Exclusive: Rousey says she’s down but not out

In the days after her stunning defeat, Ronda Rousey says that she's ready to fight again.

Editor's note: This story contains explicit language.


he isn't ready to talk yet. The stitches in her lip are still dissolving. The side of her face was kicked so hard, a few of her teeth still feel unstable. "It might be three to six months before I can eat an apple, let alone take an impact," she says.

But Ronda Rousey opens the red door of her smallish boho town house in Venice, California, on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving because one day she does want to be Ronda Rousey again.

"I'm just really fucking sad."

Her voice is so soft you have to lean in to hear her. Sad is all she can feel since her knockout loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 on Nov. 14. She speaks slowly, letting each word hurt. Like her hands in that ill-fated fight, her guard is down.

"I need to come back. I need to beat this chick. Who knows if I'm going to pop my teeth out or break my jaw or rip my lip open. I have to fucking do it."

A FEW BLOCKS away on the Venice Beach boardwalk, a painter touches up the neon-green wall below a mural of Rousey, painted after her 34-second win over Bethe Correia in August. It was the third straight fight she'd won in less than a minute and the one that made UFC announcer Joe Rogan say, "Once in a lifetime doesn't apply to Ronda Rousey. It's once ever-in human history."

Brazilian street artists Bicicleta Sem Freio drew Rousey as a colorful superhero with a green-eyed, orange-tongued leopard growling at her side. Her hair is flowing wildly along her face. Her fists are up, ready to fight. Her eyes are fixed and fierce.

Rousey is not going to want to see that mural for a while. Aside from a little puffiness in her bottom lip, she still looks like Ronda Rousey. She just doesn't much feel like her.

"I've turned off my phone," she says. "I haven't looked at it. I've just been having long conversations with Mochi [her 7-year-old Argentinian Mastiff]."

She did shower today and eat a bit of onion bagel with cream cheese. She got dressed -- yes, sweats count -- and opened her door, first to her sister Maria Burns Ortiz, who brought her coffee, and then again for this interview.

"I was thinking, 'On the bright side, I'm more like crushed idealism and sardonic sense of humor now.'"

The loss to Holm is still too scary to fully feel or see. The retelling is told in fragments.

"I got hit in that first round. ... I cut my lip open and knocked a couple of my teeth loose. I was out on my feet from the very beginning."

"I wasn't thinking clearly. I had that huge cut in my mouth and I just spit [the blood] out at my feet. Then they brought the bucket over and I'm like, 'Why didn't I spit it in the bucket?' I never spit on the ground."

"It was like a dumbed-down dreamy version of yourself making decisions. ... I was just trying to shake myself out of it. I kept saying to myself, 'You're OK, keep fighting. You're OK, keep fighting.'"

"I just feel so embarrassed. How I fought after that is such an embarrassing representation of myself. I wasn't even fucking there."

Ronda Rousey in her own words

Ronda Rousey's confidence and outspoken nature have made her one of the first global female superstars who's been able to brand herself authentically. But how will she bounce back after her devastating loss to Holly Holm? Ramona Shelburne has the story.

IT'S HARD TO square this shredded version of Rousey with the superhero a 10-minute walk away. Was she the one who put the cape on? Or did we just need her to fly?

It wasn't enough for her just to win fights; she had to win in 30 seconds with some completely implausible takedown. She did it enough times that some of the great male athletes of our age -- LeBron James, J.J. Watt, Kobe Bryant -- started bowing down and tweeting respect after her fights.

Then she started taking on opponents outside the ring-from convicted domestic abusers like Floyd Mayweather to the "do-nothing bitches" who just "try to be pretty and be taken care of by somebody else," as she put it. That's when some people started describing her as a new feminist icon. English writer John Berger once described the world as a place where "men look at women and women watch themselves being looked at." Rousey was like, What are you looking at? Beyonce gave her props. Ellen DeGeneres became her small-screen BFF. Movie studios began to find roles for her. Teenage girls and middle-aged lawyers bought $1 million worth of "Don't be a D.N.B" T-shirts and added "Rowdy" to their social media profiles.

She does not apologize for her ambitions: "Maybe I can't do it all before my prime, before my body is done. But fuck it, maybe I can."

