Ronda Rousey endured a tough childhood marked by speech problems and her father’s suicide. She became a judo champion, earning back-to-back golds at the Pan American Championships and a 2008 Olympic bronze medal. Rousey joined the mixed martial arts circuit in 2010, earning fame as the UFC Bantamweight Champion, before suffering her first loss in November 2015. In January 2018, she announced her move to the WWE pro-wrestling circuit.
Ronda Jean Rousey was born on February 1, 1987, in Riverside, California. Born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, Rousey nearly died from a lack of oxygen and sustained slight brain damage, which impeded her ability to speak an intelligible word until she was six.
A tragedy fell upon the family when Rousey’s dad, Ron, broke his back while sledding with his daughters. A blood disorder prevented him from healing properly, and after learning he would be a paraplegic then regress to a quadriplegic in the few years he had left to live, he committed suicide when Rousey was eight.
Rousey struggled in class and was homeschooled for parts of elementary and high school, but she found an outlet for her frustration when her mom, AnnMaria De Mars, persuaded her to learn judo. A gold medal–winning judoka at the 1984 World Championships, De Mars began drilling her daughter in some of the sport’s fundamentals, most notably the dreaded armbar used to pin an opponent to the mat.
Mixed Martial Arts Fame
Unsure of what to do in the wake of her judo career, Rousey worked as a bartender and lived out of her car for a spell in Los Angeles. She eventually joined the Glendale Fighting Club and in August 2010 made her amateur debut in mixed martial arts, a victory by way of an armbar after just 23 seconds. Two more amateur*bouts ended via armbar submission after 57 and 24 seconds, respectively.
Rousey continued her run of domination after turning pro in the sport, reeling off four straight wins in under a minute apiece. In March 2012, she became the*Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion by defeating Miesha Tate in four minutes and 27 seconds.
By this point, Rousey had become a crossover star with her good looks and penchant for first trash-talking and then brutally dispatching her opponents. She was featured on a cover of ESPN The Magazine’s 2012 Body Issue, and appeared as a guest on Conan O’Brien’s talk show.
After one more speedy victory, Rousey was the first woman to sign with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world’s largest mixed martial arts league. Designated Bantamweight Champion, she successfully defended her belt in the inaugural UFC women’s bout in February 2012, submitting Liz Carmouche via her patented armbar in four minutes and 49 seconds, her longest fight at that point.
When she returned to the UFC Octagon, Rousey won four consecutive first-round victories, two of them coming in under 20 seconds. However, her reign finally ended with a second-round knockout by Holly Holm in November 2015. The surprising loss sent ripples through the sporting world, and presented Rousey with her first serious athletic challenge since her days of competitive judo.