Women’s bantamweight top contender gives her thoughts on judo and opponent Miesha Tate
Note: Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate and upcoming challenger Ronda Rousey are writing a series of blog entries for the promotion ahead of their March 3 Showtime-broadcast main event title fight in Columbus, Ohio. This is the first of Rousey’s diaries; HeavyMMA published Tate’s first diary earlier today.
In just a few weeks, I’m going to be fighting Miesha Tate for the Strikeforce women’s 135-pound world championship. It’s a match that she’s resisted since the very beginning, but has snowballed into women’s MMA‘s most anticipated fight since Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg set ratings records for Showtime a few years ago. It began with me defeating Julia Budd this past November in an admittedly brutal fashion, followed by me asking for the first shot at Miesha since she won her belt from Marloes Coenen. Miesha immediately protested, and as a result we had a now-infamous debate on (“The MMA Hour”). She was obviously less prepared for the debate than I was, as I treated the debate like a fight in itself. I saw the potential and importance of this opportunity, and looked up every article I could find arguing her point of view. I then wrote a counter argument to every single point they made and took turns with my friends playing both myself and her in “practice arguments.” By the time we were on the show, she sounded uneducated and unprepared in comparison, conflicting herself and falling speechless on several occasions. Several months later while doing a roundtable press conference with her, Scott Coker and myself (at UFC 143), I swear I could hear an echo in the room as she completely abandoned most of her original stances on the subject and adopted mine. The only thing she hasn’t conceded on was the fact that she doesn’t think I’m a “worthy” opponent and don’t deserve to fight her. If that is the case, I encourage her and her fans to put their money where their mouths are. Because at the moment I’m favored almost 4-to-1 in the Vegas odds, and I would like for my friends to actually make a decent profit for once off of one of my wins. Funny isn’t it? That a challenger who isn’t deserving of a title shot is so heavily favored over the champion?
Though she’s argued that I’m less experienced than her, not able to deal with pressure and likely to mentally break after the first minute, there’s no way she can conceive the amount of pain, sacrifice, bravery and seemingly insurmountable obstacles I’ve had to overcome to make it to this point.
I was literally born fighting. The umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and my face was blue – everyone was scared that I died. Obviously I didn’t, but there was some damage done. I was far behind my sisters and other children my age in speech, and could not speak coherently till I was around 6. No one ever told me there was anything wrong with me – my mom and dad refused to let me feel abnormal. I just remember being frustrated all the time, because I knew in my head what I wanted to say, but for some reason no one could ever understand me. My words came out as gibberish. My father, most of all, told everyone: “Ronnie is a sleeper. Just you watch – she’s gonna show everyone and be the best of them one day.” He would always tell me that I was destined for greatness. At the time, I was swimming competitively and he would constantly tell me I was going to win the Olympics and be the best in the world someday. Unfortunately my Dad died when I was 8 years old, and it was the most painful thing my family has ever been through. Swimming was something me and my dad would do together, and after his death I quickly lost my motivation to swim – though I never lost the need to honor him and fulfill every expectation he had of me.
Several years later, we moved to Los Angeles, my mother remarried and things got better. My mother was the first American to ever win the world championship in judo, something she never talked about much when I was a kid. But she used to train at Tenri Judo in East L.A. during her prime in the 80s, so when we moved back to L.A. she went to visit her old teammates who had then opened up clubs of their own.
I took to judo right away and it soon replaced swimming as my No. 1 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 play with and make my own.
Mom was against me doing judo at first. 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 teammates, who were my coaches at the time, who persuaded her 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. Some people crack under it, but I’ve always thrived. Six years after starting out, I made my first Olympic team. Maybe it was genetics, destiny or both, but 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 1, 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 that same attitude carried over after transitioning to MMA.
Some people like to call me cocky or arrogant, but I just think, “How dare you assume I should think less of myself? The problem isn’t me thinking I can achieve any goal I set for myself, the problem is you projecting your own self doubt onto me.” My current goals are to revive women’s MMA and solidify its place in the sport. The first step to achieving that goal is to beat Miesha Tate in impressive fashion on March 3. And there isn’t a god damned thing that can stop me.
Follow Ronda on twitter @RondaRousey