PROFILES THE UFC’S ULTIMATE FEMALE FIGHTER RONDA ROUSEY;
Now in its 19th season, REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL presents more enterprising features and reporting when its 191st edition, available in HDTV, debuts TUESDAY, FEB. 19 (10:00 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO.
*Blonde Ambition. As women continue to break down barriers in sports, Ronda Rousey remains ahead of the pack. In 2008, the mixed martial artist became the first American woman to medal in Judo at the Olympic Games. And in 2013, she will become the first woman to headline a women’s title fight for the UFC. An electrifying presence in the world of mixed martial arts, the 26-year-old is a triple threat of brawn, brains and beauty. Behind her is a strong woman, her mother, who is a former Judo champion and the one who taught Rousey how to execute her most famous move, the arm bar. In this REAL SPORTS/Sports Illustrated collaboration, correspondent Jon Frankel visits Rousey’s home in Venice Beach, Cal. and training camp in Big Bear, where she opens up about her childhood, her groundbreaking fighting career and her accelerated rise to stardom.
Producer: Tim Walker.
If you’re younger than 30 and a fight fan, you’ve seen it … the Ultimate Fighting Championship — UFC – a professional mixed martial arts contest that has grown hand over fist since it began 20 years ago. If you’re over 30 … well, take a look.
It may be the most macho sport on earth … except for one little thing. The brightest rising star in this whole testosterone-fueled world is a beautiful California blonde. Her name is Ronda Rouse — and she’s a knockout.
Nine women have stepped into the ring with her and each surrendered within minutes. After Rousey did this.
It’s her signature finishing move… The arm bar… which slowly tears her opponents’ arm in two. Perfectly legal in this business and perfectly gruesome.
Ronda Rousey: “You could give up if you want.”
HBO’s Jon Frankel: “You can tap out.”
Ronda Rousey: “You totally can, anytime.”
Jon Frankel: “But you’d be calling me a wuss.”
Ronda Rousey: “No, I’d be calling you smart. Because it’s going down, regardless.”
Jon Frankel: “Do you like hurting the person?”
Ronda Rousey: No, but it’s a fight. We’re not baking cakes for each other. You know, I didn’t go in there to make a pie.”
Yes, she’s the main attraction of the next big UFC fight, in just a few days…with men fighting on the undercard… an empire built on testosterone… turned on its head.
Jon Frankel: “There are people who have said that they’re upset that you’re getting top billing on this fight.”
Ronda Rousey: “It’s true but I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt that said, ‘To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.’ “
No matter who she’s confronting, Rousey doesn’t hold back as I found out first hand at her training camp in Big Bear, California.
Ronda Rousey: “And this doesn’t take any muscle. I can just hang out here all day. Tuck your chin in when you fall, okay?”
Jon Frankel: “Okay.”
(RR flips Jon Frankel to the mat)
Ronda Rousey: “So I’m just going to turn. And now I would fall on top. And now I’m in side control, I can do an arm bar from here.”
(RR puts Frankel in arm bar)
Ronda Rousey: “This is the point where usually people would want to give up.”
Jon Frankel: “This is where I go, I tap out?”
Ronda Rousey: “Exactly.”
Jon Frankel: “And to what point can you tell when it has gotten to the point where that person is in extreme pain? I know you’re not trying to necessarily damage them, you’re trying to neutralize and win. Can you tell where it’s, ‘Okay, now it’s uncomfortable?’”
Ronda Rousey: Yeah, I, I know when the joint’s reached its limit because you feel it. You feel it pop. And this is a very sensitive area that I’m putting strain on so I could feel things pretty well.”
Of course, dislocating other people’s arms isn’t the only thing that’s primed Rousey for the big time.
This doesn’t hurt .… posing for magazine covers… part naked… (ESPN Magazine Body Issue Cover). It tends to get people’s attention.
Jon Frankel: “It’s not just about how good a fighter you are, is it?”
Ronda Rousey: “Well, if you want exposure, you have to expose yourself, to some extent.”
Jon Frankel: “To the extent of ESPN Body?”
Ronda Rousey: “Yeah, I felt like it was a good way to promote myself and Women’s MMA. It wasn’t like it was Playboy.”
Jon Frankel: “What if Playboy did call?”
Ronda Rousey: “Then I’d say, ‘No.’ ”
Jon Frankel: “Really?”
Ronda Rousey: “Yeah, no one should be able to see my cash and prizes for $5, okay? I don’t care how much money they gave me.”
Jon Frankel: “Does it bother you that you might be a sex symbol to people? Do you see yourself as a sex symbol?”
Ronda Rousey: “I don’t really see myself as a sex symbol because ever since people have started calling me a sex symbol, I haven’t had a lot of sex in my life. Like, it’s just, it’s not really working out great for me. But, yeah, people bring that up all the time. I’m like, ‘Look, you’re right. I probably get more attention fighting because of how I look. But if I didn’t know how to fight and I just looked the way I did, no one would know who I am.’ ”