Ronda Rousey Is Learning To Enjoy The Journey

Jason Nawara

Now that Ronda Rousey is the RAW Women’s Champion and has officially launched, this is a good time for us to sit down and speak with Rowdy herself.

Every month, we’ll be sitting down with Ronda for an extended interview to discuss the latest steps along her journey, as well as just some random stuff about Twizzlers. Because let’s be honest, if this doesn’t go from heartfelt advice to random jokes only to circle back with some solid life advice only to end up talking about a 20-year-old Zelda game, this just wouldn’t be Ronda.

Enjoy Ronda Talks, week one, and let us know on Twitter if there’s anything else you want to discuss with the Rowdy One in the future.

This is week one. How do you feel?

I guess I’m a little bit nervous and excited because this is really something unprecedented that hasn’t really been attempted before and after seeing the amount of work that goes into it I can see why it hasn’t been attempted before. But I feel like the relationship between me and my fans has been hijacked by people trying to profit off of it.

There’s all of the media outlets that I speak to that I communicate through to speak to my fans, there seems to be a common theme kind of throughout journalism of just wanting to be first. It’s, unfortunately, about clicks more than it is about truth in journalism and it’s gotten to a point where it’s just like I can’t trust people that I don’t know to be as committed to having as truthful and honest and open a narrative as possible with my fans and not have them try and take advantage of it.

I’m just trying to create a safe space where I can be open and honest and truthful with my fans and not be afraid of being taken advantage of. I feel like it’s been kind of like all or nothing. You know what I mean? I give them everything or I give them nothing and I want to be able to find that healthy boundary line because it is there.

It’s easy for people to just entirely shut down and you’ve seen celebrities before just delete their social media. It’s like they’ve just had it. I feel like there’s got to be a way for public figures to be able to have a healthy and rewarding relationship with their fan base that’s direct, that doesn’t have any middlemen trying to profit off of it.

So I rewatched your win at SummerSlam. In your book, you talk about loving wrestling since you can remember. How does it feel to be standing there on the ropes, raising that WWE title over your head?

It’s kind of beyond words. I don’t know. It’s like a blur, looking back on it. All I wanted to shout out when I got up there is “this is for Rowdy Roddy Piper” and my voice totally cracked. So my least badass moment ever. But I don’t even care, I meant it. I said it and I meant it. It was just so awesome. It was kind of like being married in a way that I didn’t think anything would change and it would feel any different, but it did change everything and everything does feel different. It changed what I felt like my role was too. Before I just felt like a tourist in a way. Before I was like: “I’m here to have fun and I get to enjoy it and do all this awesome wrestling stuff and all these things I always wanted to do since I was a kid!” It didn’t really seem that serious because I felt like I was nowhere near the level that all these other women that have been doing it for years are at. And then suddenly the championship title is thrust into my hands and it’s no longer just about fun. I’m not holding an accessory in my hands, I’m holding a huge responsibility. I’m holding a whole division in my hands and regardless of what skill level I think I’m at, I have to step up to what the position deserves and that means I just have to work a million times harder than I was before.

It’s not about just me and enjoying my life and having a good time and feeling good about myself and walking away with my head high when I go and have kids. Originally, I just wanted to be an example of picking yourself up and overcoming for my children and now it’s just become so much more than that. Now, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure that the accomplishments of these women are recognized. And regardless of what you think about WWE or pro wrestling, I mean, that title represents the pinnacle of a skill just like my Olympic medal, just like my eight title victories in MMA. They’re all on the same shelf together because I hold them all in the same regard, because they all represent the pinnacle of a skill.

None of us are expected to reach the pinnacle of any skill, but just to reach the pinnacle of multiple skills, it still blows my mind, and I don’t like hoarding those things for myself. I would put everything under an ottoman and not show anybody, because it’s like I know that I did it, but winning the WWE Raw Women’s championship, it makes me want to display my accomplishments so that people can see that they are all equal. That winning an Olympic gold medal is somehow better than winning the UFC title in MMA is somehow better than winning a title in WWE, I think that they all represent the farthest that you can go. So I think maybe my role is to teach people that one isn’t more than the other. Winning the Raw Women’s championship in WWE is like winning the Oscar for best actress. They’re all the pinnacle of skill that should be respected and hopefully people from one world that turn their nose up at the other, maybe all they will respect each other more.

