Women’s bantamweight top contender talks about her injury-ridden judo upbringing
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 Friday Showtime-broadcast main event title fight in Columbus, Ohio. This is the second of Rousey’s diaries. Her first entry was published earlier this month. HeavyMMA published Tate’s first diary earlier this month, as well“I don’t know what Miesha thinks being ‘Pampered and Protected’ means, but I suggest she invests in a dictionary.”
I read recently on Miesha’s blog that she thinks that she has the heart of a champion because in her first MMA bout she was getting punched till she got a bloody nose, was losing a match and then came back to win.
She then stated that I’ve been “pampered and protected” for my whole career. Let me give you a little insight into my pampered upbringing.
I remember my first injury very well. I was 11 years old and I broke my big toe doing judo. To an 11-year-old, this is a very big deal, so I stopped fighting and started to cry. My mother then made me run laps around the mat for the rest for the night. I thought she was just being cruel at the time, but she told me, “Sometimes you have to fight when you’re injured. You need to know you’re capable of that.”
A few years later, I was 15 and broke three bones in my foot jumping over a fence, during my first and only attempt to try and ditch class. That weekend, my mom sent me up to Northern California to fight in two divisions in a tournament that was hosted by the club of one of my biggest rivals at the time. I was sent with no coach and injured, (and) fought eight matches in front of a biasrd crowd that was cheering against me. When I asked my mom why she would do something so mean, she said, “You won’t always have a coach, the crowd won’t always like you and you won’t always be healthy when you fight. You need to know you can win anyway.”
A few months later, I got my face smashed into the mat and cauliflower ear started to swell up. Of course, I had to finish practice. After practice the guy who hurt me slapped me in the ear and told me to toughen up. The next week we went into the doctor to get it drained. They cut a big gash in my ear and left a kind of tube in it to let it drain. They wrapped my head up with gauze and sent me home. I still trained that night till the entire headwrap of gauze was soaked in blood. The other kids at school weren’t too kind about it either – a muscular girl with deformed ears isn’t really “Miss Popularity” material.
Miesha claims I’ve never tasted my own blood, but I’ve been inadvertently kneed in the face during training and broke my nose a few times, blood splattered everywhere. I got two very stylish black eyes and continued training without a pause. Honestly, I always thought a broken nose was so minor it wasn’t really anything worth mentioning or bragging about.
At 16, I tore my ACL during practice. My mom made me finish training that night, as well as the following morning, before I got another coach to look at my knee. They sent me in for an MRI and found that my ACL was totally missing. A month or so later I got surgery. Two weeks after surgery, I was already back on the mat doing push-ups and sit-ups, whatever I could do without using my knee. A week later I was drilling ne-waza (ground techniques) and continued to only focus on my ground game till I could fight standing again.
At 18, I fought in the German open. My first match was against Finland. I was winning until the last 45 seconds, when I tried a risky throw that unfortunately set myself up for an armbar. Before I could believe it, she already dislocated my elbow. I remember thinking, “Well, it’s already out, tapping won’t make it better. I only have 45 seconds …” I didn’t tap – I kept fighting and my elbow snapped back into place. She popped it out again before I finally escaped the hold and was able to relocate my elbow a second time. I stood up, continued fighting, and won.
Too bad I only had a two-minute break because I had to fight the world champ from France next. I remember I couldn’t even pick my arm up from my side, so I had to lift it to my face with my other arm in order to be able to hold it up. I lost pretty quickly, But Decosse quickly advanced and I was dropped into the loser’s bracket to fight back up for third. I won my next match against a German before having to promptly face Olympic medalist Urska Zolnir from Slovenia. We fought a very close match, but I lost. The next day, the training camp started and for the following week I sparred with all the best women in the world for two 2-hour sessions a day. By the time I got home, my elbow was the size of a grapefruit.
At 20, I tore the meniscus in my knee almost in half. One half flipped over and it jammed my knee into place. I couldn’t bend or straighten it and needed surgery immediately. Unfortunately, the Pan American championships were a week away and it was an extremely crucial competition when it came to qualifying the 70-kilogram category for the USA in the 2008 Olympics.
My mother’s words echoed in my head: “Sometimes you need to fight when you’re injured.” I fought anyway, and got a bronze. The USA’s Pan Am ranking was secured, and I was rushed to L.A. the day after to undergo surgery. Afterwards the doctor came up to me and said, “From what I found in there, I’m surprised you walked in the door. You’re a real warrior.”
A few months later, I fought in Germany again. My second match was against Edith Bosche from the Netherlands, the defending world champ at the time. Early in the match, she did a Wakegatame – an illegal move in judo due to the fact that it dislocates the elbow during the throw and doesn’t give your opponent a chance to submit. She was disqualified, but I popped my elbow back in and fought on. I ended up getting third that day.
A while after that, Edith fought again, this time at the semifinals of the World Championships in Rio. She did the same move and dislocated my elbow again, but this time the referees didn’t see it and we continued. I was losing until the last 20 seconds, when I caught her with a Sode – a one-handed throw, using the arm she injured, and won the match. Even the Brazilian crown that was extremely hostile toward me earlier in the day burst into applause. It was one of my proudest moments in judo.
Less than a year ago, my first pro fight was against Ediene Gomes, a 6-1 Brazilian from American Top Team. Three days before the fight, I incurred a brutal pitbull bite that required 9 stitches – the wound went down to the bone and the doctor said I was lucky the teeth just barely missed my tendons. I needed this fight, and refused to withdraw. I asked the doctor if I would permanently injure myself if I fought. He said no, but I would be in a world of pain and the stitches would burst open by the end of the first round. I made myself go through weigh-ins without limping. I stripped naked on the scale (though my opponent was four pounds heavy) so the towels would cover my foot (there were no socks allowed). When it came time to fight, I won in 26 seconds. I didn’t have another option. “Sometimes you have to fight when you’re injured.”
Karo Parisyan, a former UFC top contender, has known and trained with me since I started judo at 11. In a recent interview with Fightline, he said:
“Ronda is a kid that trained with us for many years at Team Hayastan. The reason why Ronda is so good is because Ronda was a cute little girl – she’s not little no more – but she was a cute little girl that trained with guys like us. She wasn’t training with other girls. Other girls she would beat up, so she would train with us. She would cry. I would yell at her, ‘Suck your lip up! I don’t want you crying!’ She would suck her lip up and continue on. She would cry so much during practice because we would push her. That’s why she became an animal in the cage and on the mat. She’ll destroy 95 percent of the guys I know in my life. It is inspiring. It is motivating to see all these colleagues and these people that I’ve known come up and make something of themselves. It’s good. I’m really happy for her. I’d say she’s gonna beat anybody that they put her in with, just because I know how good Ronda is. She’s a strong girl. She’s really strong mentally.”
I don’t know what Miesha thinks being “pampered and protected” means, but I suggest she invests in a dictionary.
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