By Norm Elrod
Ronda Rousey is taking WWE by storm, but that’s generally her approach to things. Once the world’s most dominant female fighter, taking down opponent after opponent via armbar within seconds, she’s widely credited with establishing and elevating women’s mixed martial arts.
But her accomplishments also include a bronze medal in Judo at the Olympics and now a burgeoning career with the WWE. Never mind that she’s one of the more recognizable athletes on the planet.
Here are 18 things you probably didn’t know about the ex-UFC champion and current wrestling star Ronda Rousey:
1. Rousey was born in Riverside, California, in February of 1987, the third daughter of AnnMarie De Mars and Ron Rousey. She almost died at birth from lack of oxygen, caused by the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The mild brain damage she suffered prevented her from speaking actual words until the age of six.
2. Rousey’s mother, AnnMaria De Mars, won a gold medal in the 56kg weight class at the World Judo Championships in 1984, the first American to do so. Her father, Ron Rousey, was a soldier. He committed suicide in 1995 after learning that a sledding accident that broke his back would eventually leave him a quadriplegic.
3. Growing up, Rousey split time between Southern California and Jamestown, North Dakota. She struggled in school and was homeschooled for parts of her education. Her mother pushed her to take up judo as a way to deal with her frustrations. Rousey eventually dropped out of high school to focus on her training, later earning her GED.
4. Rousey holds a 4th degree black belt in Judo. She began learning Judo from her mother at age 11. At 17, she qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympics, becoming the youngest judoka in that year’s games. Rousey didn’t medal in Athens, but she did take gold in that year’s World Junior Judo Championships and Pan American Judo Championship.
5. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Rousey became the first America woman to medal in judo. (Judo became a women’s Olympic sport in 1992.) Competing in the 70kg division, she won five matches, with one loss, including the bronze-medal finals over Germany’s Annett Boehm.
6. After the Olympics, Rousey cast about for direction in her life, sharing in apartment in Venice Beach, California, and working multiple jobs as a bartender and cocktail waitress. She and her dog also lived out of her 2005 Honda Accord for a time.
7. Rousey has been a pro wrestling fan for most of her life. And a lot of the promotion techniques she ended up using in her MMA career were borrowed from there. Early in her amateur career, before her first fight, she met the wrestling legend ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and asked him if she could borrow his nickname. He agreed, brushing it off like a minor detail, but that exchange launched the resurgence of the nickname.
8. Rousey is a gamer, and her favorite games, at different times, have included Dragon Ball Z, Just Dance, Mario Kart and World of Warcraft. She also love Pokemon, her favorite character being Mew.
9. She made her amateur MMA debut in August of 2010 at an event in Oxnard, California. Rousey submitted her opponent, Hayden Munoz, with an armbar in 23 seconds. She submitted her next two opponents, Autumn Richardson and Taylor Stratford, in 57 and 24 seconds respectively.
10. Rousey debuted in professional mixed martial arts in March of 2011, defeating Ediane Gomes in 25 seconds. Two days before the fight, she broke up a dog fight between her mastiff and a pit bull and sustained cuts to her foot that required stitches. Fighting with stitches is not allowed under athletic commission rules. So the budding fighter created a brouhaha by insisting at the last minute on weighing in naked. The resulting confusion distracted officials from her injury.
11. While training and fighting, Rousey also worked at CARE (California Animal Rehabilitation), doing physical therapy for dogs. That included acupuncture, underwater treadmill, ultrasound and other techniques.
12. Her Strikeforce debut came in August of 2011 against Sarah D’Alelio, whom she submitted via armbar 25 seconds into the match. She went on to win the women’s bantamweight title, defeating Miesha Tate, again in the first round with an armbar.
13. Rousey signed with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in November 2012, becoming the promotion’s first female fighter ever. (UFC had purchased Strikeforce the previous year and let it continue to operate as a separate entity.) Soon after, UFC president, Dana White, named her the champion of the 135-pound class.
14. Her first UFC fight — and UFC’s first-ever women’s fight — happened three months later against Liz Carmouche, an ex-Marine. Rousey won again, in typical fashion, with an armbar, through the match lasted most of the first round.
15. After multiple title defenses, none lasting more than 1:06, she lost her first match. In November of 2015, Holly Holm defeated Rousey in the second round by knockout. A year later, Rousey lost her comeback match to defending champion Amanda Nunes in under a minute.
16. Rousey is married to UFC fighter Travis Browne. The couple wed in August of 2017 at an outdoor ceremony in Hawaii, the state where he was born. The two had been dating for two years prior.
17. Rousey made her WWE debut early in April of 2018, teaming up with Kurt Angle to beat Stephanie McMahon and Triple H at WrestleMania 34. She had previously appeared at Royal Rumble earlier in the year, indicating that a WrestleMania appearance might be in the offing. Rousey signed her contract (in storyline) a month later at Elimination Chamber.
18. In early July of 2018, Rousey was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, the first woman to receive the honor. Her acceptance speech focused on acknowledging the fans and the state of the sport that she helped establish.