Ronda Rousey on women's MMA, muscles

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
11:00
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Ronda RouseyEsther Lin/Getty ImagesRonda Rousey: "I wasn't comfortable how I looked growing up. I never thought of myself as pretty."
UFC president Dana White recently said he's warming up to women's mixed martial arts and it's all because of current Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

"I don't think I've been too shy about what I think about Ronda," White told USA Today. "She just looked impressive ... Ronda Rousey is a star."

Rousey herself thinks she's on her way, but isn't there just yet -- even after appearing on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue," appearing on national talk shows and beating Sarah Kaufman last week in less than one minute to improve to 6-0.

Playbook recently had a few minutes to talk with Rousey.

Women's MMA has gotten very popular in the past year or so. Now the president of UFC might be on board. Do you ever think we'll come to the day when women fight men?

"No. It's a lose-lose situation. I've fought guys before when I competed in judo. I had to take it so seriously. If I lost, I would be losing for all women. I was never happy fighting men. And they were never happy fighting me -- because they mostly lost. I think the women's game is on the rise. The ball needs to keep rolling. After Laila Ali left women's boxing in 2007, it all went downhill. There were no next wave of girls ready to take over and keep it going. I try not to put pressure on myself in my sport. I'm doing the best I can. I'm just hoping to make it easier for others after me. I'm trying to make the sport as big as I can."

You were great at judo, winning an Olympic bronze medal in 2008. It seems recently you've gotten more muscular. Are you worried about looking too masculine?

"I was worried when I was younger. I was made fun of how muscular I was. I think it's a shame to think I would have to give up my femininity to be athletic. How come you have to choose being a successful athlete or being a beautiful woman? I think we should be pushing our body to the absolute limits, and it's something that should be celebrated and not criticized."

Ronda RouseyEsther Lin/Forza LLC/Forza LLC/Getty ImagesRonda Rousey punches Sarah Kaufman during the Strikeforce event at Valley View last week.
People still are alarmed when they see a woman bloodied in a mixed martial arts match. What do you think about the idea of getting hit in the face?

"I love this question. People ask me it all the time. All I say is that I'm from Los Angeles, so if I get my face bashed in, I'll just buy myself a new one. I know people are squeamish about girls getting hit in the face. It's understandable but it's not very rational."

Let's turn to the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, which came out a month ago. Still getting praise for that cover?

"I thought it looked great. It came out better than I thought. I had no clue I was going to be on the cover. When the magazine came, I was shocked. I was such a tomboy growing up. I always felt I could be prettier than I was. I was self-conscious and figured I'd be teased if I dressed up."

tkPeggy Sirota for ESPN The MagazineRonda Rousey was a cover model for ESPN the Magazine. The photo was shot in Culver City, Calif.
You mean you had self-esteem issues growing up?

"I wasn't comfortable how I looked growing up. I never thought of myself as pretty. People tell me that now and I almost think it's not real. I think they are thinking of a picture they saw or have this idea about me. I think they aren't looking at me right. Certain days I feel like I'm on top of the world. I appreciate all this. Every girl wants to feel pretty."

If you weren't in MMA, what would you be doing?

"I'd be doing rescues for the Coast Guard somewhere. I'd live in Los Angeles or Hawaii. I'd be jumping out of helicopters saving lives. I'm a really good swimmer. I love doing things like jumping from crazy heights. I want to go skydiving. I'm an extreme person who loves doing extreme things. I can't live my life on a plateau. I like the ups and downs. I think part of being human is pushing the limits of the emotional and physical spectrum. I couldn't imagine sitting at a desk all my life."

Did you enjoy education growing up?

"I dropped out after my sophomore year of high school. I went back and got my GED, though. I had to write this essay. They didn't tell me about that. But I wrote a damn good one. I wrote about my favorite things to collect. At that point, I had kept all the boarding passes from all my trips. I had collected those memories. That's what I wrote about."

[+] EnlargeRonda Rousey
Lynn Hoppes/ESPN.comRonda Rousey shows off her necklace. She also has a tattoo on her ankle about the Olympics.
You have a lot of people following you on Twitter. What do you think of social media?

"I first started doing it when Dana White had a social media rewards program. My roommate, Wetzel Parker, and I would write down funny lines in a notebook and then tweet them out. He's a comedian in Los Angeles. If we'd see anything funny, we'd write it down and then tweet it out. That's how I got started. After the magazine came out, I haven't had much time to come up with clever lines. I'm spending more time just responding to fans. I wish I had more time to be creative."

Fans should know that you're responding yourself, right?

"It's obvious that I'm not a spokeswoman running a front for someone. One time my publicist said I should tweet out something. I got weirded out because I don't want to insult my followers. I don't want my feed to be one big commercial. I'm more genuine."

So tell me about the cool necklace. Does it have any significance?

"It's a necklace of a wing. No, someone else doesn't have the other half! I have both halves. I'm alone! Mostly, I bought both halves because I was afraid I would lose one. My friend Wetzel has an anchor because he likes to stay anchored. My thing is wings as I'm staying free."

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