She does not soften herself to make anyone more comfortable: "Most people get scared away from having an opinion. It's not so much my opinions everybody relates to, it's that I don't care about being punished for it."

She says things women have wanted to say for years but have worried might be misconstrued: "It's not my responsibility to make everything I say idiot-proof. If a dumbass can't understand it, then I'm not going to spend my time putting everything I think into layman's terms."

“Maybe I can't do it all before my prime, before my body is done. But f--- it, maybe I can.”

- Ronda Rousey

She refused to be judged by any standard of beauty: "I think it's hilarious if people say that my body looks masculine," she said on an episode of UFC's "Embedded" that aired before the Correia fight. "I'm just like, 'Listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than fucking millionaires doesn't mean it's masculine.' I think it's femininely badass as fuck because there's not a single muscle on my body that isn't for a purpose. Because I'm not a do-nothing bitch. It's not very eloquently said, but it's to the point. And maybe that's just what I am. I'm not that eloquent, but I'm to the point."

She was the perfect megaphone for the moment. This was the year the NFL recognized the domestic violence committed by its players; the year Mayweather's camp tried to pull the press credentials from two female journalists who'd criticized him and was skewered for it; the year the leading Democratic presidential candidate was a woman, as was a top-tier Republican contender; the year women wanted to gladiate like Olivia Pope and tear down walls like Becky Hammon.

"People can say I am a terrible role model because I swear all the time or that I fight people," Rousey told ESPN in 2013. "Look, I don't want little girls to have the same ambitions as me. I want them to know that it is OK to be ambitious. ... I want them to know that it is OK to say whatever it is that is on their mind."

The more invincible she seemed, the louder she was cheered and from more corners. She was becoming everyone's avatar. That's a lot to put on someone who makes a living fighting in a cage-it's a lot to put on anyone, probably too much. But she kept living up to it until Holm's thunderous kick to the side of her head sent her crashing down to earth.

Seven years ago, Rousey was such a compelling personality and fighter that UFC president Dana White, who'd previously said "Never" when asked if women would ever fight for him, happily ate his words and created the women's division. Now she makes well north of seven figures per fight, plus another $3 million to $5 million in endorsements annually. Then there are the movies (Furious 7 and Entourage this year, a reboot of Roadhouse next year), the autobiography (My Fight/Your Fight, published in May) and countless media appearances.

Now we're left wondering what really ended that night in Australia. The Rousey Myth of Invincibility? The idea that one woman could fly in on a cape and take down male hegemony with an armbar? The UFC's marketing strategy of Ronda as Amazon? Or just a winning streak?

Rousey sinks into her couch to ponder the question. "I feel like I'm grieving the death of the person who could've done that," she says.

Mochi leans her head against a blanket on the floor and whimpers. The big, beautiful dog has been crying a lot lately. They've been together since Rousey's last lowest moment, when she won bronze, not gold, in judo at the Beijing Olympics, and when Rousey cries, so does Mochi.

"I always say you have to be willing to get your heart broken. That's just what fucking happens when you try."

"I just feel so embarrassed. How I fought after that is such an embarrassing representation of myself. I wasn't even fucking there," Rousey says about Holm's kick to the side of her head. Nick Laham

SHE SLEPT THE entire 15-hour flight home from the fight in Australia, numbed by the painkillers she's always hated taking. TMZ caught her leaving the airport when she landed, a pillow in front of her face to protect her from the world's sight.

The next day she got into a truck with her boyfriend, Travis Browne, and drove 15 hours to a remote ranch in Texas. It was supposed to be a celebratory trip, a long rest after a long year. Three fights in nine months, two movies, white-hot fame and a series of simmering controversies during training camp-12 months way up close to the sun. The plan had been to beat Holm, celebrate with a gigantic batch of chicken wings and a lot of cider beer at a restaurant in Melbourne, fly home and drive off with Travis to hunt wild turkey for Thanksgiving at her sister Jennifer's house.

