Following the conclusion of UFC 167 last November, welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre nervously answered Joe Rogan’s questions about rumors of his pending retirement by saying that he needed some time away from the sport and wasn’t sure when he would return.
Throughout the night including an appearance at the post fight press conference, St-Pierre kept referencing personal issues that required him to take a step back from active competition and weeks later he relinquished his title as a sign of his dedication to a real break from fighting for the time being.
Now seven months later, St-Pierre remains on the sidelines with no clear indication that he’ll ever come back to fighting while the UFC continues to search for a new face to the promotion with initials other than GSP.
The name most likely at the top of that list is UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who has stormed the gates of popularity with her outspoken, brash style inside the cage and unrelenting, over the top personality outside of it. She’s on magazine covers and has even landed major starring roles in two feature films expected to gross millions upon millions of dollars at the box office. Over the last two years, Rousey has defended her title on three occasions while also coaching for a season of The Ultimate Fighter not to mention making dozens of appearances on behalf of the UFC on talk shows, interviews and numerous fan gatherings.
The phrase ‘burning the candle at both ends’ should probably come up often when talking about Rousey, and as she approaches her next title fight against Alexis Davis at UFC 175 even she admits it’s something she’s had to start thinking about. Even before she was fighting in the UFC, Rousey was working multiple jobs while training for the Olympics so slowing down is just something that’s never been in her nature.
There is a point, I can’t go forever. I will end up burning the candle at both ends at some point. I’m going to beat Alexis, I’m going to promote this movie and then I’m really going to take some time to rest a little bit
— Ronda Rousey
"I feel like I have the same amount of work, it’s just different and more glamorous and more high profile work," Rousey told the Great MMA Debate podcast. "Yeah, I’m working all the time now, but it’s about the same as when I was working three jobs and training full time. In fact, I’m probably doing less and more time to sleep. I slept less then because I fell asleep in traffic and crashed my car and broke my nose at one point.
"I think I was actually doing more work in the beginning than I am now, it’s just people know more about the work that I’m doing and they don’t know about every shift that I took at the graveyard at 24-Hour Fitness. It seems like I’m doing more, but I’m actually doing less."
All that said, Rousey knows she can’t keep this pace forever or it’s inevitably going to lead to burn out and that’s not good for anybody who wants her to keep fighting, starring in movies and becoming the new face of the UFC. In addition to her fight, Rousey will also have to spend a few weeks after UFC 175 promoting her part in the new movie ‘The Expendables 3’. So as a collective shiver runs down the spines of Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta, Rousey is set to take a nice long break after her upcoming fight on July 5 to finally recharge her batteries after an incredibly long and arduous few years in the sport.
"I keep talking about how I’m going to take a break. I really do say it every, single time I’m in camp, ‘oh man, I can’t wait to take a vacation’ and I really need it this time. I really think I’m going to do it this time. I think I’m going to take a vacation in August, like the end of August, beginning of September. I might even go somewhere for like a month just to break it up," Rousey said.
"I have been constantly on the go, charging it since 2010 it feels like. I work in quadrennials so it’s 2014 now, so I’ve gone through like a whole Olympic cycle and I’m ready to take a little bit of a break after this one."
In the face of the UFC’s recent star crisis where stalwarts like St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, Brock Lesnar and Chuck Liddell have all disappeared over the last few years, Rousey is one of the marquee names on the roster who demands an audience every time she appears.
The good news is Rousey’s break isn’t going to be anything like St-Pierre’s in regards to her absence from the sport. She’s taking a step back after fighting Davis at UFC 175, but she’s not giving up her belt and don’t even mention the world retirement to her because that’s not the case.
She just needs to breathe and that’s a luxury every superstar athlete should be afforded.
"There is a point, I can’t go forever. I will end up burning the candle at both ends at some point. I’m going to beat Alexis, I’m going to promote this movie and then I’m really going to take some time to rest a little bit," Rousey said. "My version of taking a little bit of time for taking rest might be much different than Georges St-Pierre’s is so long that he needs to give up his belt.
"I don’t intend on taking that long of a break, but long for me which is probably like a month of doing something else."
As much as Rousey intends on taking a break, she’s also realistic when it comes to who she is as a person and her work ethic even when a fight isn’t scheduled. Even after the best fights of her career, Rousey is usually back in the gym working with her team and coaches two days later because that’s just her routine.
In fact, the gym has become her home so much that when it was taken away from her for six weeks while filming the Ultimate Fighter, Rousey became a person she didn’t recognize. The series was pretty unrelenting with its portrayal of Rousey being an intense sort, riled up by her fellow coach Miesha Tate at every turn, and seemingly angry about life in general while participating on the show.
Looking back now, Rousey can see things with some perspective how pulling her away from the things she loves most, especially her happy place in the gym, was a bad idea that snowballed into a torrential downpour of rage and ill will for an entire season. It’s a major reason why this ‘break’ shouldn’t worry UFC executives or fans too much because at the heart of it all, Rousey needs to fight to live and she lives to fight.
"That’s probably why the Ultimate Fighter was so bad for me. Because they pretty much took my sanctuary away from me," Rousey said. "That’s why I’m constantly returning to the gym and always trying to fight, because this is what I need."