Ronda Rousey made professional wrestling history this past April when she headlined WrestleMania alongside WWE stars Becky Lynch and Charlotte, becoming the first female performers to close out that event in its 34-year history.
But even with that massive achievement on her resume, it’s a feat from her past life in the UFC that she holds in even higher regard.
In an interview with the UFC’s Megan Olivi, Rousey spoke effusively of her recent WWE run, while also making a point to emphasize how massive her Octagon debut was in comparison. In the main event of UFC 157 back on Feb. 23, 2013, Rousey—named the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion after coming over as a titleholder from the Strikeforce promotion—fought Liz Carmouche in the UFC’s first-ever women’s bout.
It was a thrilling one-round encounter that saw Carmouche actually threaten Rousey with a rear-naked choke before the Olympic silver medal-winning judoka managed to escape and later finish Carmouche with her signature armbar. The rest is history as Rousey went on to successfully defend her title five more times all via knockout or submission before closing out her fighting career with a pair of losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes.
Looking back, Rousey views her fight with Carmouche as a true turning point in MMA.
“[WrestleMania] felt big, it’s just I think it just has to do with the time, with the perspective. Me and Liz Carmouche, it felt bigger to me,” Rousey said. “Even though it was years ago and not as many people watched and it was in the Honda Center, which maybe holds like 16 to 20 thousand compared to WrestleMania, where it was in front of like 80,000 people and millions of people watching. I just felt like me and Carmouche was the most pivotal moment, where everything had to happen that way or else women’s MMA would have ended before it started.
“With WrestleMania, it just felt like all the stars were aligned and the whole universe was conspiring for us to succeed and I had not a single doubt in my mind that we would. But for Carmouche, it was so many outside factors of like, the numbers had to do well and I had to win the match, but I had to win the match in an exciting way. There were just so many other different factors that I had to worry about and I feel like the stakes were higher in a way even though the venue and the audience was smaller.”
It’s been almost two-and-a-half years since Rousey last fought and in the time since, other female stars have moved to the forefront like Nunes, Cris Cyborg, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. There are now four women’s weight classes in the UFC and female fights are commonplace.
Rousey is aware of her legacy and though she has moved on from MMA and pro wrestling for the foreseeable future as she focuses on starting a family, she is constantly reminded of the fruits of her labors.
“I guess I’ve had a lot more time for self-reflection and things like that,” Rousey said. “I want my legacy to be like I was a force of good and mankind was better off because I f*cking existed. I don’t need people to know that, I just need to have that effect and I think that’s the most rewarding thing for me. I think it’s kind of fun sometimes when you see things that you don’t get credit for, but it’s happening and it makes you so happy.
“I remember I was driving past some shopping center and I saw a Victoria’s Secret model in a sports bra and covered in sweat with her hands wrapped and I was like, ‘I f*cking did that! She’s sweating, that’s a Victoria’s Secret model and she’s in athletic gear and sweating and hand wraps!’ I don’t need anybody else jumping to the mountaintops and being like, ‘Oh, you have changed culture so much.’ I also don’t need to censor myself and worry about other people hating on me getting myself some credit. Like, ‘F*ck you guys, I’m f*cking proud of myself.’ I did some awesome shit and I really enjoy the effect that I’ve had and I can’t wait to see my daughters enjoying that effect.”