They took off after her last fight in August, and it was one of the best weeks of her life. No phones. No obligations. Just the two of them sleeping on a mattress in the back of his truck each night, making up silly names and voices for the animals on the ranch and enjoying the honeymoon stage of a new relationship. She says she loved the way he made her feel taken care of and safe. How he'd wake up at 5:45 a.m. to make her coffee and fix her breakfast so she could sleep an extra 30 minutes before training. How he hunted with a bow and arrow instead of a gun. He reminded her of her father.

Rousey's father committed suicide when she was 8 years old. Browne was 10 when his father drank himself to death. When they first started seeing each other in early summer, they bonded quickly and deeply, two fighters with holes in their hearts.

That was before Browne's ex-wife, Jenna Renee Webb, accused him of domestic violence in a series of tweets and a graphic Instagram post in July. Browne categorically denied it.

The UFC suspended him from competition while Campbell & Williams, a law firm they hired, investigated the accusations. "We retained an incredibly well-respected investigator who spent 25 years ... with the FBI and interviewed all relevant parties, including both Browne and the alleged victim," says managing partner Hunter Campbell. "Ultimately, the investigator comfortably determined there was inconclusive evidence to support claims of alleged domestic violence."

Over the summer, Webb called out Rousey on social media. "I expected more from her. She should be ashamed of herself. ... It's only a matter of time that she sees his true colors."

"The investigation wasn't about clearing me," Browne said. "It was about finding the truth if I did something. ... I knew there was nothing because I did nothing. If anything, yeah, we yelled at each other. Would I say nasty things to her? Fuckin' A. But I wasn't the only one saying them."

Browne called Rousey and her mother the first day his ex-wife made allegations on social media. He swore to them he hadn't done anything violent but that he'd understand if she wanted to end the relationship. Rousey believed him and decided to stand by him. "Why can't [people] have some confidence or trust in me that I would make a good decision and be with a good man regardless of how it looks?" she said during training camp. She refused to answer questions about their relationship before the fight.

Rousey and boyfriend Travis Browne, before UFC 193, at their hotel suite in Melbourne. Nick Laham

She said she didn't want to shame the accuser, because that's so often what happens in domestic violence cases. She hung up on reporters who pressed the issue, thinking it was too complicated to explain in conference calls, where her quotes could be chopped up into tweets and contextualized by people she had never met. She had to focus on beating Holm first.

"It's hard, it's really hard. I'm very anti-domestic violence," she said one day after training at her gym in LA, tears streaming down her cheeks. "But I know that he didn't do anything. Now I'm put in this situation where I'm finally happy with somebody that respects me and cares about me, and I'm like, 'What do I do?'"

The issue quickly got conflated with a controversy over her autobiography, in which she writes of fighting her way out of a confrontation with an ex-boyfriend she had caught taking nude pictures of her. According to her account, she punched him when he blocked her from leaving their apartment, and when he got into her car and grabbed the steering wheel, she yanked him by his hoodie and dragged him out of the car. Rousey says it was self-defense. Others wondered whether it was domestic violence.

After the Holm fight, she'd explain it all, she said. She'd ask people to trust her after hearing her conflicted feelings on the issue. And if they still couldn't understand, she would live with that.

"At the end of the day, I can't curl up with people's opinions," she said. "Even when everyone thinks the world of me, I still go to bed anxious and freaking out because I'm afraid of everything. The only time I've gotten a reprieve from that [feeling] in my life is since I've been with him."

Then she lost to Holm and there was no plan. They just got into the truck and drove. Texas was freezing. The wind howled every night. She watched Browne hunt once. He didn't get anything. Another group of hunters gave them a deer they'd killed.

It was miserable.

"I kind of just slept a lot and ate fast food," she says, sitting up a bit on the couch to see what Mochi is doing. "First I was so sick I couldn't eat anything. Then I just slept and pooped in the woods. I used a whole roll of toilet paper in one day.

"Physically, my body was refusing its own failures. It was, like, sick of itself. Expelling itself. Like all the skin came off my face. My whole body flushed it out."

She left her phone at home. Travis answered texts from her family, trainer and agent. She shut out the outside world. She's been selling the fight game for so long, she knew what was being said about her.

"That I'm a fucking failure and I deserve everything that I got," she says sharply.

