By Anthony Pepe, Contributor
Who is the number one pound-for pound female mixed martial artist in the world? Survey says … Rowdy Ronda Rousey. And so do MMARising, MMAWeekly, and a host of other publications – including ours. She is, at this point and until somebody beats here, number one in women’s mixed martial arts.
The UFC women’s bantamweight champion improved her professional mixed martial arts record to 7-0 in her first title defense against Liz Carmouche, making this the seventh straight professional fight that she has won by first-round arm bar submission. Rousey’s three amateur fights ended with first-round arm bar victories, as well, a record that is shared by her with, well, no one. Not even fighters who are widely regarded as among the best mixed martial artists in existence have been able to match this feat. Neither Fedor, GSP, Anderson Silva, Matt Hughes, nor BJ Penn have won their first seven fights the same way in the first round. Even boxing’s Mike Tyson didn’t knock out his first seven opponents in the first round. The total elapsed time for all Rousey’s time in the ring, cage, or Octagon is less than the length of one three-round fight. But it was years on the mats as a Judoka, thousand of matches, 71 of which were contested at a world-class level, topped by her 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze medal (making her the first woman to ever win an Olympic medal in Judo), that began the development of the fighter that has become the first women’s bantamweight champion in the UFC.
The Rowdy one has been known to stir the pot, kick the bees’ nest, and otherwise rile things up a little. Some may hold the opinion that she talked her way to the top of the rankings, but she definitely let her actions do the talking in her UFC women’s bantamweight title defense. She exhibited a high level of poise and composure midway through the round when Carmouche was able to take her back. Unable to slip her arm under Rousey’s chin for the Mata Laeo, Liz took full advantage of the dominant position, and turned the hold into a neck crank that she applied with true gorilla-like torque and intensity. Neck cranks have ended many grappling matches and fights alike, but not this fight. Rousey was able to sustain, escape, recompose, and move on. She moved on and moved herself in position to end the fight with her now signature submission.
So what does Rousey do when she is not in the cage breaking arms (and hearts), or calling out the larger, more physically intimidating bully in the next weight class up? Well, she trains to break arms and faces and spirits. Excellence of this magnitude does not come by talent and heart alone. It is earned, over and over again. It is earned six days a week, at five different gyms. It is earned through sixteen-hour days. It is practiced and drilled and honed until it is second nature, until every movement is muscle memory, engrained on a cellular level on the fibers themselves. It is earned through sacrifice. It is earned through dedication and devotion. It is paid for in blood. It is done in such prestigious places as 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu and Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu. It is done at the Hayastan MMA Academy, the Glendale Fighting Club, and the Summit Gym. At the latter, she was not only the first woman allowed to train there, she was the first UFC fighter allowed to train there.
One might wonder why Ronda Rousey fights. Only she knows for sure. But one can speculate, looking from the outside in, by the way she has dedicated herself to this sport. She fights because she was born to do this. Because from the first time she stepped on the mat as a Judoka, every workout, every match, brought her closer to her current success. She does it because every one of her more than forty Judo medals, earned on the world stage, have been used to pay a little more of the dues that need to be paid if one wants to become number one. Because the intensity and competition of her past life in Judo, contested in tournament format, conditioned her mind, body, and spirit for this undertaking.
Rowdy Ronda Rousey sits atop the female mixed martial arts world, holding the UFC bantamweight championship, and she has been training mixed martial arts for less than three years. She is improving and growing every day. Who knows what the future holds for Rowdy Ronda Rousey. Maybe, one day, we will look around and say that she is no longer the best pound-for-pound female mixed martial artist in the world. Maybe one day, we will look around and say that she is the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world, period.