so they could get a check.
All things considered, I'm a bit on the fence about RR's legacy. She got away with a lot of holes in her game through tremendous skill in one or two aspects of MMA, but she might have also been a little lucky. And given the way she has conducted herself over the years, does she really go down as a beloved figured of the fighting world. Again, I'm not so sure. All the movie deals don't seem to be panning out either. The back story just isn't relevant anymore. Former badest-women-in-the-world doesn't have the same ring to it for producers, and judging from what I've noticed, she's probably not the easiest person to work with. So, at the end of the day, I hope she is smart with her money, settles down and pops out a few kids, her words not mine, check one of her late night TV interviews for the quote, I'm not sure which one. The roller coaster ride is over, and she will now slip away into obscurity as a solid C list celebrity for a bit, then maybe a where are they now episode of "Those Fabulous 2010's". Hopefully this is the last we will here from her, because from now on the only news she'll get will be of drug and alcohol addiction, spousal abuse, or tax evasion. Best of luck Ronda, you were pretty ok I guess.