It's hard to imagine someone with the physical fortitude of mixed martial artist, actress, and UFC champion Ronda Rousey suffering for anything other than a championship belt. The woman is a powerhouse inside the ring and in front of the camera! But as tough as she may appear today in films like Furious 7 and The Expendables 3, there were plenty of times in her youth where she nearly broke down.
Unilad posted excerpts from her upcoming book My Fight / Your Fight, in which Rousey describes a troubled past starting 28 years ago, on the day she was born. The fact that she persevered through everything and still made it out on the other side just goes to show how strong she really is.
In case you're unfamiliar with the badass we're talking about, check out this behind the scenes footage of Ronda Rousey and Michelle Rodriguez, who had the ultimate girl fight in Furious 7:
When talking about her childhood, the MMA champion-turned-actress boldly and clearly stated in her book:
The way I got here wasn’t perfect, it was messy, and there was a lot of shit along the way.
Let's learn a little more about Ronda Rousey and the rough road she traveled to get to where she is today.
A Rough Start
Before she became the fighter we all know, the California native was born in Riverside on February 1, 1987. According to her book, instead of coming out a happy pink baby, she was born blue from lack of oxygen after her umbilical cord became wrapped around her neck in utero.
While she was otherwise healthy, Ronda suffered from developmental delays due to that unlikely and unfortunate circumstances from her birth. It wasn't until age four that Ronda was able to speak at all.
At about 6, I began speaking coherently in sentences. They told me I had brain damage from the hypoxia. But when you’re a kid, your brain figures out a way to reorganize.
Her father, Ron encouraged her to shun the nay-sayers and encouraged her to keep working to overcome her setbacks. He bought her a Hulk Hogan Wrestling buddy which she slept with every night. He would tell her:
You’re a smart kid. It’s not like you’re some f*ckin’ moron.
She used that tough love as motivation, but sadly, just as things were starting to look up her bumpy road to greatness became even more difficult to weather...
Losing a Hero
When she was eight-years-old, her beloved father committed suicide from asphyxiation, seemingly out of nowhere. Ronda and her mother had no clue he was suffering from anything other than the chronic, acute back pain he experienced after a freak accident a few years prior.
Ronda says that she chooses to remain mostly tightlipped, because she doesn't want to numb the pain and begin to desensitize herself or detach from one of the most formative experiences in her life, no matter how tragic:
I never wanted to be in the situation where I’ve told the story so many times that I become detached from it and don’t cry.
Despite losing one of her heroes, she never stopped striving for greatness.
While she knew her warm, nurturing mother had a strong side after losing her husband, Ronda didn't know just how strong she was. Later that year, after rifling though some old family photos, Ronda found pictures of her mom, who was a successful Judo champion in her own right.
Her mother, AnnMaria De Mars, became the first American to win the world Judo championships in 1984 and worked her way up to a sixth-degree black belt.
It was an unbelievable discovery as a kid. All this time, I’d been looking at my dad as big, strong, invincible, and my mom as the nurturer.
After Ronda expressed interest in learning Judo, her mother took her under her wing as a coach. At the time, Ronda didn't know the kind of training she had gotten herself into.
Their sessions, while beneficial, were no laughing matter. Rain or shine, injured or healthy, AnnMaria had Ronda working to become the best in her field. Some of the training helped her to persevered despite a torn ACL, broken bones, and a dislocated shoulder.
Ronda's description of her mother's tough love routine goes to show how much she was committed to helping create a professional athlete:
“I hurt my toe,” I said. “I think it’s broken.”
“It’s a toe,” she said dismissively.
“But it hurts,” I said, crying. “Do you have a pillow for me?”
“What the f*ck do you mean a pillow?” she asked. “Go run laps.”
I hobbled away, more hopping than running.
With her mother as a coach, she was able to make a name for herself in the world of competitive Judo and qualified for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, making her the youngest Judoka in the games.
Although she didn't place, that same year she also earned a gold medal for Judo at the World Junior Judo Championships in Hungary.
Even though she was thriving in her craft, she was falling apart emotionally. At 16, Ronda dropped out of high school and lived on her own to train. Ronda would binge and purge to make weight to compete, and two years after dropping out of high school she spiraled into a life of addiction.
She picked up smoking and a Vicodin habit and became a heavy drinker. Her mother, tough love parent that she is, refused to let Ronda live with her without maintaining a job. Instead, she bounced from place to place.
Ronda stayed with a trainer who later ended up stealing her money and then in the basement of her older boyfriend who was verbally abusive. She was forced to move into her car until she finally found a place she could afford, a tiny 12x12' studio apartment that was far from sanitary.
On more than one occasion, sewage would come up out of the toilet and shower, and I’d come home from work to an apartment filled with shit. I didn’t think I could get any lower.
Once she thought she hit rock bottom, she was able to rise above her addiction and troubled living situations to become one of the greatest Judo and MMA fighters in the world.
Becoming a Champion
In spite of her many setbacks in life, Ronda's endurance and dedication to what she loved pushed her to achieve more. In 2008, Ronda qualified for the Beijing Olympics where she won a bronze metal, making her the first American to win in women's Judo since it became an Olympic sport in 1992.
Following the Olympics, she retired from her Judo career to focus on MMA. Today, Ronda Rousey is considered by multiple publications as the #1 pound-for-pound female MMA fighter in the world. And, as of today, she's ranked as the #4 pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Her career has also expanded beyond the ring and into other forms of pop culture.
In 2014, Ronda made her film debut in the action film The Expendables 3 alongside Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Just a few months ago, she also had a huge role in the massive blockbuster hit Furious 7 where she had a long fight scene with Michelle Rodriguez.
After everything that Ronda Rousey has been through, it's incredible to see how far she's come. At just 28-years-old, I'm thinking we're just seeing the beginning of a long, fruitful career.
Ronda's book My Fight / Your Fight will become available in the U.S. and the U.K. starting today, and it can be purchased here.