Be it professional wrestling or mixed martial arts, over the last 5 years, Venice, California’s Ronda Rousey has done nothing but make headlines.
The 5-foot-7 blonde took the MMA world by storm when she became the first woman to ever compete inside a UFC cage. During her time in the Ultimate Fighting Championships, the world’s top MMA promotion, the armbar specialist established a reputation as a quick finisher. She was also the organizations first female champion. The blonde bombshell went undefeated in her first 12 fights and finished all but 1 of the contests in the very 1st round. After suffering consecutive losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes respectively, Rousey has decided to put her MMA career of hold to pursue other interests.
Those other interests include signing a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and quickly establishing herself as one of the company’s top star. The 31-year-old stole the show last April at WrestleMania 34 when she, along wither her partner Kurt Angle, took on the team of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
However, though it may be hard to believe, Ronda Rousey wasn’t always a star. In fact, even as a former Olympian, she received little notoriety. The 15 photos we are about to see show a young woman still trying to make her way in the world and will also help fans better understand her journey to stardom.
15 17-Year-Old Ronda
While many Rousey fans are aware that Rousey won a Bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, many don’t realize that it wasn’t her first appearance at the Games. The blonde armbar specialist also competed in the 2004 Olympic Games, which were held in Athens Greece. In fact, Rousey, who was 17 at the time, was the youngest Judoka in the tournament. She would lose her first match to the eventual silver medal winner, Austria’s Claudi Heill. This image shows Ronda Rousey at 17 years of age – just after her first Olympic run. When looking back on her Olympic experience, Rousey has said, “The Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I was lucky enough to go twice, but most people only get one chance. And in judo, you can train your whole life, and it'll come down to a split second: You can lose everything or win anything.” In this photo, we can see a teenage Rousey begin to resemble the woman we see every week on WWE television.
Fun Fact: While getting the chance to represent one’s county in the Olympic Games is an amazing opportunity, making ends meet can be difficult. After her second run in 2008, Rousey still had to work three jobs to make enough money to survive.
14 Baby Sitter
As fans, we are used to seeing Ronda Rousey make a living either inside the octagon or the squared circle. However, growing up she worked several regular jobs before becoming a household name. Here we see a young (possibly in her early teens) Rousey doing a little a babysitting. The blonde bombshell has also previously worked as a bartender. In her own words, “I was painfully shy for a long time. I mean, that's something I really had to work my way out of. And I really think it was because, after the 2008 Olympics, I spent a whole year bartending. It was the one thing that really forced me to be just not so scared to start conversations with strangers.” The judo specialist has been very outspoken during the course of both her MMA and pro wrestling career, so it’s probably difficult for fans to imagine a shy Ronda Rousey.
Fun Fact: Rousey’s biggest rival over the course of her MMA career was a fighter out of Tacoma, Washington by the name of Miesha Tate. The two met inside the cage on two separate occasions. In their 1st meeting, Rousey defeated Tate via armbar in the 1st round. The 2nd contest ended the same way – though Tate managed to make it to the 3rd round.
13 Ex-Boyfriend Henry Akins
In this image, we see Ronda Rousey standing next to her ex-boyfriend, a judo fighter named Henry Akins. Since becoming a celebrity, Ronda Rousey has evolved into something of a beauty symbol in the world of professional sports. She has even been involved in several modeling shoots and has posed from publications such as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editon and ESPN The Magainzes 2012 Body Issue. In 2013 she was listed at number 29 on Maxim Magazine’s Hot 100 list. She has openly discussed her status as one of sport’s hottest female athlete, having said, “I don't feel the need to be the hot chick every second of the day. I like to be able to surprise people when I turn it on. I want it to be like the movie 'She's All That' when they unveil her.”
Fun Fact: Since parting ways with Akins, the gentleman in the picture, Rousey has been romantically linked to UFC Heavyweights Brendan Schaub and Travis Browne. She dated Schaub for a brief period, back in 2015. Following their break up, in the summer of 2017, she married fighter Travis Browne. Interestingly enough, the two men fought each other at UFC 181 in 2014, with Rousey’s husband emerging the victor via TKO.