Rousey shares a quiet moment in training camp with Browne. Nick Laham

AFTER ROUSEY LOST, many people began to revel in the idea that the woman who could kick everyone's ass in under a minute had gotten her comeuppance. Donald Trump tweeted that she was "not a nice person." 50 Cent posted a picture of her unconscious, then tried to blame it on his friend Floyd Mayweather before deleting it. Justin Bieber reposted one of the thousands of memes making fun of Rousey that went viral after the fight, then also deleted it. Lady Gaga-she of the raw meat dress and matching hat-posted a photo of Holm punching Rousey on Instagram and captioned it, "THAT'S WHAT YOU GET FOR NOT TOUCHING GLOVES!"

("It was just like a reaction," Rousey says about her decision not to touch gloves with Holm before the fight. "I was like, 'The last time I saw you [at the weigh-in], you were putting your fist on my chin and trying to get a cheap hit on me, then you turn around and you want to touch gloves? You have to be one way or the other. So if you want to be that way with me, that's the way it is.'")

Fellow MMA fighter Cat Zingano was at Kalapaki Joe's bar on the Hawaiian island of Kauai when Rousey got knocked out. She should've been happy; Rousey beat her in 14 seconds when they fought in February. But then everyone started yelling "In your face!" and laughing as Rousey bled on the mat. "When I saw what people were saying to her, I was so disappointed in the fans and the sport. I immediately got protective of her," Zingano says. "It was pitiful how people were treating her. And I love all these armchair quarterbacks on etiquette. She didn't touch gloves? I've never touched gloves. I might give them some knuckles or whatever. But we're getting in a fistfight inside some fenced-in walls. You want there to be etiquette?"

Take nothing away from Holm. She dominated the fight. But Holm is the first to tell you none of the spoils of victory she's basking in now would be possible without Rousey.

"I have a lot of respect for her," Holm said after the fight. "I wouldn't be here and had this opportunity if it wasn't for what she has done. There are a lot of female fighters before her who paved the way, and all of that has built up to this. But she was definitely the biggest to really make a splash."

This isn't really new. The fight game has long been a stage for athletes who became symbols of social change and objects of derision. William Nack wrote of Muhammad Ali after his loss to Joe Frazier in 1971, "For many viewers, Ali was still the mouth that poured, the renegade traitor and rabble-rouser whose uppity black ass needed dusting. For many others, of course, he symbolized all successful men of color who did not conform in a white man's world-and the hope that one, at least one, would overcome."

History has been kind to Ali because he helped usher in the societal changes that needed to happen. He also beat Frazier the next two times they fought.

How Rousey will be remembered largely depends on what she does next.

"I guess it's all going to be determined by what happens in the rematch," she says. "Everything is going to be determined by that. Either I'll win and keep going or I won't and I'll be done with everything."

SERENA WILLIAMS WAITED until the Friday after Thanksgiving to text. She sent Rousey her love and support and, most important, her understanding.

They'd met for sushi one night in Los Angeles this fall, about a month after Williams lost her own shot at perfection and a grand slam-she was upset by Roberta Vinci at the U.S. Open, sending her into her own deep mourning period. A few weeks later, she issued a statement saying she was sitting out the rest of the season to heal from injuries, including the one to her heart. But out with Rousey, she was closer to her true self, and Rousey had found a kindred spirit.

"I fucking love her," Rousey says. "Everybody else is like, 'Oh, I'm small and proper and tennis-y' and she's just like, fuckin' muscles, curvaceousness, awesomeness. She doesn't back down from anyone."

“I was always so sure that I could will my body to do anything that I wanted it to do. I wouldn't listen to it.

- Ronda Rousey

It's easy, too easy maybe, to make the parallel between these two dominant athletes, each a win away from immortality (until the next match/fight). But Williams isn't carrying tennis on her back the way Rousey carries the UFC. "I call it juggling on a unicycle," Rousey says. During camp she's training twice a day for the fight and driving all over town to promote it. The questions are always the same. The interviews always take longer than they're supposed to. Someone says they just need five minutes of her time, it turns into 20.

"I hate giving stock answers, it makes me nuts. I hate repeating myself," she said one fall afternoon while driving to Fox Studios to tape promos to be played during the next Sunday's NFL games. "That's a good thing bartending taught me."

