The legend of Ronda Rousey has been sketched out pretty clearly before you walk with her, after a vicious recent workout, down the steps from a second-floor gym in the San Fernando Valley.
Ronda Rousey is, first and foremost, the singular force of women’s mixed martial arts – both for her prowess inside the Octagon and for her larger-than-life persona in the media, which has found her on the cover of ESPN the Magazine’s “Body Issue” and on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show. It’s that combination of skill and bombast that caused UFC president Dana White to create the first women’s division in UFC history, which will debut Saturday night in the main event of UFC 157 at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
She’s an Olympic bronze medalist in judo whose signature armbar has won her all six of her professional mixed martial arts fights in the first round. She swears like a sailor. She lacks a self-censor mechanism, which means she often blurts out headline-grabbing things, like calling Kim Kardashian a “glorified porn star” and saying she wants to fight the reality TV star, or proclaiming that she tries to have “as much sex as possible” before fights because it raises her testosterone. She once beat up two guys in a movie theater, and she’s the sexiest thing in an Octagon this side of Brittney Palmer.
All that is the legend of Ronda Rousey. But as the exhausted 26-year-old trudges down the steps, throws her gear in her bumper-sticker-covered, beat-up 2005 Honda Accord – the BMW X6 M that the UFC bought her is in the shop – and walks toward a coffee shop for a quick breather, you begin to realize: Her legend is much deeper that all that. She isn’t just the say-anything, beat-up-anybody persona that captures the attention of media and fans.