When an athlete as dominant as Ronda Rousey loses as suddenly and as violently as she did to Holly Holm on Saturday in the main event of UFC 193, the finger-pointing begins instantly.
Holm had a brilliant game plan against Rousey, the part-time movie star and full-time superstar, and executed it to perfection, knocking her out with a kick to the head at 59 seconds of the second round in front of a UFC-record crowd of 56,214 at Etihad Stadium.
The fight hadn’t ended for five minutes when the heat was turned up on Rousey’s coach, Edmond Tarverdyan.
Some went so far as to criticize the advice Tarverdyan gave her in between the first and second rounds, as if it had something to do with the loss. Most unequivocally, it had nothing to do with it. Zero.
The truth is that nothing Tarverdyan could possibly have said at that point would have made much of a difference.
At that stage, after Holm had spent five minutes picking Rousey apart and lacing her with punches and kicks and elbows, Rousey was ripe for the taking.
This, though, is what Tarverdyan said after a winded Rousey trudged to her corner:
“OK champ, beautiful work,” Tarverdyan said. “Listen to me: All she wants to do is catch you with that left hand and come on top with the hook.”
All the man was doing was trying to encourage his fighter. He did nothing wrong there.
Some will point to the controversy that swirled when Rousey’s mother, AnnMaria De Mars, ripped Tarverdyan and called him a bad coach and a terrible person.
A few weeks after that, news broke that he had declared bankruptcy.
None of it helped Rousey, but is it the reason she lost to Holm on Saturday?
Rousey lost because on this night, Holm was far better. It happens in sports.
That's what makes what Rousey nemesis Floyd Mayweather did all the more remarkable. People complained about who Mayweather fought or when he fought them or how he beat them, but at the end of the day, he fought more than two dozen world champions and won all 49 fights he took.
That’s extraordinary, and perhaps Rousey’s loss can clarify just how difficult that is to do.
As Rousey’s fame grew and she attracted movie deals and posed in swimsuits for magazines and wrote a compelling biography and got commercial and endorsement offers and became the biggest attraction in the sport by a long shot, demands on her increased exponentially.
Who knows if Rousey took any shortcuts in order to squeeze everything she was doing into her day, but she was doing the smart thing: She was capitalizing on opportunity.
Sure, one can make the point she should have focused on what had gotten her to the top. She was 12-0 and had 11 first-round finishes and, until Holm won the first round Saturday, Rousey had never lost a round.
She was in demand because of her talent, her looks, her wit and her place as a female superstar in a heavily male-dominated sport.
Rousey gives of herself to the media like few other athletes. For a star of her stature, she’s extremely generous with her time and doesn’t give dull answers. Reporters love her for it, but it takes a lot of time, and time is a precious commodity for someone like Rousey.
So Rousey wisely took the opportunities presented to her because they helped her to earn life-changing money and perhaps set her up for a long and lucrative post-fight career.
Even successful fighters like Rousey endure incredible punishment. The countless hours running to get into condition stresses the joints and causes aches and pains in the knees, the hips and the feet. The sparring and the grappling and the wrestling and everything else means there is always one body part or another that is hurting.
So, when an opportunity to act and perhaps make big money without getting kicked and punched comes along, you take it.
Perhaps Rousey’s mother was right, and Tarverdyan is a terrible coach. Certainly, though, no one was complaining about him when Rousey looked invincible.
But he isn’t the issue.
Nor, when it comes down to it, were the million and one things that Rousey had on her calendar every day.
She lost because she’s human and humans are fallible.
She’ll likely meet Holm in what figures to be a massive rematch in July in Las Vegas at UFC 200, and perhaps she’ll turn the tables.
One of the things in Holm’s career that gave her the confidence she could defeat Rousey was a defeat of her own to Anne Sophie Mathis in a boxing title match. Mathis violently knocked out Holm, who immediately went after the rematch. When she won it, she became a better fighter for it.
She carried that confidence into her fight Saturday with Rousey.
No one knows how Rousey is going to react. She was taken to a local hospital for observation. It’s likely we’ve heard the last of her for a while. It’s a fairly good guess she’ll slip off the grid and take stock of what happened.
There will be a lot of finger-pointing and "I told you so" in the aftermath of this fight. A lot of people will try to get into her ear.
The true test for Rousey will come in how she responds.
She became the largest figure in mixed martial arts because of great talent and an unquenchable thirst for victory.
Rousey still has those qualities in excess.
Some downtime could do her good. As her mother has undoubtedly already told her, time heals all wounds.
And it will heal Rousey’s, too.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ronda Rousey
- Holly Holm