There is something quite peculiar about the bravado coming from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) titleholder Ronda Rousey.
If you don’t know the name, perhaps you know the work. The mixed martial arts fighter is the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in Judo (it happened at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics). The 12-0 fighter has also successfully defended herself in six UFC bantamweight championships. Most recently, a title match with Bethe Correia in which she knocked her out in a 34-second victory.
Rousey’s meteoric rise among the American athletic elite has earned her plenty of praise and accolades, both within and outside of the sports world. UK Telegraph writer Gareth A Davies calls her “a total trailblazer” and speculates that she is, perhaps “the baddest feminist in the world?” Bustle writer Hilary Weaver calls Rousey “a symbol of power and empowerment.”
Of course, she is not without her critics. Particularly the critics who have taken issue with comments she’s made over the years about transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox’s ‘unfair advantage’ over cisgendered women in the UFC. In a two-year-old interview with the New York Post, Rousey said of Fox’s inclusion in the UFC: “She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has. It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair.”
Rousey would double down on those controversial statements last year after Fox’s first professional match as a woman left her opponent with a concussion, an orbital bone fracture, and seven staples in the head. And in an interview with TMZ, the reigning women’s bantamweight champ said that while she was not afraid of any fighter, she thought Fox, who had gender reassignment surgery in 2006, should only be allowed to fight male opponents. “If you go through puberty as a man it’s not something you can reverse…There’s no undo button on that.”
Naturally, Rousey has been labeled transphobic. I, on the other hand, find her statements ironic. Or maybe it’s coincidental?
No matter the plot device, it is quite odd that Rousey does not want to face a transgender contender (and hides it behind concerns about a so-called “unfair advantage”). However, she has no problem envisioning herself fighting Floyd Mayweather.
Granted, there aren’t many people I know who haven’t daydreamed about the welterweight champion getting the crap beat out of him. But Rousey has been taking unprovoked jabs at Mayweather and making idle threats about him for a while now. Like in an interview with Access Hollywood from earlier this year, where Rousey said she doesn’t think she and Mayweather would ever fight unless “we ended up dating.” Nice one. I’ll definitely give her that.
However, when Mayweather responded by saying he doesn’t know who “he” is, Rousey continued her poking. She told an audience during her Best Fighter ESPY Award acceptance speech, “I wonder how Floyd feels being beat by a woman for once…I’d like to see him pretend to not know who I am now.”
She continued her offense during a recent Ask Me Anything chat on Reddit. According to Sports Illustrated, when asked if she could beat Mayweather in a fight without rules, Rousey said:
“Floyd is one of the best boxers of all time,” Rousey replied. “He would definitely beat me in a boxing match. I unfortunately don’t get into ‘matches.’ I fight for a living.”
“In a no-rules fight, I believe I can beat anyone on this planet,” she concluded. “Boxing is a sweet science with strict rules that I respect very much and aspire every day to improve at. But you said ruleless fight, and that’s my honest answer.”
We can blame it on the general public’s obsession with comparing a woman’s strength to her ability to successfully challenge and keep up with a man. I mean, why do folks keep asking her questions about fighting male contenders anyway? Do they ask male boxing champions about fighting women? But there is no doubt that Rousey not only feeds into the narrative but also thrives on it.
And while some may choose to see her solely as a powerful symbol of feminism, she is also an example of how mainstream feminism fails to be intersectional. Of course, some folks might take real issue with a transgender fighter in a women’s league or a woman beater. And of course, women should have the space to speak their blunt truths just like anyone else. But the comfort level Rousey feels in expressing her disapproval of the two is shroud and protected by a society that regularly takes great pleasure in the conquest and dominance of Black and brown bodies specifically. And that includes the denial of Black and brown bodies into spaces, which might threaten their (White) privilege as well as the constant need to physically prove how much stronger they are than everyone else.
But perhaps I am reading too much into this. I am open to an honest debate. So what do folks think? Is Rousey just calling it like she sees it or have her recent jabs been motivated by a need to assert herself over Black and brown bodies?