If you ever wanted a clearer picture of just why Ronda Rousey ended up living in her car and tending bar among other things, even after winning an Olympic medal, her recent interview on the Joe Rogan Experience may give something of a better picture as to the possible reasons why. She touched on a wide range of topics in her two hour sit-down interview with the UFC commentator, including potential retirement, a planned Gina Carano fight, and detailed info on her injured hand and just how she hurt it. But one of the most interesting segments was her explanation of running away from home and the changes that affected in her life.
It all started off (at about 50 minutes in), with Rousey explaining how often she used to cry after training and how training MMA put a stop to it:
“It wasn’t until I ran away from home and was out on my own,” Rousey told Rogan on the Joe Rogan Experience, “that I was able to stop myself from crying every night. Then it would be a couple times a week, then I got rid of it, mostly. But since I started doing MMA, I haven’t cried during training.”
Rousey went on to explain that, a week after she turned 18 she decided she had to get out of her house and make her own way. The stifling nature of a constant training schedule was making her feel trapped in her life:
“I was at a point where I felt like every second of my day was somebody else’s decision.” Said Rousey of her decision to run away. “I am so grateful to my mother, she’s an amazing person, she did the perfect job raising me and I was kind of a stupid and shortsighted kid and I didn’t realize how much she was doing for me at the time. And I had Rapunzel-in-the-castle syndrome. I was all like, ‘Oh woe is me, I’m locked in the castle and my mom is so mean.’ And now I’m like, “Oh my god, she’s a genius.” But, at the time, I was recognized as having a lot of potential very very young and was treated like that. I was like the prodigy kid very young and got really intense, very structured training very early on. It just became my whole life.
“I never went to a single dance or party in school. I never went on a single date. I trained, all the time and then dropped out of school sophomore year so I could train all the time. And that was my life. And then I felt like my life was out of my control. So, I left and was like, ‘Well, I’m going to win and I’m going to do this stuff on my own. And I’m going to show everybody that I actually know what I’m talking about.’ Because I felt like my opinion… And no one had any respect for what I thought and I was always doing what everybody else said I should be doing.
“So, I went off and I bounced around a bunch of different clubs. It was a very crazy time where I was moving cities every couple months. And then after 2006 I was the first American woman in 9 years to win a world cup in Judo, with no coach. I did it with no coach. And then I also, I won in Sweden and I medaled in Finland when Americans were getting their asses kicked. They weren’t medaling, they weren’t getting past the first round. That was kind of my way to get respect from everybody else. And then I ended up moving to Canada, because I was like, ‘Fuck all the US coaches, I’m going to do this on my own.’ I was at the national training center there, where they couldn’t coach me, but I was beating their girls. So, they were like, ‘Yeah, come here and they’ll get used to you and whatever.’ So, I was kind of like a body for them. And I was pretty much on my own, training on my own with no direction and no coaching.
“I was just so stubborn in not getting enough respect that I felt like I was going to go win with nobody’s help. And I ended up getting asked back to one of the gyms I was kicked out of when I was a kid.”
As it turns out, one of the times that she got kicked out of that gym was part of the reason she ran away from home in the first place. According to Rousey, when coaches discovered that the 17-year old was in a relationship with a Judoka in his 20s, they threw her out of the gym. When Rousey went back home to her family, things didn’t get any better.
“And then I went home and my mom was like, ‘You’re not going to do Judo for a year and you better forget the name of,’ whatever his name was.” Rousey told Rogan, recalling the incident. “‘And you’re going to work and you’re going to support yourself and you’re going to pay me this amount of money to live in my house.’ And I’m thinking, like, ‘Well, I want to do Judo and if I’m gonna work, I’m gonna go pay for my rent wherever I want.’ You know, this is what I’m thinking. And so, that night… I used to get social security checks because of my dad; he died. And so, I went and opened a bank account and I rerouted social security checks to go into my account. And then I had to get dentist stuff done, so I scheduled dentist things while I’d still be under my mom’s insurance. And then I got myself a plane ticket with the social security money to be right after my last dentist appointment.
“Then in, like, the middle of the night I secretly packed my bags and all this stuff. Then I waited until two o’clock in the morning or whatever, to walk several blocks away from the house and then called a taxi several blocks away from the house, and then took a taxi to the airport.”
Rousey didn’t tell her mother, or anyone else she was leaving. One night, she was just gone:
“She [mom] says I left a note,” said Rousey. “I don’t remember if I did, to be honest. But, I went to my best friend Lily’s house all the way across the country in New York. Because I was like, ‘I’m going to work at Stewarts.’ Which was their convenience store. I was like, ‘I’m going to get a job at a convenience store and I’m going to train on my own and I’m going to do it on my own and I’m going to show everybody that I can do it on my own.’ I don’t know, I was just… I was a young, dumb kid. I had no way to rebel. So, I was like, little miss perfect, and that was my little… I suddenly just blew up one day and took off.”
According to the UFC women’s bantamweight champion, it would be two years before she spoke to her mom again, or anyone else in her family for that matter:
“Any time we tried to talk it would turn into a huge blowup, so yeah. And my whole family, too. It was a terrible thing that I did. I took off and I really hurt my mom and my sisters really resented me for it. And there were plenty of Thanksgivings where I would sit there and no one would talk to me, since after that.
“Really intense family, yeah. And it took many years for them to forgive me for what I did.”
Rousey is currently scheduled to face Holly Holm at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia.
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