AnnMaria De Mars, the mother of Ronda Rousey, is more than just the woman who raised one of the most dominant athletes on the planet.
The 57-year-old is the first American to ever win a gold medal at the World Judo Championships. She is a doctor. She is a teacher. She is a business woman. She is a writer. She is a tireless worker and a dedicated supporter of all of her daughters.
And that hardly begins to tell her entire story. Here’s everything you need to know about her:
1. She Is a World Judo Champion
Previously known as AnnMaria Burns, she began practicing judo at age 12 and managed to successfully juggle sport and school while accomplishing more in her first 26 years than most will do in a lifetime. She entered Washington University in St. Louis at the age of 16, earned her degree in business at age 20 and got her MBA from the University of Minnesota in 1980 at age 22.
Grad school held her out of the Judo World Championships that year, but four years later she qualified for Vienna and took home the gold medal in the women’s 56-kg competition. In doing so, she became the first ever American World Judo champion.
Interestingly enough, De Mars co-authored “Winning on the Ground: Training and Techniques for Judo and MMA Fighters” with James Pedro Sr., who coach Kayla Harrison to become the first American Olympic gold medalist in Judo.
2. Her Husband Committed Suicide in 1995
When Ronda was just eight years old, her father and AnnMaria’s husband, Ronald Rousey, committed suicide. He had broken his back during a freak sledding injury a couple years earlier and struggled to heal as he was diagnosed with Bernard-Soulier syndrome, a rare blood disorder. As hospital bills piled up and he was told he had two years to live, he took his own life.
If you had asked me two years after Ron died, I would not have hesitated and said there is no compensation and nothing would change my mind about wanting him back. Now, I have a wonderful 17-year-old daughter who I would not have had if my husband had lived, if I hadn’t remarried. Would I turn back the clock? I think of her and the answer is clearly, ‘No.’
3. She Has 4 Daughters
In 1982, AnnMaria missed the Judo World Championships due to the birth of her first daughter, Maria Burns Ortiz, who co-wrote “My Fight/Your Fight” with Ronda and has written for ESPN and Fox News Latino. After divorcing her first husband and marrying Ron, AnnMaria then gave birth to Jennifer and Ronda. The former earned her masters degree from USC before she was 24, while the latter is pretty successful herself.
“My husband died when the girls were young (12, 9 and 8) and I was all they had,” says AnnMaria, who worked three jobs to support her three daughters and pay the growing stack of bills. “I never want to be a person my children would not be proud to point to as their mom.”
AnnMaria eventually remarried to a rocket scientist–not literally, but that’s what Ronda calls him–and gave birth to her fourth daughter, Julia De Mars, who is a standout high school soccer player and starred in the above UFC 193 promo as a young Ronda.
4. She Has a phD in Educational Psychology
Sometime in between raising three young daughters, De Mars earned her phD in Educational Psychology from the University of California, Riverside, about 25 years ago.
And she still puts it to use, as she is the founder of 7 Generation Games, a company that creates video games “that combine math, Native American history and adventure gaming.”
If you think it sounds like an incredibly busy lifestyle, you’d be right. Recently, she wrote she was “trying to cut back” to 70-hour (work) weeks.”
5. She Isn’t a Fan of Rousey’s Coach
Rousey has skyrocketed to the peak of the UFC mountaintop, but De Mars doesn’t believe it has anything to do with her coach, Edmond Tarverdyan. In an interview with LatiNation (which you can see above), she didn’t mince her words:
I think Edmund is a terrible coach, and I will say it publicly. I think he hit the lottery when Ronda walked in there. She was winning before she even met him. She probably won 99 percent of the judo matches she ever fought in. She had won the Junior Worlds when she was 17. She got a bronze medal in the Olympics. She got a silver medal in world championships. She was one of the top athletes in the world when she walked in there, and he wouldn’t even give her the time of day for months. Somebody like that is a terrible coach.
It seems like fairly odd timing to bring up something like this just a couple of weeks before Ronda’s fight against Holly Holm, but we’re not going to question the woman who seemingly handles every task and life hurdle with aplomb.
Note: Fans looking to watch Rousey vs. Holm on UFC 193 online, on mobile or on other devices can click here to order the PPV. Or if you simply want to watch all of Rousey’s previous fights in preparation for the big night, click here to start a free trial of UFC Fight Pass.