For Ronda Rousey, love at first fight
It took exactly 23 seconds and approximately 50 people -- a couple of family members, a coach who didn't know her name and a few dozen fans -- to change Ronda Rousey's life forever.
The setting was a "random" fight club in Oxnard, Calif., and the excitement in that room was nothing that Rousey -- a bronze medalist in judo at the 2008 Olympics -- had ever experienced before. But after that night in August 2010, she immediately knew she had to experience it again.
"I felt like I was in a movie," she said of her amateur mixed martial arts debut against Hayden Munoz. "I never had a whole room of people cheering for me. ... I was used to getting booed.
"After fighting in two Olympics, it shouldn't really compare."
But it came at a time in Rousey's life when she was looking for love. After competing in the Olympics in judo in 2004 and 2008, Rousey decided to take a year off. The demands of judo were becoming suffocating, so she got a job bartending and spent some time soul-searching.
"I didn't think it was worth being miserable for four years so I could possibly be happy for one day," she said of a potential third trip to the Olympics. "The misery wasn't worth what I would get out of it."
So -- to the great disappointment of many in the judo community, who thought she was just hitting her prime -- she turned to MMA.
There was just one problem: It takes two to tango.
With many mixed martial artists reluctant to share the octagon with an Olympian, finding an opponent for Rousey was no easy task. So she waited for the fear factor to subside. And absorbed more jabs from her former judo supporters. And retaliated in silence.
"I was shadow-boxing in the shower," said the 5-foot-7, 135-pound Rousey. "I was so fueled by spite and anger. I was obsessed."
Munoz, whom Rousey says she still talks to on occasion, entered just in time.
"Cool chick," Rousey said. "No one would accept fights with me in the beginning and she was the first person to step up."
And the first -- of many -- to suffer an armbar at the hands of Rousey. To the elation of the crowd.
"I felt like I was just in love with everybody in the room," said Rousey, the first and current UFC women's bantamweight champion. "After that I was so optimistic. I was like, 'I'm going to take this whole world by storm. I'm gonna get all these girls.' "
A prediction that has held true for two years and counting. The 26-year-old is 7-0 as a pro, and her next scheduled fight is a rematch against Miesha Tate on Dec. 28 at UFC 168 in Las Vegas. She stars opposite Tate in "The Ultimate Fighter 18," which debuts Wednesday on Fox Sports 1.
But that night in Oxnard is one Rousey will never forget.
"In judo, when I won I felt relieved, but not that much joy," she said. "I was really sure that I wanted to be the best after that night."