'I did a whole lot of crying': the spectacular fall and rise of Ronda Rousey (2024)

Ronda Rousey was once again situated on the dais to promote an event she’s prominently featured in, but this time the other participants weren’t fighters.

They weren’t even fellow WWE wrestlers, though she would do plenty of press over the next week in New York ahead of SummerSlam, where she will challenge for the women’s championship against Alexa Bliss.

On this day, Rousey was flanked by leading man Mark Wahlberg, director Peter Berg and others at a press junket at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills for the action film Mile 22, which opened Friday in the United States.

Rousey portrays Samantha Snow, an elite CIA operative on an extraction mission in Southeast Asia. She briefly appeared in the films Furious 7 and The Expendables 3, but Mile 22 represents her first major action role, and along with her burgeoning career in the WWE, Rousey’s second act is off to a rousing start.

She learned to wrestle last year at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where the training included plenty of tutorials on acting. But now she had to figure out the nuances of film, too.

“A lot of people doubt that anyone can master more than one thing,” Rousey said, “and it’s easy to get stuck in (the mindset of) ‘you’re already good at this thing, you’re good at what’s comfortable,’ and it’s hard to try and learn something new with the world watching, because the first time you master something you do it in private.

“But I love those kinds of challenges and I love people doubting me.”

Rousey knows all about doubt under the magnifying glass of the public eye. Her career was in shambles just 20 months ago, and her post-UFC fortunes looked grim as she battled depression – and even contemplated killing herself – in the aftermath of two devastating defeats.

Rousey was loath to delve into the details of her emotional state following her fall from the top of the sporting landscape, but the 31-year-old opened up during a private speaking engagement moderated by Berg at his Santa Monica boxing gym.

“I did a whole lot of crying, isolating myself,” admitted Rousey, who paused intermittently to dab away at tears with a tissue. “(Husband Travis Browne) held me and let me cry and it lasted two years. I couldn’t have done it alone.

“There’s a lot of things you have to remember. Every missed opportunity is a blessing in disguise. I had to learn from experience. From the worst things, the best things have come as a result. Time is a great teacher. It’s that belief that time passes, even bad times.”

Now, Rousey is enjoying plenty of good times once again. She’s been praised for her performances in WWE and is already one of the organization’s top draws.

'I did a whole lot of crying': the spectacular fall and rise of Ronda Rousey (1)

Most of all, she’s dealt with the demons that accompany a fall from grace in public life. She was widely panned at first for shunning any questions about the losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes that effectively ended her fighting career.

Perhaps it was the rapport she struck with Berg on set in Colombia, but for the first time, Rousey was open and forthcoming when the painful losses were broached.

“One thing my mother never taught me was how to lose. She never wanted me to entertain it as a possibility,” said Rousey, who won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. “She’d say: ‘Let it suck. It deserves to suck.’”

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As a little girl growing up in Venice, California, Rousey dealt with apraxia, a motor-speech disorder.

She didn’t begin speaking until she was six, and her difficulty with verbal communication taught her to be economical with her words.

The former UFC bantamweight champion admitted she’s hesitant at times to “say anything at all” when she knows her chatter will be “cut, copy and pasted, split into 10 different articles so you can put out 10 different headlines … so they can get 10 times the clicks.”

“We live in an age of what I like to call trial by Twitter,” said Rousey, who has 3.2m followers on the platform. “There’s no incentive for speaking your opinion anymore because you’re always going to offend someone, so what do you really gain from your stating your opinion about anything? It’s almost like you get slapped on the wrist every single time you express your opinion.

“If you’re a public person you get a really big punch in the stomach instead of a slap on the wrist. Eventually that whittles people down and they express less and less and less of what they think and they keep more and more and more of it to themselves.

'I did a whole lot of crying': the spectacular fall and rise of Ronda Rousey (2)

She continued: “Why should I talk? I believe hearing me speak is a privilege and it’s a privilege that’s been abused, so why not revoke it from everyone? I don’t believe public criticism beating you down is the right thing to do.”

She’s also no longer beating down opponents unless it’s part of the script.

Rousey has rewritten her story arc, and along the way learned that “self-reliance and independence is real freedom”.

It’s not simply positive thinking. Rousey and Browne, a heavyweight in the UFC, live off the land on a large compound in rural Southern California.

There they raise chicken, steer and goat, an animal Rousey called “the perfect doomsday animal”, and she’s not kidding.

“I am a big doomsday prepper,” she said. “I think of it as a very positive outlook on the world. Some people think it is negative. But I think as a self-proclaimed genetic cream of the crop such as I am, I owe it to humanity to survive the end of the world. It’s my responsibility.

“Instead of my apocalypse plan being a handle of alcohol and maybe tears, which is a lot of people’s plan, I’m like, I’m going to make it. If anyone’s going to make it, I’m going to make it.”

  • In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
'I did a whole lot of crying': the spectacular fall and rise of Ronda Rousey (2024)
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