You’re the first Olympic medalist, UFC champion, and WWE champion, so it’s like, on one hand, you’re very low key about it all,  but it feels like being a champion comes naturally to you. Is that true?

I think it’s just something I always expected of myself and so I’m not surprised. My parents raised me and said: “you’re going to win the Olympics and you’re going to be the president.” I was like, “all right.” So I never thought anything different. I never thought anything else was expected of me. Really, ever since I was a little kid, I thought I was some exceptional superhero waiting to happen. I was convinced that I was destined for greatness for as long as I can remember. So I didn’t have to convince myself, it was something that I always knew.

And the crazy thing is, I’m not an alien. There’s nothing weird about me. It’s something that’s in everybody. Everybody should expect themselves to be exceptional and to be great and there’s nothing that separates me from them except for expectations, and everybody should have the same expectations for themselves as I do for myself.

My mom would always act like it wasn’t a big deal when I won, and then sometimes I’d be like: “she’s not that excited for me.” But she said, “No. I think you’re so amazing that I expected you to win. That’s why I’m not that excited. If I was super excited and surprised that means I didn’t expect anything from you and I had a low opinion of you to begin with. My opinion of you is so high that when you do amazing things, I’m not surprised.”

So that was the mentality that I was raised with. You’re expected to do great things. And after you do great things, you do even more great things. And that’s what you do.

Growing up every kid hits the game-winner in their backyard, everyone wants to be going to the moon or be president, so to hear that those were actually your goals is really fascinating to me. But all of this has been because of a ton of hard work.

Oh yeah, but I thought that was expected as well. I love Dragon Ball Z. Fucking love it because they were the only superheroes that could work harder to make themselves stronger. Spider-Man can’t work himself harder to be more spider-y and Superman can’t work out to be more super. But in Dragon Ball Z, the more that they train, the harder they work, the more powerful that they became and I always loved the idea of working for gain. I think that’s why I loved Pokémon so much. It’s not because I love doing all the individual Pokemon battles that much, because sometimes they’re really tedious and boring, but I loved putting in the work to build up this team and I now have the best Pokémon team.

I don’t know. I guess delayed gratification was something that I didn’t have much of a problem with at a very young age. I loved working hard and getting rewards for it, instead of just always being content.

Loving the process is hard to do sometimes when you’re in the thick of it. Now when you’re training, are you in the moment and loving the workout and running the ropes?

I mean, finding that has been a battle my whole life. And I think I went way overboard in the beginning when it was only about the results and not about the process at all. I love doing Judo but in general, I didn’t like training and I didn’t like the environment and those kinds of things. And I tried to actually make the environment and the process as enjoyable as possible, but of course, that was in the beginning when I actually had those luxuries. Eventually, it just became more and more of juggling on the unicycle and making everybody else happy while my happiness started to fall farther and farther down on my list of priorities and my enjoying every day started to fall farther and farther down on my list of priorities.

The only thing that became important was the result. I kept telling myself, “I’ll just do well and I’ll just win and then I’ll be able to look at it and be happy afterwards.” When it became solely about delayed gratification the joy of it left for me. So when I came into WWE, from day one I really just wanted to make having a good time a priority. I don’t need the money. I could be making more money doing something else that’s more boring. But I just made a promise to myself that I am here for my own enjoyment… And then I win a title. Then I’m like, “dang all of this is getting pretty big and pretty heavy and a much bigger responsibility than just my own enjoyment.”

But I feel like I’m finally, in my third decade, beginning to find that balance. It’s not just all about bartending and drinking every day and trying to enjoy every second as much as you can. It’s not about banging your head on the wall and being miserable so that you can get a result later that’ll make you happy for 15 minutes. It’s about finding that marriage in between of working just hard enough where you’re still enjoying yourself. I think with WWE it’s a lot easier to not fall into that trap of just working because it’s like survival mode. In MMA, the worst that could happen is pretty fucking terrible, so you’re trying to survive and it’s hard to remind yourself that you’re there to have fun when you’re trying not to get killed.