It takes 10 minutes to name all the bars in LA where she either worked or tried to work. It was 2008, after the Olympics. Rousey had no career, no home and no prospects. All she wanted to do was everything she'd missed out on by dedicating her life to judo. There was The Redwood in Downtown, Gladstones in Malibu, The Cork in Crenshaw. She'd see a post on Craigslist and apply. In between, she'd squeeze in shifts at an animal rehabilitation center and 24 Hour Fitness and give judo lessons for $50 an hour. She'd go into the bathroom at The Cork and take five-minute naps on the toilet. At one point she fell asleep at the wheel and crashed her car on the 405. There's still a small scar on her nose.

"I was always so sure that I could will my body to do anything that I wanted it to do," she said, making her way through LA traffic. "I wouldn't listen to it."

Twenty minutes ago, she was annoyed at her sparring partner for running behind and throwing off her schedule. She's going to be late for the Fox interview, which will make her late for the next interview, which might cut into any potential rest time before jiujitsu practice at the Gracie Academy in Torrance at night.

But she used to live in this part of town. She knows a shortcut.

"This used to be my exit!" she yells. "You get off on Motor, take a left and then a right and right. There's my pizza place. I love that pizza place!"

She laughs as she cuts across three lanes of traffic to get off the 10.

Beating the traffic and then outsmarting the traffic app turns her whole mood around.

"Now you know how to go if you're ever stuck in traffic in this part of town," she says proudly.

Rousey technically has .33 victories per bout minute, ranking her as UFC's most dangerous fighter across all divisions. Nick Laham

JUSTIN FLORES TRIED to sit still in the plastic white chairs of the hospital emergency room. But it turned out an emergency room in Melbourne is just as awful as the ones back in the States. All you do is wait and pace, hoping for good news from the doctors, who come too rarely and never say enough.

Flores has been coaching Rousey in judo since both were teenagers. She'd take Amtrak from Los Angeles to train with him at his father's dojo in north San Diego County. She'd come by herself and stay a few weeks. He was seven years older than Rousey, but she trained "like any other guy," Flores said. "We went hard. All of the time. It was like the never-ending round. The round would be over and she was like, 'Let's go again.'"

He's seen her lose before. He knows what it looks like afterward. How much she hates it. How much it hurts her. After she lost in the 2005 World Championships in Egypt, he found 40 candy wrappers on the floor. There's always a binge and a purge. There's grief. Then there's anger.

"In the heat of that moment, she'd keep fighting and fighting until there's blood and it was serious," he said. "I would have to slow things down and tell her, 'You're great, everything's OK.'"

It's hard to wait for that part, even though he knows it's coming. So he paced the waiting room, replaying the fight over and over in his mind, trying to figure out how she lost so he could at least tell her something once she was out of the hospital.

"There was so much pressure to, like, outdo the last performance, it's like, how can you even do that? It's kind of like, 'Just win!' You can't worry about doing the impossible all the time. Every time she does, it's like this new impossible thing, rather than being smart and tactical and picking your moments, react right, use your timing and your skill set."

They had talked about doing different takedowns on Holm because she was taller than most of her previous opponents. Rousey would need leverage to bring her down. She'd have to set her feet differently and attack the legs and torso, not come over her shoulder.

When they finally got to speak for a few minutes at the hospital, she mentioned that she didn't feel her legs were ever under her. She tried to stomp down on the mat as she entered the Octagon and just didn't feel strong. She was just off center, off kilter, off balance. Then she got hit in the face 30 seconds into the fight and never recovered.

"Her fighting is like a microcosm of her life. She is able to adapt and improvise and come out on top," Flores said. "She's better on the fly rather than trying to do A, B, C, D, E, F, to Z and win. She's always been able to do it right then and there. In life, she's doing that too. She is real and truthful and she does it in a way where she always ends up on top."

He's home in California now but still pacing the waiting room.

Nick Laham

Nick Laham

Holm delivered one shock after another to Rousey. Nick Laham (3)

THE FIRST THING Maria Burns Ortiz did was cover her eyes. She's seen her sister lose fights before, but never like this. Never with a kick to the head that turned her body limp and sent her crashing to the canvas. Photographers always take pictures of the defeated fighter's family, reacting to their loved one's knockout. So yeah, her first thought was to cover her face.

