There was a fighter, undefeated for a long time, super confident and borderline arrogant. They said humiliating and disrespectful things to opponents in the build-up to fights and turned every press event or weigh-in into a circus. They taunted and disrespected opponents after beating them. The fighter was hated by most of the media, as well as most of the public.
Sound familiar? It should.
Muhammed Ali is considered to be the greatest boxer to have ever lived. He transcended the sport of boxing to become a household name. His antics were looked down on and hated. His remarks were disrespectful in a time of controversial tension.
Much like Muhammed Ali – Ronda Rousey has paved the way for how women are viewed in sports. Argue all you want about loving or hating Ronda. Love her, hate her, boo or cheer her, Ronda gets you to pay attention. If it wasn’t for her, women wouldn’t be main and co-main on a major fight card. She made you care about a women’s division that just wasn’t quite marketable. I don’t just get fed what the media puts out – Rousey is a true trailblazer who completes the epitome of “carrying the torch for others.”
Once the fight began and Holm began landing punches, I saw something in her face I’d never seen before: self-doubt. And maybe even fear. I was instantly connected to her, not only as an athlete, but as a human. By the end of that brutal first round I knew that this would be the end of the fairy tale. The rest was a blur of devastating punches, splattered blood and, eventually, the kick that would end it all. Rousey’s career and influence stands to be forever changed by this stunning defeat. But not in the way you might think.
Now she has the chance to be a whole new kind of hero. No longer an unstoppable, alien force in a class of her own, Rousey can become something far more important: a truly human champion with whom we all can identify. One with vulnerabilities like ours, who will have to work to overcome a public setback on her way back to dominance. I’ll draw inspiration in spades from a champion who can show me how to overcome adversity with grace, grit and determination. Her most important victory is still to come.