“FTA” – Ronda Rousey & Life After Defeat

photo credit: Eric Williams for ESPN

In one of my favorite articles I’ve read this year, ESPN The Magazine & Ramona Shelburne spent time with MMA star Ronda Rousey at her remote cabin outside LA, discussing her life after her surprise defeat just over a year ago and the upcoming prep for a new battle on December 30th, when she’ll step in the ring for the first time since that devastating moment in November 2015.

It’s like I’m doing the chick version of growing a beard and living in a cave.” 

It feels oddly personally relatable, in spite of my growing lack of athletic prowess as I’ve aged and spent more time in my head than in physical training. But I do think it’s something we can all relate to: some level of devastating loss or defeat, some obstacle, some thing that tries to kill us. Then the retreat. The disappearance. The ‘beard’. And hopefully, the glory after we’ve discovered there’s another way of doing things than the one we, maybe devastatingly, put ourselves through.

Back then, when she was undefeated, she’d spend hours and hours thinking of all the things she was expected to do to be successful: Sell the fight, build the women’s division of the UFC, take photos with fans, pose on the red carpet. Tweet, Facebook, Instagram. Entertain. She’d stew and swirl all night until an alarm clock would sound way too early.

I think many women, especially, can relate to this on a basic level. Whether it’s at home or whether it’s in her career. All the things she is expected to do to be successful. The list is so damn long. And exhausting. And for many, it destroys you. The opponent can be so many things: perception or reality, society, gender-norms, expectations, loneliness, being peerless, exhaustion. I can vouch for this, being a woman in an industry where simply being a woman is not the norm. Even in a women’s pro sports league. We expect ourselves to win, because we leave no other option, but whether by TKO or the slow marination of a million bee stings, we end up … defeated.

I was just trying to make too many people happy. But when I try and do favors and make everybody else happy, at the end of the day, they walk away happy and I’m the one who has to deal with the depression.

And after the defeat is the depression. As if the first wasn’t adequate enough to deal with.

She just should’ve said, ‘No.’

You become the ‘yes!’ person not to excel, but to survive. When you’re different, or an outsider, or… perhaps a woman, your role is to always be the ‘yes’ person. You have to be the maker, the creator, the doer and the fixer, to have any chance of standing out. Just to be somebody. And all those ‘yes’ add up to a million ‘yes’ and they can equate to no more ‘you’, because ‘you’ time is long gone. You give it up for ‘yes’.

There are hundreds of balls of tape and hand wraps from over the years. Many say, “Retire Undefeated.” During this training camp, she’s writing a new slogan on her used wraps: “FTA.” F— Them All.

This is not a time for f—ing favors. This is a time for redemption and revenge.

If a little anger, a little redemption (or revenge), a little peace-of-mind helps you to start saying ‘no’ and helps you to start focusing in on yourself and your own island of happiness, then roll with it. You’re the one you have to spend your life with.

Read this inspiring article in full at ESPN.com.

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