Ronda Rousey: How the WWE and UFC trailblazer put women's combat sports on the map

Ronda Rousey

When it comes to women’s combat sports, Ronda ‘Rowdy’ Rousey is up there as one of the most recognised fighters of the modern age.

After starting off as a judoka, the renowned Rowdy competed on some of the biggest stages in the world and has enjoyed a career paved with medals, titles, and historic milestones.

GiveMeSport Women takes a look back at Rousey’s journey and the incredible timeline that led her to becoming one of the world’s most influential sportswomen.

Judo career and Olympic history making

Rousey has mastered several disciplines within the combat sports world, but judo is where it all started.

At just 11 years of age, Rousey first got into judo where she trained alongside her mother, AnnMaria De Mars, for two years. De Mars became the first American to win gold at the World Judo Championships back in 1984.

When she was 13, Rousey accidentally broke her mother’s wrist while the pair were training together.

Fast forward four years and Rousey qualified for the 2004 Olympics, aged just 17. She lost her first match in Athens, but used this as the foundation leading up to her historic achievement at the next Games.

Ronda Rousey

After winning silver at the World Judo Championships and then gold in the Pan American Games in 2007, Rousey went on to make history at the 2008 Olympics.

She earned a bronze medal finish in Beijing — becoming the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in judo since the sport’s inception at the Games.

Ronda Rousey Olympics


Rousey’s mixed martial arts debut was certainly one to be remembered. She beat Hayden Munoz by submission after just 23 seconds inside the ring. 

Rowdy went on to notch a number of victories on the Strikeforce promotion after making her debut in 2011. After turning heads with her unbeaten streak, she challenged Women’s Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate and claimed the title after defeating Cupcake in the first round.

It wasn’t long after this that Rousey signed for UFC, becoming the first female fighter to do so.

Ronda Rousey

During her UFC days, she was given the blessing of Roddy Piper to officially adopt the nickname ‘Rowdy’ — one that has stuck with the fighter for many years.

Since beating Tate to claim the Women’s Bantamweight Championship title in 2012, Rousey reigned for three years as champion and was undefeated up until her loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 in 2015. 

Ronda Rousey

During her reign, Rowdy successfully defended her title five times and set a record for the shortest match in UFC history. She beat Cat Zingano in 14 seconds at UFC 182, though, Conor McGregor would go on to better this record after needing just 13 seconds to beat José Aldo 11 months later.

In 2018, Rousey became the first ever woman to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Ronda Rousey UFC Hall of Fame


After making MMA and UFC history, Rousey set new records in the world of professional wrestling after she signed for WWE in 2018.

She became the Raw women’s champion at SummerSlam later that year — becoming the first woman to win titles in both the UFC and WWE. Rousey also became the first woman to headline a pay-per-view event in both promotions.

Ronda Rousey Charlotte Flair

During her time on WWE, Rowdy struck up rivalries with Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, which led to one of the most iconic scenes ever on Monday Night Raw.

Rousey, Flair, and Lynch were arrested for their uncontrollable brawl, which continued backstage and involved Rowdy driving a police car while handcuffed.

Because of her lucrative contract during her time with WWE, she reportedly still remains the second highest earning female wrestler in the company’s history, behind only Big Time Becks.

Influential career

Thanks to her decorated career, Rousey was named ‘best female athlete ever’ by ESPN fans in 2015, snubbing Serena Williams of the honour.

The fighter has also been described as “one of the defining athletes of the 21st century” by Fox Sports.


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