When the Ultimate Fighting Championship/UFC first debuted for public viewing (live or via television), November 12, 1993, I was an immediate fan! Boxers, wrestlers, Olympians, martial artists, and barroom brawlers could face off inside the "Octagon," an 8-sided ring of approximately 750 square feet, 6 feet in height, and "brawl like true warriors"!
Though the UFC boasted "There are no rules!" in the early 1990s, the UFC did, in fact, operate with a few limited rules. It banned biting and eye gouging, and frowned on, but allowed, hair pulling and head butting. Suffice it to say, those early-era UFC fights were sometimes brutal and didn't stop until either an opponent was knocked out, an opponent submitted ("tapped out"), or a ringside physician stopped the fight because of a serious injury.
Too, during those very early years, there were no weight classes. I fondly recall watching Royce Gracie, a 175-pound jiu-jitsu master, win championships in the three of first four UFC events, Gracie disposing of fighters who in some cases outweighed him by nearly 100 pounds.
Expectedly, since its inception in 1993, the UFC has morphed exponentially, having become a multi-billion-dollar corporation that spans the Globe, in terms of sports entertainment. These days, there are weight divisions and stricter rules.
Over the course of the past several years, I had lost all interest in the UFC. For me, the sport, compared to the early days, had become too commercial and lost its "heart and soul." Then, about a year ago, I kept hearing this name, and, for some reason, the name resonated with me: Ronda Rousey. Thus, I commenced following one Ronda Rousey, a.k.a the "Baddest Woman on the Planet," whom, it appeared, had developed a near-cult-like following.
Ronda Rousey was born in Riverside, California, February 1, 1987. It could be said Ronda's childhood years were "tough," in both a positive and negative way. Ronda's mother, AnnMaria, was the first U.S. citizen, male or female, to win a World Judo Championship, which she did in 1984. Obviously, the environment was right for a potential fighter. However, for the first six years of her life, Rousey struggled with a neurological speech disorder called "apraxia," which rendered her incapable of forming, and expressing, an intelligible sentence.
Ronda's biological father, Ron Rousey, a paraplegic from a sledding accident, committed suicide in 1995, when Ronda was 8-years-old. What could be construed as a coping mechanism for adversity, Ronda, at age 11, began training in earnest with her mother in the combative art of Judo. The practice paid off, and Ronda won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing, China.
Rousey retired from judo and started her UFC career when she was 22-years-old. Rapidly moving up through the ranks, Ronda, at 5 feet and 7 inches, 135 pounds, had been the UFC bantamweight champion of the world since 2012. She hadn't merely defeated her opponents; she'd annihilated them, most often in a matter of seconds! Along with others, I thought she was virtually unbeatable.
And here's the kicker that "staggered" me: I wrote the rough draft of this column on Friday, November 13, 2015, and originally titled it, "Meet Ronda Rousey: Baddest Woman on the Planet," a moniker that, as mentioned, once applied to Rousey. However, Ronda Rousey fought Holly Holm Saturday night, November 14, 2015, in Melbourne, Australia, and Holm KO'ed Rousey in the second round with a vicious kick upside the head, to claim the women's UFC bantamweight championship.
Plain and simple, I had taken for granted Ronda Rousey would beat Holly Holm; therefore, I had to rewrite the column. Lesson learned: Assume nothing.
However, I'm still a huge Ronda Rousey fan and among her many accomplishments are:
*She is the first female ever admitted into the UFC.
*She appeared on the cover of "Sports Illustrated."
*She was ESPN's Female Athlete of the Year for 2014 and 2015.
*She has been a guest on major talk shows.
*She has landed big roles in hit movies.
*She has a modeling career that, thus far, has produced revealing, yet flattering, pictorials.
Talk of a rematch between Rousey and Holm already is swirling in the sports world. I wager the money generated by such a rematch will be staggering!