When Ronda Rousey first burst onto the MMA scene a few years ago, she was a lean, mean submission machine that was launched into notoriety after snapping Julia Budd’s arm in a Strikeforce bout in November 2011.
As impressive as her performance was that night, what transpired next is what truly sent the former Olympic bronze medalist to a new stratosphere. Rousey – with four professional bouts under her belt mind you – proceeded to call out bantamweight champion Miesha Tate as well as featherweight title holder Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos. To add onto her call out, Rousey actually said she wanted Tate first because she wanted to get the fight before the incumbent champion lost to someone else first.
Oh and just to add onto this story, at the time Rousey had never competed at 135-pounds in her MMA career.
The strong words from Rousey ignited a firestorm of attention from every media outlet on the planet, and four months later she was standing in the center of the cage in Columbus, Ohio facing Tate with the belt on the line. Her ingenious plan had worked to perfection. Rousey wanted a title shot, she called out the champion and enough people made noise about it that she was given the opportunity.
Ultimately, Rousey still had to go out there and perform and that’s exactly what she did, adding another broken arm to her collection when she finished Tate in the first round. The brash, outspoken Rousey was MMA’s sweetheart — a woman with a killer instinct and a personality that would go toe-to-toe with the best trash talkers in the sport.
Not more than a year and a half later, Rousey faced Tate for a second time but her reception was a much icier experience than the first go-round, when she was applauded for her efforts to rip her opponent’s arm from the socket. Rousey was welcomed with a chorus of boos from the Las Vegas faithful and throughout the course of the fight she heard chants of ‘Miesha! Miesha!’
You see this fight happened after three months of episodes for The Ultimate Fighter 17 aired and the fans’ relationship with Rousey changed dramatically during that time. On the show, Rousey was perceived as short tempered and almost childish with her antics, not to mention a constant unsportsmanlike attitude carried towards Tate no matter how much she tried to step across the aisle and create a bipartisan gym between the two teams competing during the season.
No matter how many fans switched sides or chanted their collective heads off for Tate, the result in the rematch was the same as the first. Rousey still won by armbar, albeit in the third round this time, and she was still dominant in victory. And much like the reality show when Tate offered her hand, this time offering acceptance as a gracious loser, Rousey once again shunned her with great prejudice.
"I need to commend and congratulate Miesha, she’s an amazing fighter she really is. It’s just once you insult my family, I can’t shake your hand, but I really respect her and she did an amazing job tonight," Rousey said after the win.
I feel like it would disrespect what she’s done to my family if I shook her hand. I can’t shake the hand of someone that spits on my back.
- Ronda Rousey on her handshake snub
"For me, family comes before anything, even the boos or cheers of the crowd. I feel like it would disrespect what she’s done to my family if I shook her hand. I can’t shake the hand of someone that spits on my back."
The typical trash talk, tricks played and pranks done on The Ultimate Fighter weren’t forgotten by Rousey come fight time, and they certainly weren’t brushed under the rug after the battle was over.
At the UFC 168 post-fight press conference, Rousey went into greater detail documenting her disdain for Tate stemming from her insults aimed at head coach Edward Tarverdyan as well as some underhanded tactics she believes were played against her top pick Chris Beal while on the show. Rousey said if Tate one day apologized directly to them and they accepted, then she would consider shaking her hand.
The reception for Rousey continued to be chilly, both at the press conference and by fans on Twitter and other social networks. Following her diatribe about not caring much that fans cheer or boo her during a fight, Rousey proceeded to make a comparison between herself and the film "The Dark Knight."
"This is the favorite analogy that I use — Batman played the bad guy and let Harvey Dent (AKA Two-Face) look like the good guy because that’s what Gotham City needed at the time. So for every fight I approach it for what’s needed at the time," Rousey said.
Not to spoil the plot for the movie for anyone that hasn’t seen "The Dark Knight" by now, but in the film Batman gives himself up to be cast as the villain to allow Harvey Dent to go out as a hero and savior for the city following his death because he’s the shining symbol Gotham needed to stand up against crime and corruption.
In this analogy, Rousey has her movie correct, but the reference is where she gets it wrong.
The Joker (played by Heath Ledger) says during the movie if you introduce a little anarchy, and upset the established order, then everything becomes chaos. The moment Rousey called out Tate she created anarchy in a world where only top-ranked contenders were supposed to get title shots. She created chaos by being unabashedly outspoken with a voice ringing so loud that everybody paid attention. Rousey was rough around the edges, tossed up middle fingers and cursed like a sailor and we all ate it up with a spoon.
And now somehow Ronda Rousey being Ronda Rousey is supposed to surprise us all? Because she chose not to shake Miesha Tate’s hand this is now unacceptable? Because she was unapologetic, Rousey has to be vilified?
Ronda Rousey got to be the star she is today by introducing a little chaos to the order of things, and asking her to play by the rules, to stand in line and walk a certain path wouldn’t be fair to who she is as a person. Rousey doesn’t owe anybody an apology because she’s been doing the same things since November 2011. Without Rousey being Rousey, she might be a 8-0 contender just hoping to get a big break.
Ronda Rousey has always been this way — maybe somewhere along the line we’re the ones who changed.