Even people outside the MMA fandom know the name Ronda Rousey. At 29 years old, this California native has gone from long shot underdog to reigning champion and athletic role model. She has won countless MMA and martial arts titles, Olympic gold medals, and too many other awards to count along the way. Rousey is a role model both to her fellow fighters and to young women everywhere who want to compete at the highest levels of athleticism, but don’t want to sacrifice their femininity at the same time. Ronda has maintained both her competitive edge and her identity as a powerful and intelligent woman, and she continues to be an inspiration to fans all over the world. Here are fifteen photos that document her astonishing journey and transformation.
Toe to Toe with Amanda Nunes
The intense staredown in this photo demonstrates that Rousey has no fear in the face of intense competition. She matches fighter Amanda Nunes right before UFC 207 title bout, and both women clearly were ready for a battle for the ages. There is nothing in Ronda’s face that says “can’t” in this photo, and it continues to be an image that captures everything about this champion’s career: a single-minded determination to be the best.
During the match between The Rock and Triple H, things got heated, and even Stephanie McMahon stepped in to slap The Rock across the face. The Rock, still reeling from the slap, turned to the audience and spotted Ronda sporting her Dragon Ball Z tanktop. He reached out to her and asked for her help, and she immediately obliged. She proceeded to mop the floor with both Triple H and McMahon, tossing the Wrestlemania Champ over her shoulder effortlessly and putting McMahon in an arm hold that had her screaming for mercy in minutes. It’s safe to say that when you fight in Wrestlemania side-by-side with The Rock, you’ve officially made it as a celebrity fighter.
Rousey vs. Nunes
Here we see Rousey delivering a brutal chokehold to Amanda Nunes in their head-to-head battle for the title. It would be Rousey’s last bout for a while, as she stated post-match that she needed to take some time off to recover from some injuries and get herself back in the right headspace. Hopefully we see her back in the UFC as management or with her fitsts up real soon.
Defeating Ediane Gomez
This picture was taken just before Rousey’s victorious match against Ediane Gomez in Tarzana, California. Rona apparently gave Gomez such a beating that her opponent had to tap out in Round 1. What’s even more amazing about this bout is that Rona was actually recovering from injury to her ankle, and yet she still beat an uninjured opponent who had weighed in 4 pounds over the match weight limit in one round. Amazing!
Tougher Than The Rest
This 2011 bout is what established Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey as the UFC sensation she was becoming. Taking on a younger, faster opponent, Rousey needed only 24 seconds to bring Round One to an end. Her repeated judo throws took the wind out of her opponent's sails, and she wasted no time pummeling her into submission. The referee actually had to step in and call the fight to prevent Ronda’s opponent from being injured. This early match demonstrated that Rousey was determined to be, without a doubt, the best in the league.
Here Ronda is pictured competing in the Olympic Judo event against some of the the best judo practitioners in the world. Here we see her taking on a taller, more agile opponent and easily bringing her over her shoulders to the mat. Rousey has come a long way since Beijing, but even back then her prowess as a fighter and competitor are clearly evident.
2007 PanAm Games
In this photo, we see a very young Ronda with her gold medal she won for jude at the PanAm Games. Even as a teenager, she was a determined champion.
Judo World Cup Win
Here we see Ronda with her champion’s medal in the 2006 Judo World Cup, which was hosted in Great Britain that year. Her accomplishments in the world of judo are highly regarded, though she did decide at age 21 to take a break from the judo world before moving on to the Olympics, MMA, and the UFC, Currently on another hiatus from UFC and MMA, we hope that 2017 is the year that Rousey makes her comeback.
Rousey joined the US Judo Team at age 15, and at 16 she had already won two gold medals at the Pan-American Championships and the World Junior Judo Championships. She took the bronze at the 2008 games in Beijing. This picture shows how determined and engaged she is when entering any competition.
A teenaged Ronda is pictured here with her name on the leaderboard and a huge smile on her face as she takes the title at the World Junior Judo Championships. Her accomplished skills as a master of judo have been a recurrent theme throughout her career in the worlds of MMA and the UFC.
This yearbook photo from Santa Monica High School shows the adorable teenager side of Ronda that few people see in the octagon or the ring. She has come a long way from this shining girlish smile, but she has grown into a woman who is every inch a master and champion of her art.
From this picture, it is easy to see that Ronda was a born fighter. This is literally true, as she was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck upon delivery. Despite this birthing setback, Ronda grew into a healthy little girl who took up judo at her mother’s suggestion, and she has been besting all comers ever since.
A cute family photo Ronda with her family and friends shows that she was a typical teen in many ways. Apparently, the mustaches are an inside joke. Ronda’s father is not pictured as he was paralyzed in a car accident when she was very young, and tragically took his own life some years later as a result of his depression when Ronda was 8 years old. It may be fair to say that she has poured so much of herself into competition in order to cope with that helplessness she must have felt at the senseless loss of her father at such a tender age. Ronda is familiar with heartache and struggle both inside the ring and in the real world.
The Adorable Champion
Holding her achievement certificate and wearing her judo uniform, we see a young and proud little champion who shares much in common of the young woman she would become. Even in the face of hardship and struggle, Ronda was still as poised and graceful as she is today.
Here’s a picture guaranteed to get you right in the feels: The whole Rousey family together. There is little evidence here of the struggle and heartache that would characterize Ronda’s younger years as she lost her father, struggled developmentally at school, and began to use her judo training as an escape from these hardships. She was forged by fire, and came out refined and ready to be the world championship contender we know and love.