As I get ready to bring in the new year, I have one person on my mind: Ronda Rousey. She’s the last person I would imagine I would be thinking of, but the recent image of her latest fight in the octagon is at the forefront of my mind.
I’ve been a fan of Ronda since my son first introduced me to the sport of MMA. I was moved by her tearful interview regarding her father’s passing. I was shocked that she is an attractive young woman (because my pre-conditioned mind thought that women in “men’s” sport looked like they were consuming steroids). I admired her dedication and respect for the sport. Every time she won, I felt that a part of me won and although I would have liked to have seen her shake Miesha Tate’s hand after she defeated her, it did not dissuade me from wanting her to continue to succeed, and much less, wish that she would fail. And while many fans remained loyal, critics began to ring the symbols of contention.
Her recent fight (UFC: 207 Amanda Nunes vs. Ronda Rousey) brought out both her fans and critics, however, her critics lead the way with torches and buckets of fuel while salivating and foaming at the mouth; ready to drench her in the venom of their own hostility. Like reptiles, they are unable to produce their own body heat and need to comfort their lackluster life with the blood of The Man In The Arena.
I’ve read a few headlines stating that Ronda should retire while including a list of her mistakes; attitude; what she should do, speculating why she didn’t demonstrate more sportsmanship. But, how would you feel if you lost something you loved so much in 48 seconds? How would you react? I know she might have a contractual obligation to do interviews, but at the same time, I understand, that sometimes, when you love that hard, you lose all reason.
It’s interesting to watch people criticize her, point their fingers, celebrate her fall because what they ignore is that she is simply exhibiting an image of their own shadow self. My heart feels for her. I can’t imagine what she must be feeling on this New Year’s Day. I know that she must be hurting, deep within. She has been training for months (really, all her life) in preparation for a moment of victory (that every fighter believes otherwise, you would never step into a ring) and walk out wondering, how the hell did she lose. Yes, I saw the footage and wished her hands would have covered her face, that she would have avoided those punches and that she would have tackled Nunes to the ground!
As I saw the fight, I thought about how life at times punches us so hard in the face that it disorients us, and even though we may still be on our feet, we have no cognitive abilities to protect ourselves. Even with people in our corner yelling, “put your hands up” we can’t hear them. We willingly walk into an Octagon thinking we are fully prepared and yet, we get knocked down. We step away from our painful environment, regroup, seek counsel, get coaching, train hard, charge back into the ring of life feeling fully confident, and then, make the same mistakes again. We forget to keep our hands up; protect our face, throw a jab, avoid the situation altogether and run away (not giving up), but dance around in the ring the way Mayweather did, and wait for the opportunity to dominate. The difference is that when we get knocked down, we don’t have millions of people cheering and celebrating our defeat. We don’t have to see meme’s of ourselves all over the internet. We get to cry in private; seek the refuge of our loved ones who need not say a word of encouragement, but rather nurse our wounds with their love, reverence, and silence.
I don’t know what path Ronda will take, but whatever road she embarks on, this fan has this to says to her (and you dear reader): “You have not come this far by listening to the voice of the critics. It’s not the first time, nor the last time they will doubt you or want to see you fail. And just as bees swarm and await the moment to sting, they work mainly to provide the land (and you) with that sweet taste of honey. Remember, the universe is always conspiring in your favor.”
As Ronda recovers, I will be sending her love and light every step of the way. It is her bravery and strength that inspires me to raise my glass to 2017. We each have a responsibility to live our own legacy. We can choose to step into the Octagon or stay on the sidelines. If you find yourself in the ring of life and happen to hear the voice of the critics spewing their venom, remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”