12 Olympic Action
Prior to entering the world of mixed martial arts, Ronda Rousey was an outstanding judoka (judo player). In fact, she even won a bronze medal in Judo at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Since Olympic judo players don’t often receive a great deal of publicity, Rousey could still walk down the street without being recognized in those days. In this photo, we see the future UFC champ getting ready to toss her opponent to the mat. Unsurprisingly, she used her judo background to succeed inside the octagon. When discussing her style, Rousey has stated, “The style I have in judo is very unique... One big advantage a judo player has is they have very good posture and - like, wrestlers, they show when they're about to do a take-down... which judo players don't, and so I kind of incorporate the boxing style with a judo grip and finishing that way.” Her signature hold, the armbar, is a technique she learned from her judo days.
Fun Fact: Rousey won a number of medals in high-profile judo tournaments over the course of her career. Some of the highlights include; a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 2007 and silver medal at the World Championships that same year.
11 Baby Pic
Though she may be hard to recognize, the baby in this photo is none other than “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. Here the future MMA legend is being held by her mother, AnnMaria De Mars, fresh off her victory at The Senior Judo Championship. De Mars, much like her famous daughter was also a very accomplished judoka. In fact, she has the distinction of being the first American (male or female) to win gold at the World Judo Championship – a feat she accomplished back in 1984. When discussing her judo strategy, Rousey’s mom explains, “I have always argued that the best defense is a good offense. If you are attacking your opponent, half of their attention has to be spent on defending your attacks, so they are going to be much less effective in attacking you. Whether as a coach or competitor, it’s best to keep this in mind—You don’t fight principles, you fight people. I had a serious injury when I was young—I have since had a total knee replacement, an option that did not exist back then. Because of that disability, my standing technique was very limited, and it was necessary for me to take the opponent to the ground as soon as possible before my knee gave out on me and I fell.”
Fun Fact: De Mars earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside.
10 Pro MMA Debut
The image here was captured back on March 27, 2011, at an event which was held in Tarzana, California – King of the Cage: Turning Point. This card featured Ronda Rousey professional MMA debut; about against a Brazilian fighter by the name of Ediane Gomes. That evening the former Olympic medalist would defeat Gomes in just 25 seconds – winning the bout via armbar submission. Despite the quick loss to Rousey, the Brazilian went on to have a solid l career. Gomes currently competes in Invicta FC and had a professional record that stands at 11-4. However, in truth, she will probably be best remembered as Ronda Rousey's first pro opponent. This photo captures Rousey celebrating her first professional win, and from the looks of things, she didn’t even break a sweat.
Fun Fact: Rousey's second professional fight would be against Charmine Tweet, a solid fighter in her own right, for a relatively obscure promotion called HKFC. The future UFC champ would make short work of Tweet – defeating her in just 45 seconds via armbar. After just two pro fights she would sign with Strikeforce – the top organization for female fighters at the time. This was before the Ultimate Fighting Championship had a women’s division of any kind.
9 1st Place
Based on this photo, it would appear that Ronda Rousey was a force to be reckoned with, even as a young child. The young judo player proudly displays her 1st place certificate after winning a contest. This photo reminds us that Rousey didn’t become a successful martial artist overnight and that she has been competing since early childhood. Interestingly enough, while she may have been practicing for a very long time, she didn’t always enjoy it. In fact, Rousey was once quoted as saying, “I'm a big crier. I never cry when something is painful, but I cry if things are frustrating. Like if I'm trying to do something, and I mess up over and over. If I'm playing a video game, and I can't beat a level that I've tried 10 times, I'll cry. When I was a kid, I think I cried for every practice from 2003 to the middle of 2006.” At least all the blood, sweat and tears she put into her training paid off in a big way.
Fun Fact: Rousey, and her opponent Liz Carmouche, became the first women to compete in the UFC of February 23, 2013, at UFC 153. Rousey would go on to defeat Carmouche via armbar submission in the 1st round.
