Interview with "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey

Ronda "Rowdy" Rousey, World Championships silver medalist and the first-ever US woman to medal at the Olympics - not to mention undefeated MMA wrecking ball, was kind enough to grant me an interview.  Read on...

Chad:  First question: Is the "Rou" in Rousey pronounced like the "row" in rowdy, or the "roo" in rooster? I am embarrased to say that I have been to one of your clinics (in Fredericksburg, VA), and while I did come away with some awesome drills and techniques, I still thought your name was pronounced like ROO-see. Go figure.
Ronda Rousey:  It's pronounce ROW as in ROWDY - but I don't mind the ROO pronunciation, it sounds more exotic :):)
Chad:  Ronda "The Exotic Rooster" Rousey - I can definitely see an apparrel line or something coming from that... 

CM:  I know that you and other top level Judoka focus a lot on the gripping in Judo. Has the lack of a gi altered how you approach applying Judo in an MMA setting? Does your approach change over the course of a match?
RR:  The lack of a gi threw me off a little at first. But once I got the hang of working with no gi, I had developed a more unorthodox style. In mma people are mostly used to dealing with wrestling/bjj style grappling, so I feel that gives me an edge.

CM:  What do you like about Judo in MMA? What do you not like? Or perhaps I should say, what has worked and not worked?
RR:  Well since people don't have handles on them anymore I can't do some of my favorite throws that involved exposing my back. But then I was able to improve a lot on foot sweeps and other techniques that I wasn't particularly good at in competitive judo. Also judo is one of the few grappling arts that enforces good posture, so one with a judo background doesn't telegraph wether they're going to strike or come in to clinch in the way wrestlers do - cause they don't have to change levels before going for a takedown.

CM:  Were there any surprises in your transition over to MMA? Was anything easier or more difficult than you expected? Had you done much kicking and punching before?
RR:  No I hadn't done any striking before, but that also meant I didn't have any bad habits and I've been able to learn things the right way since the beginning. I was surprised that I could take a punch so well, and I was surprised about how much I don't know. There's so much I have to learn, it can be a bit daunting, but the process of learning an entirely new sport has been an amazing and fun experience.

CM:  How do we make Judo more attractive to the MMA crowd? Specifically, for a guy who is teaching Judo in an MMA gym, do you have any advice for me?
RR:  Teach judo throws with the gi and with no gi. People often ask me what's the difference between wrestling and no-gi judo. I define the difference as all the throws that take a lot of strength to pull off are wrestling, the effortless ones are judo.

CM:  What is the future of Women's MMA, especially with the UFC having purchased Strikeforce? I think I saw that you just signed a deal with them - do you think they will keep Strikeforce around as a separate entity? Will they introduce women's divisions into the UFC?
RR:  I think they eventually will introduce women into the UFC, we'll know more two years from now when strikeforce's contract with showtime runs out. I'm doing all I can to try and make WMMA seem more profitable, I just have to perform well and look good while I'm at it. But I dunno, it's possible Zuffa will keep strikeforce around as kind of a "feeder" organization for the UFC. Like minor and major league baseball.

CM:  Have you ever gotten tired of Judo? And I don't just mean were there certain training sessions that you would have rather skipped, but have you ever just wanted to take a break from Judo? For that matter, are you taking a break from Judo now?
RR:  I'm never going to compete in judo again. Frankly I'm over that whole lifestyle of competing internationally. Towards the end I no longer enjoyed training and felt I had no say over my own career. Now I have several coaches and a manager and we all make decisions together. I feel like they really respect and listen to any input I have and we try our best to work together and make it work. I don't have to deal with anyone treating me like a child or deal with a national governing body that can't stand me. I don't have to scrape and beg for funding or deal with drama caused by living with my teammates either. All I have to worry about is fighting, and my staff takes care of everything else. Moving over to MMA is the best decision I ever made.

CM:  Do you plan to make a go at the 2012 Olympics, or is MMA the sole focus right now? And if not 2012, do you foresee maybe making a go of the 2016 games?
RR:  I did plan on going to 2012 just because I didn't know what else to do with myself besides compete in judo. It was the only real skill I had (besides bartending). I knew I didn't like it, but felt I didn't have any other options. I'm so happy with my current career now, and don't feel the slightest inclination to go back to judo. I love doing judo and teaching it, but competing is not for me anymore. That said I'm going to both the 2012 and 2016 games to cheer for team USA and party my butt off, but that's about it.

CM:  Was your mom your first Judo coach, or did she outsource it? When did you start working with Jimmy Pedro, Sr.? What other coaches have had a major impact on you, both from Judo and MMA?
RR:  My mom always volunteered to take a backseat in my training. She taught me all she could but never insisted on being my head coach. And I'm glad she did because I really needed a Mom, someone I could cry and complain to when training was over. You have to hate you coach some days, that's their job, and I didn't want to hate my mother. I started working with the Pedros when I was 16, they kicked me out and invited me back several times between 2003-2009 when I finally quit and left on my own. I've had dozens of coaches help me for shorter periods during my career, including the Cohens, Numerous coaches from Nanka (SoCal), and Isreal Hernandez who traveled with me and sat in my chair from 07-08, but I had the longest relationship with the Pedros.
In MMA Gokor Chivichyan (grappling), Edmond Taverdyan (striking), and Leo Frincu (wrestling/conditioning) are my main corners. I also receive help from Gene Lebell(grappling), Anthony Hardonk (striking) and Henry Akins (BJJ).

CM:  Along those lines, you started judo fairly late in life compared to most Olympians. How on earth did you get so good so quickly?
RR:  My first judo tournament was on my 11th birthday, my mother started when she was 12. I don't know how I made my first Olympic team in only 6 years... I guess fighting is just part of who I am and comes naturally.

CM:  How do you pay the bills? And how do you balance the need to pay bills with the need to train? Is that now easier as an MMA athlete than strictly a Judo athlete?
RR:  It is soooooo much easier making ends meet in MMA. At first it was difficult, as switching careers always is regardless of what you do. But now that I'm signed with strikeforce and have Darin Harvey, possibly the best manager on God's green Earth, I have nothing to worry about beside winning.



BlackBeltNation said...

Great interview. It is great to hear how happy Ronda is. (esp after hearing so much judgement from the judo intelligentsia re: Ronda's decision)
She's the most exciting thing in MMA (ok, Jon Jones is up there, too) and know she'll start getting the recognition (and money!) she deserves.
It'll be nice to see an MMAer with a judo base at the top.

Chad Morrison said...

Yeah, I'm definitely sad to hear that she's not planning to compete anymore, but happy to have another Judoka to root for in the MMA world.

kodokanjudo said...

Chad, great interview!!!

kodokanjudo said...

I can't say that I blame her for leaving judo for MMA. There's no money in judo, as it is an amateur activity and there are some decent paydays for top competitors in MMA. In the USA a top level judo competitor has to literaly fund his/her own way to almost all international events and sponsors are hard if not imposible to find.

Mark Kislich said...

WOW, SUPER exciting fight, bravo Rhonda!!
I think there will be a LOT of demand for a No-Gi Judo Tutorial by the champion Rhonda Rousey!
One of the most interesting fights I've seen in a long time (the title defense)

mike said...

Darin Harvey, best manager on earth, huh Ronda?

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