“I’ve been booed in over 30 countries”: The Ronda Rousey Story

Rowdy Rousey

Kelefa Sanneh profiles Ronda Rousey, the former Olympian judoka and currently star of the UFC’s mixed martial arts circuit, in this week’s New Yorker. The UFC’s female division essentially exists because Rousey does; the 27-year-old has never lost and is known for a punishing, unique arm bar that she brought over from her judo training. She’s both the sport’s star and “heel” (her walk-up music in one match is Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”), and no other woman can compete with her. “In order to keep the attention of a restless audience,” Sanneh writes, “Rousey needs to find another Rousey”:

When Rousey talks about her reputation, she often uses the language of professional wrestling, as if her heel turn were merely a ploy to drum up interest. “If you’re cheering and the person next to you is booing, you’re going to cheer louder,” she says. “I love that. I love creating conflict within the audience.” But at her most compelling she sounds less like a sly provocateur and more like a sensitive soul, deeply offended by those she feels have wronged her. During her judo days, crowds usually rooted against her, maybe just because she was an American, in a sport typically dominated by Asians and Europeans. “I’ve been booed in over thirty countries,” she says, and some part of her still seems surprised, and perhaps a little hurt, that stardom hasn’t eliminated this phenomenon.

[The New Yorker’s shiny new website]