And with WWE, it’s like living in the circus. It’s like I show up to a carnival every day. How can you not have fun? So there’s no way I would have been able to do this in a reverse order. I think it’s much harder to develop work ethic when you’re focused only on enjoying yourself in the beginning, but then again I don’t know. Maybe it’s just different for everybody. My process was just different and I had to go from working really, really hard and just focusing on winning the Olympics and thinking that when I win the Olympics everything’s going to be okay and there’s going to be this magic recipe that makes me happy for the rest of my life, to realizing that there is no magic recipe to make you happy the rest of your life. Yes, working towards accomplishments is great and yes, enjoying every day is great but you need to find that balance in your life. And balance is still something that I’m trying to figure out.

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Well, I think that just about everyone is trying to figure that out to a degree. That’s the human condition. Finding that balance while continuing to aspire. In your Judo instructionals you say you do a technique a million times and then you’re ready to do it again another million times. I think that’s an important lesson for a lot of people, not just necessarily to perfect something, but to know that you’re going to fail and that’s okay, because that little micro failure of getting that throw wrong that time eventually will go away and a lot of people get stuck in that moment of that one little failure.

I think more than getting stuck in failures it’s easy to get stuck in the idea of perfection. I believe I’m the best in the world at doing armbars, but I still have not done a perfect one. They’re never perfect. There’s no such thing as perfect. It’s the pursuit of perfect that brings greatness because perfection is like infinity. It’s a concept. It’s not an actual number. Perfection isn’t something tangible. It’s a theory. And I think obsessing over that pursuit of perfection could make you crazy. It has made me crazy.

No matter how much you train and how much you try and how much you obsess over something, it will never be perfect. It’s that drive for perfection that keeps you working hard, but it’s also the obsession with perfection that can push you over the edge. I think that we just need to be a little bit more forgiving of ourselves, but also push ourselves because it’s easy to throw your hands up and be like “oh, well I’ll never be an astronaut.” Or “Oh, I’ll never be able to be skinny…” You’re never going to have the absolute perfect body because that doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep working hard to be healthy and to work on your body. I think that it’s easy to be discouraged by the idea that you’ll never be good enough because good enough doesn’t exist and it’s hard to be wholeheartedly in pursuit of a goal if you’ll never get there.

I think the pursuit and the journey is the goal. It has to be the journey that fulfills you in the end. It was crazy, I used to be super-paranoid and worried about CTE and I got my brain checked in every way possible. I was pretty freaked out about it and for my whole career all I was thinking about was: “I need to accomplish these things, I just need to get these results and regardless of much it sucks I’ll be able to look back and be happy I did it for the rest of my life”

And then I realized that the memories are just as fleeting as things, as possessions. I realized that I was placing value on the memories over the experience. That I wanted to remember having done a good job more than I wanted to remember the joy doing a good job. I had it all wrong. It really is about enjoying the present, but it’s about enjoying the present without being like “I’m just going to shoot heroin into my eyeballs because I’m enjoying the present.” It’s, like I said, finding that balance and it’s a lifelong process and that perfect balance, I think, will never be attained because perfect doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean that pursuit of perfection can’t be more rewarding than perfection itself.

So going back, holding that title up at SummerSlam. Were you in the moment? Were you aware? Were there thoughts going through your head? What is that like?

Yeah. I don’t know. I didn’t know what to do with the title. I was never a very celebratory person. I wasn’t really known for jumping around and dancing and flinging trophies around. I didn’t really know what to do with it. No one ever taught me how to celebrate. So I just kind of did what I felt was right. I got the title, I took a moment to look at it because that’s something that I never did in the UFC. There, they really just fling it around my waist and I always kind of forgot about it. Like I would always be surprised and like oh, yeah, Dana’s behind me. So it was always moment that I kind of like skipped over in my previous job. So in the luxury of not being under such crazy pressure and a million things going on and knowing that I had time and space in the ring, I just took a moment to look at it and really think about what happened and actually let myself feel all the emotions that I was having and let them show in my face. I felt that I wouldn’t be there kneeling in the middle of that ring, holding that title if it wasn’t for Roddy Piper and I felt like I had to get up on that turnbuckle and tell the world and tell him that this was for him. Hopefully, he could hear it. Winning the title and being able to say it was for him meant more to me than winning a title for myself.

Okay, so you’re launching your own line of cool shirts, the website is here, you’re talking to your fans. But… Have you been playing the new World of Warcraft expansion?

