Where is Ronda Rousey? That’s a question people have been asking since she landed in California from Australia after her crushing loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193. She shielded her face from reporters with a pillow as she and her boyfriend and fellow UFC fighter Travis Browne passed through the airport terminal, and since then it’s like she dropped off the face of the Earth.
Three weeks later, she opened her doors to ESPN writer Ramona Shelburne, both literally and figuratively. Nothing was left out or hidden in this interview, from her previously off-limits relationship with Browne to the infinite sadness she feels now that she’s lost. It’s a unique glimpse at a dominating athlete in a moment of self-reflection and doubt forced upon them by unexpected circumstance.
As for the fight itself, Rousey sounds both crushed and driven by it. She still has stitches in her injured lip and loose teeth from Holm’s massive headkick. Here’s her account to ESPN of how everything came apart in the cage:
“I’m just really f*cking sad. I need to come back. I need to beat this chick. Who knows if I’m going to pop my teeth out or break my jaw or rip my lip open. I have to f*cking do it.”
“I got hit in that first round. … I cut my lip open and knocked a couple of my teeth loose. I was out on my feet from the very beginning. It was like a dumbed-down dreamy version of yourself making decisions. … I was just trying to shake myself out of it. I kept saying to myself, ‘You’re OK, keep fighting. You’re OK, keep fighting.'”
“I just feel so embarrassed. How I fought after that is such an embarrassing representation of myself. I wasn’t even f*cking there.”
There was a lot that didn’t go right for Rousey after that first big hit in the first round, according to her coach Edmond Tarverdyan. From there she was charging forward with seemingly reckless abandon, when their game plan coming in was patience. They had trained for months to slip Holm’s left hand, but now that the fight was here she kept catching them flush to the face. That’s the fight game though. Both fighters train to impose their will upon the other, and this time it was Holm who imposed her will on Rousey.
The article tells a tale of a fighter pushed to the extreme by a demanding training schedule and then pushed even further by non-stop media requirements. Rousey kept a pace that ESPN’s Shelburne (who shadowed the star in the weeks leading up the fight) described as exhausting to witness, let alone go through. Keep in mind as well that there was little rest for Rousey between the Bethe Correia and Holm fights. Where most fighters can see four to six months between a fight, Rousey vs. Holm went down a mere three months after Correia.
The good news is Rousey still wants to fight. “What else am I going to f*cking do?” she asks. As for when… that could be a while. Many expected the highly anticipated rematch to go down at UFC 200 in July, but Rousey is letting us know right now that may not happen. “It might be three to six months before I can eat an apple, let alone take an impact.”
If anyone deserves a little time off, it’s Ronda Rousey.