Mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey has revealed that the pain of missing out on an Olympic gold medal is responsible for turning her into the most feared female prizefighter on the planet.
The 28-year-old from Los Angeles has rapidly emerged as one of the biggest names in combatsport after a series of devastating knockouts in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which have earned her comparisons to Mike Tyson.
Rousey climbs back into the octagon in Melbourne on November 15 for the latest defence of her UFC bantamweight crown, when she faces former boxer Holly Holm in a fight organisers hope will draw a record crowd of 60,000.
It is the latest step towards global superstardom for Rousey, who has transcended mixed martial arts in the United States to gain mainstream recognition, whether she’s appearing on the cover of SportsIllustrated or, as she did this week, boxing bible The Ring Magazine.
Rousey has also appeared in Hollywood action movies “The Expendables 3” and “Furious 7” and is set to star in a biopic adapted from her best-selling autobiography “My Fight/Your Fight”.
But for all the fame and riches it has brought her, Rousey reveals the bitter sting of failing to win Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Games continues to motivate her as she prepares for next month’s bout in Australia.
“I still get (motivation) from never winning the Olympics,” Rousey told a large scrum of reporters at her gym this week.
“That was my childhood dream and I spent my whole life in pursuit of that. And I had to give that up. I had to really come to terms that it wasn’t going to happen. And I’ve always really been heartbroken by that.
“But in a way I’m grateful because I feel that if I did win the Olympics then I wouldn’t have the never-ending source of motivation that I have today.
“Every time I defend my title it’s another chance to redeem myself. But it’s never quite an Olympic gold medal. And that’s how I stay I motivated.”
– Thriving on turmoil –
In her last bout, Rousey demolished Brazil’s Bethe Correia with a first round victory in Rio de Janeiro, taking just 34 seconds to finish her opponent.
“That was my version of dragging the fight out,” Rousey said of Correia, who had made the fateful error of antagonising the American by appearing to reference the suicide of her father during the build-up.
“It felt good to do it in a specific way,” Rousey said of her win. “I really wanted to knock her out.”
Next month’s fight has been overshadowed by a searing attack on Rousey’s trainer Edmond Tarverdyan by the fighter’s mother, who decried the guru as “worthless.”
Rousey declined to comment on her mother’s remarks, but said later that she thrived on pre-fight turmoil.
“The crazier things get, the more focused I become in the gym,” Rousey said. “The more chaotic everything is outside, the better I do in fights.
“The best performances I’ve ever had, I was in emotional turmoil beforehand. And fighting is what I do to fix myself,” she said. “(The gym) is my sanctuary from all that. My fighting is my escape.”
Unlike the personal animosity that marked the build-up to her fight with Correia, Rousey said she harbors no ill-will towards her next opponent Holm.
“She seems like a very, very nice person. She seems like a sweet girl. She’s the kind of person, that after I’ve beaten her and she’s made a lot of money, I’ll be like ‘Good for you! Buy yourself a house with that!’.
“I’ll genuinely be happy for her. I hope that she takes all the money that she gets from losing and has a great life.” – Agence France-Presse