Just weeks after she was given the UFC women’s championship belt at a press conference, Ronda Rousey walks into Results Gym in Sherman Oaks, Calif. with a hope to finally get some training in. With the way her haphazard week’s been going, getting some strength and conditioning done will be a welcomed change of pace.
Rousey says she no longer has control of her own schedule, and pop-up alerts come on her phone throughout her days of the week. Those alerts represent appointments that her around-the-clock public relations team scheduled for.
“Everything is just kind of thrown around,” the first UFC women’s champ tells GRACIEMAG. “There’s just so many things going on and things coming from different angles, it’s impossible for me to coordinate it all.”
It’s 12:15 p.m., and Rousey is fresh off a meeting with HBO, prepping for what could be her 20th interview of the week. When asked how the rest of her day is looking, she sighs, takes a deep breath and says, “You want to see my day?!” She then breaks out her iPhone to show a full load of things to do all the way through 11 p.m. at night.
This all before she’s even had her first fight in the UFC.
Her trainer reminds her with a stern Armenian accent that she has to be ready to get her training started promptly at 1 p.m. Rousey acknowledges his instruction, then returns her focus to the endless amount of media attention she receives on a regular basis.
“It’s a lot of demand to put on any human being,” says Darin Harvey, manager to Rousey and a handful of other UFC fighters. “We need to pick and choose everything we do because we need to maximize her time. Every human being deserves their free time. She needs it.”
Rousey’s free time typically comes in the week following her fights. It’s that week, which she refers to as her “nothing week,” that she looks forward to most because she does, you guessed it, nothing. No interviews. No training. Just nothing.
The champ is grateful for that entire week.
“My week after the fight, I don’t have to do anything,” she says with an eagerness to reach that point in time, “and you only appreciate nothing if you’re really overworked. And I’m very overly stimulated.”
She clarifies that being overworked isn’t exactly the right way to put it, mainly because she feels fortunate to be in the position she’s in. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Rousey worked three jobs, rolling around in her Honda, telling the lady in the McDonald’s drive through that her account’s overdrawn and she can’t afford the coffee she just ordered.
Fighting takes up just as much time as those three jobs did, and she’s far too busy to take care of the intricate details of her life. For example, figuring out how to program that pesky garage door opener for her new house is a bother she simply doesn’t have a chance to get to.
Luckily, she has Josh.
“Josh is the man!” Rousey shouts with a big smile on her face, explaining her gratitude for her new assistant. “[He] came over and helped reprogram all my garage door openers this morning because it rained and [the opener got] short circuited.
“I don’t have time to figure it out … Josh is the man when it comes to taking care of the stuff I just cannot fit in.”
But he doesn’t get her coffee like most assistants do for their bosses, Rousey explains. The process of picking up her coffee — a task she said she barely fits in time for — is just something she likes to get on her own.
The warm drink likely comes before a training session at one of many gyms she trains out of in Southern California. GFC in Glendale, S.K. Golden Boys in the San Fernando Valley and a list of others play host to where Rousey hones her skills in MMA.
Her training partners and coaches, past and present, vouch for her in saying that she’s a talent the MMA world hasn’t seen.
Jiu-Jitsu black belt and Gracie Barra Burbank Professor Alberto Crane recalls the first time he trained with the UFC women’s champ.
“She came in when she was first starting to fight, and she trained here with the team at the school,” Crane recalls of his first encounter with Rousey. “I saw her armbar and tap out legitimate fighters.
“I’ve never trained with a female that good.”
It’s that same armbar that Rousey has made famous through her undefeated career in MMA. Every single one of her opponents, both amateur and pro, have been submitted by Rousey with an armbar. On top of that, all of those opponents have been finished within the first round.
It’s almost as though the judo black belt maps it out in her head and intends to finish each of her outings with the armbar. But that’s not so, according to her “best [expletive] friend forever” and training partner, Marina Shafir. The armbar finish is just instinctual for the two.
“We just have a natural eye for it,” says Shafir, who’s trained with Rousey since they were teenagers and competed in judo since she was 6 years old. “Learning judo and doing Jiu-Jitsu, rolling on the ground, you just get an eye for it … It’s muscle memory, I guess. We can look for it, but if it’s just hanging out there we’re going to take it.”
The next opponent that can potentially fall victim to the Rousey armbar is Liz Carmouche. The two are scheduled to face off in the main event at UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 23.
The bout is being marketed with Rousey as the champion, but she has mixed emotions about that. Having never fought in the UFC, she says she doesn’t consider herself the promotion’s champion quite yet, and she’s expressed that to company president Dana White.
“I kind of don’t feel I’m really the champ until I win inside the octagon,” Rousey explains. “I told Dana this: ‘Look, you can go ahead and call me whatever you want, but until I personally win a fight in the octagon and you put that belt on me, I’m not going to consider myself champion.’”
White, who at one time was not an advocate of women fighting in the UFC, touts Rousey as much as his biggest pay-per-view stars, and has essentially put the weight of the UFC women’s division on her shoulders.
Is there pressure? “Every single time,” she says, adding that being the first female UFC title holder makes it no different than fights before because she always puts a lot of pressure on herself. She says she despises losing to the point that when it happens it hurts her in the upper region of her belly. Unwilling to feel that disgust, Rousey strives to avoid it altogether.
One time, a 12-year-old Rousey competed in a junior national competition for judo. She came in second place. Instead of being happy for medaling, the preteen locked herself in her room for a week because she didn’t win the entire tournament.
“I was … in my room and depressed,” she recalls. “It’s always been like that. I always put that kind of pressure on myself.”
Rousey begins to describe the moment from her past in further detail, but then cuts herself off. Her look of focus leaves one questioning what happened to make her just stop talking so suddenly. The ever-so-busy Rousey caught a glimpse of the clock and it reads 1 p.m.
“I gotta go train,” she says, jumping out of her seat and right into her strength and conditioning session, abruptly ending this interview. “Sorry!”
This story was originally featured in GRACIEMAG Issue No. 191.
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