8 Amateur Fight
Ronda Rousey stepped into the cage to compete for the very first time as an amateur at an event called CFL-Ground Zero. She quickly dispatched her opponent –an unknown fighter by the name of Hayden Munoz – winning the contest via submission (armbar) in just 23 seconds. This photo shows Rousey after the contest with her hand held high. Munoz, who looks pretty upset in the photo, will still go down in MMA history as Ronda Rousey’s very first opponent. As we now know, the future UFC star would end up beating several opponents with her signature armbar. When talking about getting an opponent in position for the hold, Rousey has said, “For me, MMA is like speed chess. It's like I'm herding a person into a certain position. Say my endgame is an armbar. I'm not gonna actually take you and put you there. What I'm going to do is convince you that it's a good idea to move in the direction I want you to go.”
Fun Fact: Rousey would go on to win her final two amateur bouts via armbar, against Autumn King and Taylor Stratford. Over the course of her 3-fight amateur career, Ronda Rousey spends a total of 104 seconds in the cage.
7 Papa Rousey
This photo features Ronda Rousey as an infant, sitting on her father’s lap. Her father’s name was Ron Rousey and is the person for whom she was named after. Sadly, Rousey’s dad passed away back in 1995, when the future champ was just 8 years of age. Ron Rousey broke his back during a sledding accident and took his own life shortly after. Rousey has been very open and honest when discussing the tragic incident. She once told E! News, “ I remember that when he passed, I would try just to tell myself that he was on a business trip and he'd be back, and that was my way to cope with it," she says with tears in her eyes. "I wouldn't be crying unless he was awesome. He was the best."
Fun Fact: One of the most interesting facts about Ronda Rousey’s MMA career is that she has never gone the distance. That’s right, between her time as an amateur and a pro, the blonde judo specialist fought a total 17 times –without a single bout being decided by the judges. In fact, out of her 17 fights, only 2 went past the first round. Her loss to Holy Holm ended in the 2nd, and her rematch with Miesha Tate went to round 3.
6 Olympic Promo
Long before she had her own UFC and WWE posters, there was this promo pic taken just before the 2008 Olympic Games. This charming photograph shows Ronda Rousey roughly 2 years before her MMA debut. One thing fans will notice with all of Rousey’s photos, regardless of her age at the time they were taken, is that she always looks confident. In the past, the bronze medalist has openly discussed how confidence is perceived in our society. She has said, “Somehow, self-deprecation is considered modesty, and my confidence was considered arrogance, and it's considered a bad thing to compliment yourself. We're always told to compliment everyone around you and talk yourself down. I don't know how we're expected to look at ourselves healthily if we're told to talk about ourselves negatively." Despite being only 31 years of age, Rousey, based on her comments, seems to have interesting takes on a variety of subjects.
Fun Fact: Perhaps unsurprisingly, in a relatively short period of time, Ronda Rousey has already established herself as one of the biggest stars on the WWE roster. She has defeated Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania. Moreover, Rousey is scheduled to face current Raw Women’s Champ Nia Jax, at an upcoming pay-per-view in mid-June.
5 Mom And Sister
In this fun throwback photo, we see Ronda Rousey, her mother AnnMaria De Mars, and her young sister (possibly Maria Burns Ortiz.) Rousey’s mother, who was also a world-class athlete played a major role, in her daughter becoming the star she is today. Besides offering a young Ronda Rousey technical advise on how to improve her judo game, she also taught the future UFC star how to mentally approach her contests. As the current WWE Superstar recall, “I was always pushed to do that much more, and in the long run that made me more of an MMA fighter. My mom always told me that if I let it go to the judges, I'd lost. There was no way I was going to win a decision, so I had to find ways to finish the fight fast.” Apparently, Rousey took her mothers advice. Over the course of her career, all 12 of her professional victories came by way of stoppage – usually via submission in the 1st round.
