Ronda Rousey has been in the news quite a bit recently, due to an astounding victory over opponent Bethe Correia that allowed her to win the UFC 190 title fight in a mere 34 seconds. But her amazingly brief victory isn’t the only impressive thing she’s done this year. She also released a book back in May entitled My Fight/Your Fight, which reveals her struggles with addictive behaviors such as eating disorders and substance abuse problems.
Not only is this book impressive due to the refreshing honesty that Ronda Rousey was willing to demonstrate in telling her story, but it also sheds a ray of hope on the nature of addiction. Ronda Rousey was in a dark place for a time, but she was ultimately able to overcome her struggles and move on to accomplish great things. While our recent article on the life of Amy Winehouse told the unnecessary tragedy of a talented individual, the story of Ronda Rousey is one of hope and recovery. As such, we would like to examine her story and explain what others can learn from her experiences.
How She Became a Living Legend
Ronda Rousey did not grow up with dreams of becoming the women’s bantamweight champion. When she was young, that title was not even an option for women. Her childhood, however, did set the tone for her later drug abuse in many ways. Her father committed suicide when she was young, a fact which she mentions alongside her drug abuse in a preview interview for her fight against Correia. It was only a few years after her father’s suicide that Ronda Rousey began learning the art of judo.
Unsurprisingly, she was as skilled at judo as she now is at MMA. Think her fast UFC wins are impressive? At UFC 184, she beat Cat Zingano in only 14 seconds, twenty seconds less than it took her to triumph over Bethe Correia. But in 2004, when she was only 17 years old, she won a judo match at the World Junior Championships in Budapest in just 4 seconds. She also became the youngest fighter to compete in the Athens Olympics that year. And that was not the last time that Ronda Rousey would enter the Olympics. In 2008, she went to Beijing and took home a bronze medal. She then decided to retire from judo and begin pursuing an MMA career instead.
One may wonder how long it takes to transition from judo to mixed martial arts. This answer may vary. If you’re Ronda Rousey, however, it apparently does not take very long. It only took her 23 seconds to win her amateur debut against Hayden Munoz in 2010. She did so with an armbar, which became her signature finishing move for her next two fights. At the Tuff-N-Uff quarterfinals that year, this same move saw her triumph within 57 seconds against seasoned opponent Autumn Richardson. She then moved on to the semifinals, winning again with an armbar against Taylor Stratford in just 24 seconds. Confident in her abilities, she quit the amateur tournament to advance her professional career.
Fighting at the professional level did not slow her down. Ronda Rousey quickly began to establish herself as a dominant fighter, winning her first two professional matches in 25 seconds against Ediane Gomes and in 49 seconds against kickboxing champion Charmaine Tweet. At this point, she had won every match of her MMA career with an armbar. Her strategy was clear, but her opponents simply couldn’t seem to get the better of her.
Ronda Rousey then entered Strikeforce in 2011, one of the premier MMA promotions at the time. She remained undefeated until challenging Miesha Tate for the women’s bantamweight title in 2012. The two became steadfast rivals after Rousey dislocated Tate’s elbow to achieve a first-round victory. They have fought on several occasions since then, and Tate is the only fighter to have ever made it past the first round. Tate may consider Ronda Rousey (also known as “Rowdy,” in honor of the late Roddy Piper) to be her greatest rival, but the two share a mutual respect. In fact, Tate fully endorsed Rousey in her recent match against Correia.
After her first fight against Tate, Ronda Rousey solidified herself as a household name in the MMA community and began making television appearances. She even had a two-part special on Showtime entitled All Access: Ronda Rousey. In November of that year, it was announced that she had signed up to become the first female UFC fighter in history. She became the first ever female UFC champion, a title that she continues to defend with a record that remains undefeated to this day. Her talent and fame have even gained her roles in popular films such as The Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Entourage.
Fighting Her Toughest Opponent
As anyone who has struggled with addiction is well aware, the greatest battle that any addict will ever fight is the one they wage against themselves. And while we talk about some of the less common addictions here such as synthetic drugs and ketamine, there is one subject we have not greatly touched upon that is highly ingrained into the story of Ronda Rousey and her early success in judo. The issue in question is that of eating disorders. Not only can such issues arise as co-occurring disorders in conjunction with drug and alcohol abuse, but they are also considered by some to be their own form of behavioral addiction.
When Ronda Rousey was advancing her judo career, she was doing so at a relatively young age. This created an issue for her, in that she was not always able to easily maintain the proper weight for weigh-in. As such, she turned to bulimia. She would binge eat large amounts of food at a time, and then purge in order to maintain her weight. When she wasn’t binging and purging, she would keep her weight down by starving herself. This sounds like a symptom of anorexia, but there is one key difference between the two disorders—those with bulimia often suffer a greater blow to their self-esteem, as they believe what they’re doing is wrong.