But her next one was to run into the Octagon and make sure Rousey had family around to stand next to her as she walked out. At the hospital, she told her sister she loved her just as much as she did before the fight. That losing this fight would never be OK, but she would be OK one day. Early the next morning, Burns Ortiz picked up her sister from the hospital and rode with her back to the hotel. Paparazzi had gathered outside, trying to snap a shot of the fallen champion. The UFC moved Rousey to a different hotel without anyone noticing. Eventually the Australian paparazzi moved on.

Back home in Los Angeles, she's trying to help her sister do the same thing. The morning after Rousey got back from Texas, her sister and mother, AnnMaria De Mars, drove over to her house and made her let them in.

"She just came over and crashed the front door with Mom," Rousey says, cracking a smile. "I think she thought she'd see me hissing in the dark with Adele on."

Instead they sat on the couch and talked. Rousey played Mario Kart and Taichi Panda. They played with Mochi. De Mars dropped off a box of fan mail. Rousey is not ready to read anything nice yet, but she will eventually.

"My mom keeps telling her to 'Woman up!'" Burns Ortiz says. Move on. Deal with it. Open the blinds.

"It wasn't long before she was stopping by and telling me that I can't hide my whole life," Rousey says. "I have to do something with myself. Turn on my cellphone and stop ignoring everyone."

On Thanksgiving, they all went to her sister Jennifer's new house. De Mars gave Rousey a disposable cellphone. She got her to take a family picture and posted it on Instagram. Rousey smiled.

Rousey is a minus-160 favorite to win the inevitable rematch with Holm. Nick Laham

"I've been in that situation myself, so maybe it makes it a little different for me than the average mom," says De Mars, a champion judoka in her day. "I came home empty-handed not once but twice. I hurt my knee and I was in the middle of getting divorced. It was horrible, horrible, horrible. I cried for days. Then I went and won the world championships six weeks later."

Ronda's mom retired a long time ago, but she can still kick some ass. There are times the tough love seems too tough, but this has been their dynamic forever. "Well, both of us are definitely stubborn, and both of us definitely think we're right all the time," De Mars says.

“I always say you have to be willing to get your heart broken. That's just what f---ing happens when you try.”

- Ronda Rousey

Rousey's mother used to tell her that it is not enough to be better than everyone else, you have to be so much better that no one can deny your superiority. Her mom said it so many times, Rousey can channel her voice. It's an entire chapter of her autobiography. Champions have to find a way to win on their worst days.

Before the fight, De Mars went public with her disdain for Rousey's longtime trainer Edmond Tarverdyan. She ripped him in an interview published right in the middle of training camp. She doesn't think he's teaching her the right things, in the right way. She thinks her daughter should play to her strengths as a judoka, rather than focus on striking. She wishes he'd push her harder, make her uncomfortable sometimes. She's troubled by his recent bankruptcy filing.

"It wouldn't be the first time she disagreed with where I was training or what I was doing or who I was getting coached by," Rousey said a few weeks before the fight. "If anything it's almost like normal at this point for us to have disagreements about my training and coaches. We're both athletes. We both fought. I just have a different personality. The same things that work for her won't work for me."

De Mars didn't fly to Australia for the fight.

"I told Ronda I am not going to go because I love you more than winning," she says. "I did not think she was in the right place, and I couldn't pretend any longer that I thought she was."

After the loss, her opinion hardened. She thought her daughter looked unprepared and fought the wrong fight.

"People let her down," she says.

Rousey isn't budging.

"Of course I'm staying [with Tarverdyan]," Rousey says. "That's my mom's opinion, not mine."

"WE DIDN'T CREATE this in one day, and it's not going to be taken away from us, from me, from her, from anybody in one day," Tarverdyan says. "Whatever happens in her career or in her life, we didn't do all this shit for it to be taken away from us. In life, things are going to be taken away from you. But we always believe in each other. We're strong next to each other. Being united and being strong helps you get through a lot in this world."