Fun Fact: Ronda Rousey made her 1st in-ring appearance for the WWE at WrestleMania 31, back March of 2015. She was led to the ring (as a member of the audience) by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to confront Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
4 Olympic Bronze Medalist
Here we have Ronda Rousey smiling for the camera, while proudly displaying her newly won Olympic bronze medal. She has been training since she was very young and dealt with a great deal of pressure along the way. In talking about dealing with pressure, Rousey has said, "Everything in the world is information. The information you choose to acknowledge and the information you choose to ignore is up to you. You can let outside factors beyond your control throw off your focus. You can let aching muscles hold you back. You can let silence make you feel uncomfortable. By choosing to focus only on the information that is necessary, you can tune out every distraction, and achieve far more." It’s fair to say, based on her extensive list of accomplishments, that this approach has served her well over the years. This image captures Rousey following one of her proudest moments leading up to ultimately becoming a UFC champ and WWE Superstar.
Fun Fact: Rousey is one of the few mixed martial artists out there, whose star power transcends the octagon. For example, In January of 2016, she hosted the popular late night comedy show Saturday Night Live. For those wondering, the musical guest was Selena Gomez.
3 9th Grade Yearbook
This photo is from Ronda Rousey’s 9th-grade yearbook. Here we see the future star smiling for the camera in this black and white image. Little did her classmates know, that they were attending high school with a future MMA world champion and WWE Superstar. While Rousey exudes confidence these days, this wasn’t always the case. As the former bantamweight titleholder explains: “When I was in school, martial arts made you a dork, and I became self-conscious that I was too masculine. I was a 16-year-old girl with ringworm and cauliflower ears. People made fun of my arms and called me 'Miss Man.' It wasn't until I got older that I realized: These people are idiots. I'm fabulous.” It’s probably safe to assume that there aren’t too many folks making fun of Ronda Rousey these days.
Fun Fact: Outside of MMA and Wrestling, Rousey has been featured in several major motion pictures. Her big screen debut came back in 2014 when she was cast as Luna in the Patrick Hughes action film The Expendables 3. The flick was a commercial success having brought in $214.6 million on a $90 million budget. She has also starred in Furious 7 and Entourage (the movie).
2 Lift Off
Even as a child, Rousey was willing to take on anyone, regardless of gender. In this image, we see the young judo master lifting a male classmate in the air. Speaking of lifting, one of the fascinating things about Ronda Rousey is the fact that she doesn’t lift weights. That’s right, despite the fact that she almost always in outstanding shape, Ronda Rousey doesn’t spend any time pumping iron. She was gone on record stating, “I don't lift weights at all. Every muscle on my body is for an actual task; there is no muscle that I train for show. If I want to be able to do a certain move or action, I train really hard until I can. And with all of that training comes muscle definition, so it's really an afterthought.” While she may have never lifted weights, Rousey outstanding work ethic has helped her earn a reputation as one of the most physically powerful women in both sports and entertainment
Fun Fact: Ronda Rousey’s nickname “Rowdy” was taken (with permission) from wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. While it comes from the world of wrestling, she used the name during her mixed martial arts career, long before she officially signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
1 Old MySpace Photo
This is an old MySpace photo that shows Rousey with her longtime friend Marina Shafir. Shafir’s career path has mirrored her friends in many ways. Like Rousey, she is also a former mixed martial artist. However, the 5-foot-7 brunette wasn’t able to emulate her pal’s success. After going 5-0 as an amateur, Marina Shafir finished her professional career with a 1-2 record, after suffering consecutive 1st round knockouts in the all-female MMA promotion Invicta Fighting Championship FC. The former Invicta competitor is also a member of Rousey stable of female fighters known as the "Four Horsewoman", along with Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler. All four women are also currently signed with WWE. In truth, sports entertainment was an obvious for choice for Rousey as she has been a fan since childhood. She has said in the past, “I was just a little three-year-old kid, and I loved Hulk Hogan. And when you're a three-year-old kid, you don't list off the reasons. I was just drawn to him. He was always my favorite, even in the video games and everything like that. He was the one that I always remembered and liked the most.”
Fun Fact: Marina Shafir is engaged to wrestler Roderick Strong, who competes in WWE’s developmental promotion, NXT.