Love her or hate her, Ronda Rousey changed the game for the UFC in the most literal sense imaginable. Skyrocketing into superstardom almost instantly upon her involvement in the sport, she would end up being the catalyst that led to the introduction of a whole new generation of stars.
Rousey, a lifelong Judoka, would find success in the Olympic games and claim the bronze medal in her area of expertise before transitioning to MMA in 2010. And when she did so, she immediately captivated everyone watching.
Going an undefeated 3-0 as an amateur, Rousey won all of those fights in identical fashion. That being by first-round armbar in less than a minute.
Turning pro the following year, that trend would continue for the Riverside, California native as her first four bouts all ended in the same fashion. The latter of the two coming in Strikeforce and earning her a crack at her first world title. Originally a featherweight, it would be here that Rousey made the move down to the 135-pound bantamweight class and crafted a legacy.
By this point, Rousey was already on the radars of many that followed the sport. And we aren’t just talking hardcore fans, but even the casual fan was starting to hear of the Olympian to a greater extent. Which says quite a lot when considering that this was Strikeforce and not the UFC. On top of that, the female fighters had yet to truly explode onto the scene … but this is right where that began to change.
Rousey was lined up to take on the new champion, Miesha Tate, in her first title opportunity that also was her divisional debut. As soon as the two had their fight made official, the bad blood began to boil.
Tate and Rousey would become the most bitter of rivals and it would be a volatile combination that MMA history can’t possibly forget. Unfortunately for Tate, she would be a huge boost to Rousey’s ever-growing star power.
Once again, Rousey secured an armbar to get the win. The only difference this time was that she received a title for it. Well, it also wasn’t an easy fight. Tate gave Rousey all she could handle and even escaped an armbar attempt early before seeking a rear-naked choke of her own. The pace of the action was fast and furious and their hatred fueled it.
The visual of Rousey bending Tate’s arm to a 90-degree angle in the opposite direction will forever be imprinted in the backs of the minds of everyone who witnessed it live. It was quite the icing on top of the cake in a title victory against a rival. Little did we know the lasting impact that it would have.
In January 2011, right before Rousey had entered into the sport professionally, UFC President Dana White had infamously stated that women will never fight in the UFC. Well, two years later and that statement became a lie.
After the victory over Tate, Rousey picked up a successful title defense over former champion Sarah Kaufman. Yes, once again by quick armbar.
By this time, the UFC had bought out Strikeforce thus absorbing its roster. Meaning the female fighters were coming along, too. And making history would be Rousey as she was promoted directly from Strikeforce champion to the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion. In her first defense which was the official first women’s fight in UFC history, she took on Liz Carmouche.
Rousey trailblazed the way for women into the world’s leader in MMA. If it wasn’t for her rise, who knows how much longer it would have taken for the female competitors to make it to the UFC.
Not only was she a dominant force within the Octagon racking up six phenomenal title defenses, but she was also a force outside of it as well. Her no-nonsense attitude was an inspiration for many young girls to be themselves. She became the first global megastar that MMA had really ever had.
If you didn’t know about MMA, you at least had heard the name Ronda Rousey during her peak.