Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is committed to returning to the Octagon for a rematch with Holly Holm. But if that fight doesn’t go her way, it may mean the end of her career in mixed martial arts.
Rousey is still mired in misery after her disappointing showing she gave in Australia just a few short weeks ago at UFC 193, but there’s reportedly no doubt in her mind that she’s going to return to face Holm again.
Rousey knows that how she will be remembered all depends on the rematch, and if it doesn’t go her way, it could well be the end of her career.
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"I guess it’s all going to be determined by what happens in the rematch," Rousey told ESPN in a lengthy interview published Tuesday. "Everything is going to be determined by that. Either I’ll win and keep going or I won’t and I’ll be done with everything."
Rousey can’t exactly pinpoint what went wrong in the first fight, but she knows that Holm caught her with a shot early into the first round and that changed the course of her performance.
Rousey remembers getting hit with a punch, but the rest of the first round seemed like a haze, she says. Rousey continued to fight, but things didn’t get any easier as Holm stayed on the attack and never gave the highly touted judoka a chance to breathe.
"I got hit in that first round. … I cut my lip open and knocked a couple of my teeth loose. I was out on my feet from the very beginning."
"I wasn’t thinking clearly. I had that huge cut in my mouth and I just spit [the blood] out at my feet. Then they brought the bucket over and I’m like, ‘Why didn’t I spit it in the bucket?’ I never spit on the ground," Rousey said.
"It was like a dumbed-down dreamy version of yourself making decisions. I was just trying to shake myself out of it. I kept saying to myself, ‘You’re OK, keep fighting. You’re OK, keep fighting.’ I just feel so embarrassed. How I fought after that is such an embarrassing representation of myself. I wasn’t even f–king there."
Holm finally put Rousey away 59 seconds into the second round with a head kick that likely will play in highlight reels for years to come.
Rousey’s fall from grace was made complete by seemingly everyone leaping off her bandwagon and then attacking her for showing so much hubris before the fight. Lady Gaga even chimed in at one point, mocking Rousey and saying she got what she deserved for not touching gloves with Holm at the start of the fight.
Rousey looks back now and says her decision not to touch gloves wasn’t any more calculated than the intense staredown she shared with Holm at the weigh-in, where the two fighters had to be separated by UFC president Dana White after things turned physical.
"It was just like a reaction," Rousey said. "I was like, ‘The last time I saw you (at the weigh-in), you were putting your fist on my chin and trying to get a cheap hit on me, then you turn around and you want to touch gloves? You have to be one way or the other. So if you want to be that way with me, that’s the way it is.’"
It took Rousey a long time after the fight to even begin to feel somewhat normal again.
She traveled from Australia back home to Los Angeles before going on a 15-hour drive to Texas with her boyfriend, fellow UFC fighter Travis Browne, on a hunting trip. Despite a break from reality and leaving her phone at home, Rousey still couldn’t shake the bad feelings left from the fight against Holm.
Finally, around Thanksgiving, Rousey’s mother, AnnMaria De Mars, visited her and said it was time to "woman up" and get out of the house. Rousey ended up spending Thanksgiving with her family, and that was maybe the first time she felt normal since the fight.
"It wasn’t long before she was stopping by and telling me that I can’t hide my whole life," Rousey said. "I have to do something with myself. Turn on my cellphone and stop ignoring everyone."
Rousey knows as ashamed as she is at her performance against Holm, there will be a rematch in 2016 and that will be her chance at redemption. Rousey isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel; she will polish up the areas that Holm exposed in their fight.
While Rousey’s mother made a very public statement just weeks before the fight that she was not a fan of her daughter’s head trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan, or his methods, the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion is sticking with her trainer.
Rousey never has had another head coach for her MMA fights and Tarverdyan will be right beside her when she makes her comeback next year.
"Of course I’m staying (with Tarverdyan)," Rousey said. "That’s my mom’s opinion, not mine."
Many speculated after the loss to Holm that maybe Rousey wouldn’t return at all. With a growing movie career — Rousey film at least two movies in 2016 while her autobiography "My Fight/Your Fight" is also being adapted into a full-length feature — there was speculation that maybe this lone loss would be enough to drive her from the sport.
Rousey says that couldn’t be further from the truth.
"Of course (I’ll fight again)," Rousey said. "What else am I going to f–king do?"