Ronda Rousey standing up for women’s empowerment by breaking down gender barriers

Ronda Rousey appears at the SXSW festival in Austin, TX

Gary Miller/FilmMagic

When Ronda Rousey debuted in the UFC just over two years ago, she not only broke down gender barriers that had existed since the promotion first started in 1993, but she quietly became a face for women’s empowerment worldwide.

Rousey was the lone reason UFC president Dana White finally decided to give women’s MMA a shot after saying for years that he would never hold a female fight inside the Octagon.

Now, Rousey stands as one of the biggest stars in all of MMA and women’s fighting has reached new heights with dozens of females signed to the UFC roster not to mention an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter being dedicated to introduce another weight class in the women’s division in 2014.

Rousey’s last fight — a record-breaking 14-second win over Cat Zingano at UFC 184 — was one of the most talked about combat sports events of the year and 48-hours after her win, the UFC champion was still the talk of the town with every major network, newspaper and website clamoring to hear from her about the win. 

She’s breaking new ground in women’s sports, but as Rousey said this weekend when appearing at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX, her accomplishments in the Octagon should also serve as a springboard for women to understand they can truly do anything if they put their minds and hearts into it.

Every girl doesn’t have to become a fighter, but every girl can see that, even if something is perceived as a guy’s thing, it doesn’t mean it isn’t for them

— Ronda Rousey

"I think that women fighting in the Octagon really affects everything that women see as possible for themselves.  It’s not about trying to find a role that already exists that you can fit into," Rousey said when speaking to USA Today.

"Now it’s trying to dream up all the different roles you can create yourself. Just like we did in fighting, we can do in every single profession out there."

Gender parity continues to be a serious hot-button discussion especially after the United Nations recently held a conference discussing issues such as pay equality, education and political representation for women across the world. 

It may seem like apples and oranges to compare what Rousey does in the Octagon to what a president or prime minister could do in government, but she believes seeing a woman succeed in a sport wholly dominated by men for the past 20 years is just an example of what is possible.

Rousey’s success in a typically male driven sport is just proof that it can be done and she hopes more women follow in her footsteps.

"Every girl doesn’t have to become a fighter," Rousey said, "But every girl can see that, even if something is perceived as a guy’s thing, it doesn’t mean it isn’t for them."

As much Rousey wants to serve as a shining example of all things possible for women in the workplace, she stops short of accepting a label as a role model for all girls who aspire to be like her in the future.

Rousey knows how she’s perceived is something far beyond her control so she just wants to keep breaking down more and more walls for women at large and there’s still plenty of work left to do in that arena.

"I try to do the best I can for my little sister and my nieces. But I don’t think that anyone is going to be good enough for your kid. For me to assign myself the label of ‘role model’ and say your kid should be like me, I’m never going to say that," Rousey stated.

"I do the best that I can, and the way that I’m perceived is out of my control. I try not to think about every single thing that I do. I don’t want to act like there’s an eight-year-old following me around everywhere I go, all day long, because I’ll go nuts. I’m not a mom yet, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself."