Once revered as an unstoppable force in the world of mixed martial arts, former Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is considering leaving behind the sport that brought her to the hearts of millions. But what does quitting do to her legacy and her fans?
Commentary| Five years ago, she took the UFC by storm, forcing the league to take notice of her dominance, a dominance that declared she was going to be here to stay.
Two years ago, Rolling Stone Magazine called her “the world’s most dangerous woman,” a name she often lived up to, even challenging high-profile boxer Floyd “Money” Mayweather to a bout.
A year ago, her critics called her arrogant. But in conquest, the humanization of a woman thought by so many to be invincible began to show. It was refreshing, and in many ways admirable to know this unstoppable entity was just like everyone else in losing: sad, angry, disappointed, hurt-, but not done. Not defeated.
And now, 33 days removed from her last fight, the woman most came to know as resilient and irrepressible, would simply be known as quitter.
After losing the UFC Bantamweight title to Holly Holm in November 2015 and then failing to get a victory upon her return to the ring against Amanda Nunes this past December, Ronda Rousey is on the brink of walking away from the sport she basically made. As the first female fighter to sign to UFC, in November 2012, Rousey built women’s MMA to mainstream popularity with her fierceness, her quick victories over her opponents, her treacherous armbar submission move, and her nature of what UFC President Dana White calls “psychotically competitive.” But consecutive loses have brought her to a point of questioning her return to the octagon.
Aside from disappointing the millions of fans who’ve been loyal to her since a 2008 Olympic Bronze medal, through her stint in Strikeforce, to the worldwide powerhouse she became, Rousey retiring early would be the ultimate display of the very thing she appeared to fight so hard to deject. It simply sends a bad message to her fan base, and more importantly, to the countless young women who admired her and found her story to be an inspiration.
Rousey comes from humble beginnings. The star has talked about her former issues with substance abuse, her homelessness, her battle with depression, and living out of her car. She’s battled for all she’s earned. She fought for her recognition. She demanded her respect from her male counterparts and at the same time, she demanded respect for all women. That’s the Rousey little girls everywhere wanted to emulate. That’s the Rousey that led numerous women to believe anything was possible. That’s the Rousey who’s trash talk, though considered arrogant, motivated a crowd, and transcended mixed martial arts to new heights.
Where is “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey?
In the current climate of our country, where the leader of our nation has publicly objectified women, where misogyny has become more and more prevalent, where African-American women still have to overcome the disadvantage of gender as well as race, the last thing needed is for one of the most polarizing female figures in sports, better yet the world, to bow out and run at the first sign of trouble.
She’s not the first person to lose. She won’t be the last. And she’s not the first person to consider retirement, I mean let’s face it, no one can put their body at this kind of risk day in and day out for their entire life. But this isn’t retirement because of old age. This isn’t retirement because Rousey has nothing left to give the sport or her fans. This is purely quitting. This is cowardly.
After all the black girl magic that Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and Simone Manuel gave sports in 2016, there was a glimmer of hope that Rousey’s success could open the door for African-American women to enter the mixed martial arts space. According to the Nielson ratings, 40% of the MMA female viewers are black, which shows this sport does cater to a diverse audience. So, this is bigger than UFC. This is bigger than just winning and losing. It’s the principle that women have had to dig deeper and fight harder to strive further than their contemporaries for so long, that’s is plainly unacceptable that 48 seconds would be enough to force Rousey into giving up.
In the spirit of black history month, what if Rosa Parks had given up after the hardship of being arrested for not giving up her seat and causing an entire movement. We would have never seen the end of Jim Crow in the transportation system in the south. What if Harriet Tubman had given up after the difficulties she faced in her first trip on the Underground Railroad? Hundred of slaves would have never saw freedom. For that matter, what if Hillary Clinton had given up after losing so boldly in the primaries to President Obama in 2008? We would have never been hours/votes away from inaugurating the country’s first female president this past election. We can ill afford to have fragile feminist.
Rousey needs to understand abandoning this sport cannot be the decision, because for so many of her followers, especially the minority women who love her, quitting is an option that they just can afford to take. It’s weak. And Rousey herself has proven time and time again, that weakness is the adversary; it doesn’t belong in the octagon. It doesn’t belong outside of it either, not when there are so many people counting on her. Women pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get back to work because retirement isn’t for losers.