Rousey's gym, in a traditionally Armenian section of Glendale, is full of male fighters. But she's at home here. During training sessions, she hangs on Tarverdyan's every word. When he speaks, she lets him finish before saying anything. When she first showed up to train at his gym in 2010, he ignored her. The life of a fighter is tough. You make nothing. You get hurt. Training is boring and awful, the fights are in Indian casino parking lots and dingy sportsman's lodges. Tarverdyan had to make sure she wanted that life bad enough. He'd tell her to hit the heavy bag for 20 rounds to teach her patience. She kept showing up, though. At the time, she was working three crappy jobs and making just enough to pay her rent and feed Mochi. Tarverdyan started ordering extra plates of food from his favorite Armenian restaurant in Glendale, Raffi's Place, to make sure she'd eat. "She'd ask why I ordered so much," Tarverdyan says. "I told her it was an Armenian thing."

Then he saw her fight. It was at some wretched gym in the San Fernando Valley.

"Boom, she was on. She jumps in there and finishes the girl," he says. "I'm like, 'She knows how to fight. She's born to fight. That's it, it's simple.'"

Tarverdyan and De Mars both came by her house that first day after she drove home from Texas. Her mother told her to answer her phone and to woman up. Her trainer asked his mom to cook borscht and brought it to her.

Rousey cuts weight in her hotel suite before her shocking loss at UFC 193. Nick Laham

AUSTRALIA IS A wonderful country. The people are warm and friendly. The scenery is breathtaking. But nobody can seem to do anything about the flies. They're everywhere. There's no controlling them.

Most Aussies learn to live with the pests. Tourists buy fly nets and insect repellent that doesn't really work. You can swat at them all you want, but they keep coming.

"Every time they came and sat on your nose, you'd hit them because you were so annoyed," Tarverdyan says. "Same thing happened to Ronda. She was annoyed with everybody asking her all these same questions. She'd get upset, hang up the phone, get angry. She was just like, 'Enough of this bullshit. Lemme beat this chick really quick, finish this fight and go eat my wings and relax. Tell everybody to leave me alone for a little bit.'"

He's been a wreck since Holm kicked his fighter in the face. Why did she keep charging forward? Why didn't she slip Holm's left hand like they'd talked about? What happened to patience, patience, patience? That's all he kept telling her in camp. Wait for your moment. Don't chase down a counterpuncher. Move your head.

It had to be the flies. The pressure. She couldn't just win, she had to please the crowd. She had to keep being perfect and invincible and all those other things that were exciting and scary and uncomfortable in a woman.

But maybe she just got punched in the face? It's a fight. When you get hit hard and knocked out on your feet, whatever's inside you is expelled-fear, pride, guts, rage, love, courage. It all bleeds out fast.

"She's not a point fighter. She's in there to go for it," Tarverdyan says. "You've got to connect your mind to your heart and then connect your heart to your balls. You need all three of those to be a great fucking fighter, and Ronda has all three of those."

EVERY AMERICAN HEROINE should brace herself for the backlash. We want superwomen, but when we find them, it freaks us the hell out. So Angelina Jolie is a home wrecker. Hillary Clinton is calculating. Condoleezza Rice is cold. Serena Williams is too loud, too muscular, too black. Ronda Rousey is too arrogant, too aggressive, too emotional.

Those criticisms have come and they will continue to come. Rousey doesn't need a man to fight her battles. She can kick anyone's ass. She makes her own money, more than even the male UFC fighters, and they don't complain because her star power makes them more money. She found a man she loves, and she wants to keep him.

So she won't retire undefeated or take down the boys club with a single devastating armbar. But we often oversimplify the way history is written. There's no one person who changes everything.

It's going to take awhile for Rousey to shake off this loss. She's still apologizing to everyone. Her face feels loose. Her dog whimpers every time she tries to talk about it.

But she opened the door on the Friday after Thanksgiving and let people see her-all of her, even the messy parts.

It's scary as hell for her to expose this much -- to be vulnerable when everyone thought she was invincible.

But that's always been how Ronda Rousey fights.

"I always think I can lose all of them," she says. "I'm the only one that's scared when I walk in there. I'm always fucking scared."

So will she fight again?

"Of course. What else am I going to fucking do?"

Ramona ShelburneShelburne is a senior writer for ESPN. She spent seven years at the Los Angeles Daily News.

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