By Ian Sullivan
In my opinion, the most important athlete in America right now isn’t Lebron James or Tom Brady. In fact, it’s not even a man. The most important athlete in America right now is “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, the undisputed best female MMA fighter in the world. Her international renown comes from what she’s doing both on and off the “playing field, “which in this case happens to be an octagon enclosed with chain link fencing.
Rousey, who was the first woman to ever medal in Judo at the 2008 Summer Olympics, has been making waves in the MMA community for the past few years, but until very recently, she was far from being a household name, despite her impressive undefeated record. This past Friday, Rousey defeated Cat Zingano by submission in UFC 184. It only took 14 seconds. That’s right: the match was just slightly less than a quarter of a minute long, making it the quickest defeat in UFC history. Zingano was actually predicted to be a worthy adversary, but Rousey shattered expectations, and in a literal manner of seconds, she catapulted from being a professional athlete on the rise, to one of the most talked about in sports these past few days. And deservedly so. Ronda Rousey needs to be recognized.
There’s a sort of stigma around the masculinity that goes along with violent sports in this country. Football, hockey, boxing, mixed martial arts…all dominated by men. Until now. Rousey is a polarizing figure, forcing us all to reconsider our perceptions of femininity and give credit where credit is due. UFC commentator Joe Rogen even said recently he thinks Rousey has what it takes to beat some men in the sport.
Unfortunately, it’s paradoxical to even be celebrating her MMA success to this extent. On the one hand, yes, what she’s doing is fantastic and moving and worthy of discussion. But at the same time, this very topic only serves to underscore the current gender gaps and inequalities that still exist in our society today. It’s a double-edged sword, definitely, but the discussion alone makes it well worth it.
The feminist movement needs more accessible leaders, and Rousey is the perfect candidate. What she is accomplishing is simply incredible, and her viability as a key figure in the feminist movement needs to be explored. In a post several weeks ago, I touched on the importance of strong female role models in sports, and how our society needs more of them. Well, enter Ronda Rousey. She’s proof that women can succeed in any way a man can, and can do so while holding on to her femininity. She’s fighting, both literally and metaphorically, for respect but respect that does not come at a cost. She’s earned everything she has to be proud of, and she’s done it as a woman.
Rousey is an inspiration to us all. Men should view her skill and reconsider the preconceived gender norms of our society, and women should draw from her great accomplishments and aspire for more of their own. So if you haven’t been paying attention to her, then start. And if you have, keep doing so, as she continues her quest of kicking a** and knocking down whoever stands in her way, both inside the octagon and out. You can even catch her in a couple feature films later this year. Who knows, maybe Rousey will soon get a shot at a male opponent. The president of UFC, Dana White, “joked” about it a recently. Hmm.