In a poignant moment at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium in November 2015, Ronda Rousey finds herself in the aftermath of a devastating loss, tears streaming down her face as she sits on the cold concrete floor of the medical room. Shaken and battered from her defeat by Holly Holm, she grapples with overwhelming emotions of despair, contemplating the darkest depths of her existence amidst the deafening cheers of the crowd outside.

Surrounded by her solemn coaching team, Rousey is engulfed by a torrent of suicidal thoughts, grappling with intense pain, misery, embarrassment, and shame. This pivotal moment, as she describes in her poignant memoir "Our Fight," marks the nadir of her life, a profound nadir she thought she could never escape.

Yet, amidst the abyss of despair, Rousey finds a glimmer of hope in the form of eight words uttered by her partner, Travis Browne: "You are so much more than a fighter." Initially incredulous, Rousey eventually comes to understand the profound significance of those words, a revelation that would chart a transformative course in her life's journey.

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Reflecting on her journey during an insightful interview with BBC Sport in New York, Rousey candidly shares her arduous ascent from the depths of despair to discover fulfillment beyond the realm of fighting.

To comprehend Rousey's resilience and redemption, one must delve into the genesis of her tumultuous odyssey. Recalling her initiation into the world of combat sports 26 years prior, Rousey vividly recalls her inaugural judo session, her hair in disarray without a hair tie, and the exhilarating sensation of stepping onto the mat for the first time under the guidance of her first coach, Richard Elizalde.

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"I didn't have a hair tie, so my hair was going all over the place and crazy," she reminisces, her ponytail swaying as she recounts her early judo endeavors. "I remember I got off the mat and Blinky [Richard Elizalde], my first coach, said: 'It's a lot more fun than swimming isn't it?'"

Ronda Rousey's journey into the world of combat sports was deeply influenced by her mother, AnnMaria De Mars, a trailblazing figure in judo who became the first American woman to clinch a gold medal at the World Judo Championships. However, De Mars's impact on Rousey transcends mere athletic achievement, as she found herself navigating life's challenges under her mother's guidance.

Tragedy struck the family when Rousey was just eight years old, as her father, whose health had deteriorated following a sledding accident, tragically took his own life. Left to raise three daughters on her own, AnnMaria De Mars became an anchor of strength and resilience for Rousey, instilling in her a sense of determination and perseverance that would shape her future endeavors.

"The first American world champion in judo was a woman, and it was her," Rousey reflects on her mother's pioneering achievements. "And having her just walk through the living room made it feel so much more attainable for me to want to do just as much, even more."

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Despite narrowly missing out on her Olympic dream of securing gold in judo, Rousey's transition to mixed martial arts proved to be a turning point in her career. She embarked on a meteoric rise through the professional ranks, winning her first 12 bouts with an astonishing 11 victories ending in the first round. This dominant streak culminated in her capturing the UFC bantamweight title, catapulting her into the mainstream spotlight and bringing MMA to the forefront of public consciousness.

While Rousey's prowess in the octagon was undeniable, it was her unapologetic showmanship that captivated fans worldwide. Embracing a bold and charismatic persona, Rousey injected a newfound vibrancy into women's combat sports, challenging conventions and demanding recognition on her own terms.

"I felt like women's combat sports was missing showmanship," Rousey reflects. "A lot of times when women are coming to a space where they're not entirely welcome, they try to make as few waves as possible. I needed to make as many as possible in order to fight for our place there, instead of politely asking for permission for it."

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Rousey's journey from adversity to triumph stands as a testament to her resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to breaking barriers in the world of sports.

Ronda Rousey's status as the most prominent female athlete on Instagram, boasting a staggering 17.5 million followers, surpasses even tennis legend Serena Williams. However, her ascension to superstardom in the UFC was not guaranteed, as it hinged on her charisma and clinical fighting style compelling UFC President Dana White to reverse his initial stance on women's participation in the organization.

In January 2011, White emphatically asserted that women would "never" compete in the UFC. Yet, less than two years later, Rousey shattered this barrier, becoming the UFC's inaugural female athlete. Rousey viewed White's skepticism as a personal challenge, confident that her prowess would eventually change his mind.

"When I first saw [White's interview], my first thought was 'oh well, he hasn't met me yet'," Rousey recalls. "It just felt like a matter of time before our paths would cross and I changed his mind."

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Throughout her career, Rousey has been a staunch advocate for creating spaces for women in male-dominated arenas, driven by her firsthand experience of the challenges women face in earning respect and recognition.

Reflecting on her journey from Olympic bronze medalist to UFC icon, Rousey's resilience and evolution are evident. Despite experiencing setbacks, including a devastating defeat by Holly Holm and subsequent retirement from MMA, Rousey found solace in unexpected places, such as gardening on her Oregon ranch with her husband, Travis Browne.

Following her retirement from professional fighting, Rousey embraced regenerative agriculture on Browsey Acres, her sprawling ranch, viewing it as a scalable solution to climate change while prioritizing environmental sustainability and animal welfare.

Rousey's transition to motherhood in 2021, welcoming her daughter Po, further reshaped her perspective, emphasizing the importance of leaving a positive legacy for future generations. With a renewed focus on addressing pressing global issues like climate change, Rousey is committed to championing causes that resonate with her values and ensure a brighter future for her children.

As she navigates this new chapter of her life, Rousey remains steadfast in her determination to make a meaningful impact beyond the realm of sports, leveraging her platform to advocate for positive change and inspire others to do the same.

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