Ronda Rousey will keep punching through adversity, but can she stay smiling?
Ronda Rousey has spoken at length about the challenges of being a UFC champion. Facing challenger after challenger who wants your title, month after month, often on short notice, is just one part of being the bantamweight queen.
Rousey also balances seemingly constant media obligations that only stop for the moments she’s in the ring fighting. Perhaps if it took her longer to beat challengers and she got more ring time doing what she loves, away from all the outside stuff, Rousey would have gotten more solace and opportunity to rejuvenate herself.
As it stands, the UFC’s biggest star appears to be wearing a bit thin. In recent weeks, the typically charismatic, sweet, engaging and endlessly interesting fighter has hung up on a media call when the subject turned to her embattled fellow fighter partner Travis Browne, and snapped at other reporters who asked about her outspoken, judo world champion and mentor mother, AnnMaria DeMars.
It seemed strange that the usually unflappable Rousey would lose her cool at such predictable questions. However, perhaps it is just that so much is happening at the same time.
Rousey has experienced her biggest year, ever. In 2015 she’s appeared in multiple blockbuster movies, set pay-per-view records with her fights, become a best-selling author and a millionaire several times over as one of the highest-paid female athletes in the world.
As the world has opened itself up to the former Olympian, it may also be closing in around her. Making lots of money may be cool, but having the whole world know exactly how much you make thanks to magazine reports and rankings probably isn’t.
Neither is having the world find out that you’re dating a man recently accused of domestic violence, without you being the one to tell them. Or, having two of the most important people in your life — your mother and your head coach — feud in a public, and ugly way, in the days leading up to your next fight.
If all that wasn’t enough, Rousey’s coach Edmond Tarverdyan is due in bankruptcy court just days after they go into battle together this weekend against Holly Holm, claiming that — although he works for the highest-paid athlete in the UFC, he actually makes literally no money. All this is a bit much to have hanging over your head, heading into a fight.
Training for and competing in a fight is already perhaps one of the most singularly disconcerting, emotionally destabilizing and physically taxing activities a person can voluntarily engage in. Additional stress with the most important people in one’s life, being aired publicly, must add onto it all in a nearly unbearable way.
So then, how well might Rousey perform this Saturday in spite of pressures that might be getting to her? Throughout her life, Rousey has certainly demonstrated incredible internal fortitude, and an ability not to just cope with adversity or tragedy, but also to excel past it.
Fame is its own beast, though. When a person’s own life, even its most private elements, become available for public consumption as their star rises, it would seem that another level of focus is required.
Ronda Rousey knows how to handle her private life, and she knows how to handle her opponents, and she knows how to handle them all at the same time. What she’s figuring out for herself now, is how she will handle her private life becoming far less private.
Some of the greatest athletes of our time have the ability to maintain high levels on the field, court, or in the ring, despite many outside distractions and personal trials. However, even when it wasn’t their athletic performance that suffered, something else usually gave.
There may be a reason why some geniuses, in sport and out of it, have difficulty maintaining healthy, safe, and consistent lives outside of their professions. Maybe it’s that single-minded obsession needed to be great is incompatible with simply living a good life, or perhaps it’s that notoriety makes everything about life harder to trudge through.
After all, failed relationships, substance abuse, as well as scandal and tragedies of all sorts, have often unraveled the most put-together competitors, outside of — or after — their careers.
Chances are, Rousey is a great enough athlete that she’ll be able to continue to compete well and win, despite losing the security of privacy. More important will be the questions of her own happiness as she becomes a smiling household name.