Blizzard actually just sent us the collector’s edition for Return to Azeroth and to be honest I’ve been kind of like hoarding for my pregnancy right now. I’m eventually going to get in my cave and obsess over WoW a little bit, but WWE and traveling around kind of forced me back into the portable gaming.

So yeah, I’m beating Ocarina of Time for probably the twentieth time on 3DS and I just ordered a Switch with Breath of the Wild so I can take that on the road. Just because WoW hasn’t been so friendly for me on the road. I’m not very good at traveling with computers and gaming mouses and other things. If you know me, if it’s not one fucking thing with a charger I’m going to lose it. Like the gaming mouse is like one piece too many. I couldn’t figure it out. So I’m leaving all of the PC and the console stuff for my incubation station.

So our mountain house, I’m just kind of turning into like an entire gaming paradise so when I go up there and I’m incubating, I can station myself and move from Xbox One X to the PS4 to the Switch to the PC, then I’ll just go on and rotate through them then we have a walk through the mountains. I’m pretty excited about being pregnant. I actually have time to prep for it so I’m just thinking of all the things that I would want to do barefoot and pregnant. And right now air conditioning and video games are all I really got.

Breath of the Wild might be the best Zelda game ever.

You know what? Now that I’m older, I actually have a lot more appreciation for Majora’s Mask. I wish we could play that again.

Interesting. I remember it being really hard.

Yeah. I hated it because the timeline stuff but then there were certain things that were really exhilarating, like the lover’s mask or whatever it was. That was really fun. I don’t know. You become nostalgic for that kind of stuff I think when you’re older.

So you’re really looking forward to the pregnancy!

Yeah you just sit there and be human. Miracle of life. I’m on it. It’s like a crazy, human thing that we can do. It’s some alien shit. Like you’re going to make a fucking person and then it’ll come out your vagina. What? Like that is an actual thing women have been doing for millions of years? Yeah, you know, you just take a squat and poop a human. Wow. I’m just amazed at what life is capable of and I’ve already experienced all the other extremes that the human body can offer and that’s the one that I seem to be missing.

Onto the most serious subject of our talk: how is the lifetime supply of Twizzlers going?

Well, the thing is I need to get a subscription because they don’t last for life. So at first they were like here’s a giant pallet of Twizzlers and I’m like well, all of it expires before I die. So I actually just got an order for my first shipment of Twizzlers. I just get shipments forever until I run out and I’m like hey send me more. So I asked for half of the shipment to be pull and peel, a quarter of it to be classic red twists, and then a quarter of it to be all random whatever they think that I would like.

Oh my god.

Yeah. So I don’t know how long it’s supposed to last me, but it’s the first installment of hopefully many.

When you buy Twizzlers go to the store and make sure to dig underneath and feel them and make sure they’re soft. Like feeling fruit.

Yeah, you have to feel every Twizzler. Totally. I’m more of a pull and peel girl and I actually like to pull them apart and stick them in the freezer. And then I eat them frozen. Yeah, because they’re really, really chewy and they’re like one string at a time. So every string takes as long as a regular full thing of licorice. When you’re a girl and you diet all the time, you try to think of ways like how do I keep the calories down. It’s one of my favorite candies. And it’s one that always sticks around. If you get that big bag of Twizzlers, guarantee when you run out of food you’re going to be like oh my god I’ve still got some Twizzlers left. It’s like that candy that’s always there.

How cool is it to be in WWE2K? I think you’re one of the few people besides Brock Lesnar who’s been in an EA Sports game and a 2K Sports game.

That’s pretty cool. I’m not going to lie. To see yourself in video game form when you’re a video game nerd kind of freaks me out. And then I look at the two different ones and I’m like huh, my hair changed. Like it’s kind of crazy, you know, being able to see the two different interpretations of yourself from two different worlds. I get to see how the MMA world interprets me and how the WWE universe interprets me and I feel like I’m the same person, but people take me differently in different environments. It’s kind of cool to see yourself in video game form because you can see yourself from an outsider’s perspective. It’s not like a mirror. It’s not like a video. It’s like somebody created this because they think this is you. And it’s really cool to be able to see that. I mean, it’s like a weird kind of immortality in a way.

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