Sure enough, this was the case with Ronda Rousey. In speaking of her struggles with bulimia, she had this to say: “Any sport that involves weight divisions is going to make you super conscious of your weight. And it makes you way more susceptible to having problems. And being a teenage girl certainly didn’t help. I thought I was alone in it. I thought I was only having problems because I was a weak-willed person. I thought having problems with my weight made me a bad person.”
Ronda Rousey was stuck between a rock and a hard place; she hated herself for her struggles to make weight, but her eating disorder did not make her feel much better. She also briefly lived with an unfaithful and verbally abusive boyfriend. After winning the 2008 Olympics, she just wanted a year off. But she quickly ran out of money, started bartending, and slept in her car while she developed addictions to alcohol, marijuana, and Vicodin. It was not until she discovered MMA that she was motivated to end her habit.
These days, Ronda Rousey has a very different view of drugs and alcohol. Not only did her own struggles with substance abuse motivate her to end her relationship with a heroin addict, but she has also expressed concern with what she considers to be a very lax view of drug testing in the UFC. They are now revamping their drug testing policies, to the extent that Rousey was actually given three random tests in the lead-up to her recent match against Correia. And when Correia used Rousey’s struggles with substance abuse to slam her before the fight (while also making a rather tasteless quip about suicide), Rousey simply used Correia’s comments as fuel to motivate her for the fight.
She also used her battle with bulimia as motivation to help raise $11,800 in 2013 for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, while donating $5,000 out of her own pocket. This was part of the “Don’t Throw Up, Throw Down” charity event, which was hosted by Ronda Rousey herself. Clearly, she cares about using her experiences to help others recover. But what can we actually learn from Rousey’s experiences? How can her story help others who suffer from eating disorders and substance addictions to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel?
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
The story of Ronda Rousey and her recovery is an inspiring one, not just because she made the choice to improve her life but because of everything she has achieved since making that choice make in 2010. She is the epitome of a strong woman, which is something she credits to her mother. She states: “In our family, we were always told that we were meant to be something extraordinary. It’s not your job to maintain a home and have kids. You’re supposed to do that. It’s your job to leave the world better than how you found it. Everything I am I owe to my mother.”
Despite her battles with self-esteem and body issues, Ronda Rousey has learned from her experiences and is becoming a positive role model for women who struggle with body image. While it’s true that she can sometimes be abrasive due to a tendency to openly speak her mind, it at least shows that she is no longer the kind of woman who winds up in unhealthy relationships because she doesn’t feel she deserves any better. She’s faced issues that are common amongst many women who suffer from addiction, and she has decided that she will no longer fall prey to those issues anymore.
Some may think that Ronda Rousey is outspoken, but she is not completely devoid of humility. In fact, while many may consider her a role model, she does not prefer to use this label herself. She simply wants to be the best person she can be for her family, as well as for herself. She recognizes that the way people perceive her is completely out of her control. This humility and willingness to accept her lack of control over others does not simply speak well for her character; these qualities are essential attributes that every recovering addict must strive to attain.
The death of her father still affects Ronda Rousey to this day. But she no longer falls prey to crippling depression. She has found a new passion through MMA, and it has allowed her to soar to greater heights than ever before. Rousey has learned from her prior mistakes, and every victory spurs her to try and achieve more and more. No one can be perfect, but that does not mean that they should ever stop aspiring to be the best that they can be. This is especially true of addicts, who must never give in and allow complacency to rule their lives. They must learn to be content, but they must also develop a desire to overcome their character defects and allow recovery to launch them into a new life.
This is the greatest lesson that we can learn from Ronda Rousey. In order to recover from addiction, whether substance-related or not, the addict must learn how to find purpose in life. Rousey decided that her purpose was to be the first and greatest female fighter in the sport of mixed martial arts. She did this not only because she felt that she had the requisite skills, but because she learned during her first fight that MMA made her truly happy. It gave her a sense of power and freedom that she was never able to achieve through the use of alcohol and Vicodin.
We at Amethyst Recovery cannot find your purpose for you. What we can do, however, is teach you through our programs to be honest with yourself. We can teach you to face your demons in the same way that Ronda Rousey did, and we can provide solace at one of our post-treatment sober living facilities so that you may continue your recovery in a safe place while you attempt to seek happiness and contentment. Happiness was a choice that Ronda Rousey had to learn to make for herself. By making that same choice, you can learn to lead a fulfilling and empowering life of recovery.