Sports Illustrated dropped their latest issue on Wednesday, which normally doesn’t raise much discussion in 2015. This issue, however, features Ronda Rousey on the cover and anoints her as the “World’s Most Dominant Athlete.”
This set off an expected chain reaction on social media. People criticized Rousey’s designation as the world’s most dominant athlete. Other people pushed back, pointing to her undefeated record and quick finishes. Other people wrote about how she isn’t the most dominant athlete in the world, but it doesn’t matter.
There was another vocal contingent asking why we couldn’t just celebrate Rousey and the SI cover. The MMA community (or perhaps the MMA community active on social media), they argued, has become so critical and myopic to the point of self-hatred. While Sports Illustrated’s prestige has dwindled in this millennium, this contingent argues that their choice to put Rousey on the cover is still a Big Deal worth celebrating.
To some, Rousey is a feminist icon who single-handedly ushered women into the Octagon. And while that diminishes the efforts of Jeff Osborne, Megumi Fujii, Gina Carano, and countless others before her, Rousey laid her own part of the road while offering a strong, empowered symbol to women and girls.
But leaving it at that would ignore a stark reality: Ronda Rousey has a long track record of being a miserable human being.
Conspiracy Theory Nut
On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He killed 20 children and 6 adults before committing suicide. He also killed his mother prior to making his way to the school. The massacre triggered important conversations about gun control and mental health that have largely gone unresolved.
Unfortunately, a wave of conspiracy theories popped up in Sandy Hook’s wake. Rousey helped propagate these theories, tweeting a link to a video that she described as “extremely interesting” and “must watch.” When she faced the inevitable backlash, Rousey told Anthony “Bloodstain” Lane, “[T]hanks, I just figure asking questions and doing research is more patriotic than blindly accepting what you’re told.”
The tweets wound up being deleted, Rousey offered up her apologies, and the UFC decided against any sort of discipline.
Fallon Fox made waves two years ago when she became the first openly transgender fighter in mixed martial arts. “Openly transgender” and “mixed martial arts” go together as well as oil and water.
When asked about Fox and transgender athletes in MMA, Rousey said (emphasis mine), “She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has. It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair.”
A year later, Rousey, in the perpetual discussion of her fighting Cris Justino, told Yahoo!, “This girl has been on steroids for so long and [has been] injecting herself for so long that she’s not even a woman anymore. She’s an ‘it.'”
Rousey was not disciplined by the UFC.
Dennis Hallman told the following story about his time on the Ultimate Fighter:
“The Ultimate Fighter was having problems with the checks for the assistant coaches, like the money coming in for them. It was like a couple of weeks behind, and Ronda came to complain to Jamie Campione, who is the producer. She came and said, ‘Hey Jamie, I’m really pissed off I brought some of the best coaches in the world here to this show, and they’re supposed to get paid. Here’s three weeks later, and they haven’t been paid.
“That’s a legit argument, and Jamie from the UFC, very respectful, and she said, ‘Oh my gosh, Ronda. I’m so sorry; it will be taken care of very soon.’ Before she could finish her sentence, Ronda interrupted her and said, ‘You shut your mouth when I’m talking to you. You don’t open your mouth. When I speak to you, you sit there and listen and shut your mouth.’ She said that to the producer.”
Rousey’s also engaged in a verbal feud with Arianny Celeste. Yes, Arianny Celeste, the woman who holds up the round cards. It all started in 2012 when both Rousey and Celeste appeared on Maxim’s Hot 100 list. Rousey:
“It would have been really funny if I’d beaten Arianny Celeste, because that would be like a triathlete coming along and beating the runners in a marathon. Like, ‘Ha-ha, it’s your job to show your t—–s – I do that better than you!’ Maybe next year. She’s only getting older, and I’m reaching my prime.”
The spat continued in February of this year, which included Rousey giving Celeste “PR advice.”
Most people know about the handshake incident. After losing by armbar – again – at UFC 168, Miesha Tate offered her hand to Ronda Rousey. Rousey looked at Tate and then walked away to a chorus of boos.
Less well known (or perhaps forgotten) is what Rousey said about Sarah Kaufman heading into their Strikeforce title fight (emphasis mine):
“If I get her in an armbar, I’m going to try to rip it off and throw it at her corner…If I get her in a choke, I’m going to hold onto it until she’s actually dead. And if I get a knockout, I’m going to go all the way. I’m going to try to pound her face into the ground and she’s depending on the competence of the California (State) Athletic Commission to walk out of that cage alive.”
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Rousey doesn’t have a singular incident that we can point to and demonize. She hasn’t beaten up her spouse or been picked up for a DUI or robbed a bank. But there’s a long list of incidents that paints a picture of a pretty miserable human being, if not a morally reprehensible one. And maybe that’s why people aren’t jumping to celebrate her personal achievements.