Until she suffered her first career loss in mid-November, Rowdy Ronda Rousey was considered invincible, at least to herself. The female side of pro UFC fighting was built on Rousey, an Olympic medallist in judo, and fighting machine. I can’t relate to her mindset or her ambitions but her autobiography, Rousey, is as compelling as any I’ve ever read.
MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) doesn’t interest me. Neither does two of anything or anyone fighting in a cage. But it’s a popular form of entertainment and UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is the top, professional level. It makes stars and millionaires of its fighters and Ronda’s influence on the sport is so great, she’s admired, respected and hated by women and men alike. UFC fighters consider her a peer, not some girl dabbling in fighting. It’s all she’s ever done since she discovered judo when she was a girl.
Co-written by Ronda’s sister Marie, Rousey relates the story of Ronda’s family, as much as her own. Her mother is a former Olympic judoka and is a total stage Mom when it comes to Ronda. Broken foot? Body injury? Suck it up, buttercup, and get out there and fight.
And Ronda loves to fight. As a reader, her hunger to beat up her opponent was like something strange growing in a science lab petri dish. I couldn’t identify with it but I also couldn’t wait for it to grow. Ronda knows tragedy, having lost her father at a young age. She endured the despair of poverty while pursuing her dream. And she turned adversities into propulsion toward her goal. Her story is a self-help book without trying to be one. If Ronda Rousey can lie, freezing cold and shivering in a rundown apartment where she couldn’t even afford sheets and convince herself that things would work out, you and I can certainly muster up some optimism in our own life situations.
Every person who’s successful in any aspect of life has a story worth telling, and that’s how I approached Rousey. Her story is part Rocky, part The Pursuit of Happyness and part Million Dollar Baby, but without the miserable ending. The book came out before her devastating loss to Holly Holm in UFC 193 but after she launched a Hollywood acting career and appeared in several movies. Some say her fighting days are behind her and she should go for acting full time. I’m guessing she’ll do whatever the hell she wants to do, or whatever her Mom tells her. First up, hosting SNL on January 23rd.
PS. At the other end of the autobiography spectrum is David Spade’s “Almost Interesting”. It’s sophomoric pap. He spends a lot of time telling guys how to pick up young women and no time at all on two of the sitcoms for which he’s known: Just Shoot Me and Rules of Engagement. It’s a dud.