clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ronda Rousey on how to come back from a loss: “Being defeated is a choice”

On Ellen DeGeneres's show, the MMA fighter discusses her devastation after losing to Holly Holm.

Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

It's hard to lose. Obviously you have to deal with the immediate moment afterward, when somebody else is crowned the winner. But you also have to deal with the aftermath — the part where you replay things in your mind and wonder just what you might have done differently to change what happened. That aftermath can last a few minutes. It can last months. It can last a lifetime. But you have to deal with it somehow.

That's the mindset MMA fighter Ronda Rousey must have had to push through after she lost her first fight ever, to Holly Holm in 2015. Before the fight with Holm, Rousey had seemed invincible. Afterward she seemed, well, human.

In a moving, open interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Rousey discusses both the loss to Holm and its aftermath, when she considered suicide for a brief second as she devastatingly linked her defeat to the end of her self-worth: "What am I anymore without this?"

Rousey discusses a heartbreaking moment of personal despair

One of the most interesting things about this interview is that it seems Rousey knew she was going to lose from fairly early on. Holm clocked her with a hard enough hit that she became disoriented, a feeling that lasted for several hours. (Rousey says it only wore off the morning after the fight.)

When DeGeneres asks if Rousey had a headache, the fighter says it's not the physical pain that hurts after a fight, but the mental pain. Even if Rousey had somehow won, she would have had to deal with not quite knowing where she was in space, thanks to that hard hit.

But combine that with the loss — and the fact that it was her first — and you have a recipe for a killer case of situational depression, when things get so bad that you can lapse into a point where you're at your lowest ebb.

For Rousey, that came immediately after the fight, when, overwhelmed by emotion, she momentarily thought about killing herself. "I was literally sitting there and thinking about killing myself, and that exact second I’m like, ‘I’m nothing, what do I do anymore, and no one gives a shit about me anymore without this," she told DeGeneres.

Rousey says the presence of her boyfriend, Travis Browne, helped her emerge from that moment of despair. But it's also clear that the process of going from an undefeated Ronda Rousey to a Ronda Rousey with one loss under her belt has been an arduous one psychologically.

In recent weeks, Rousey has been slowly reentering the public eye, particularly with her recent Saturday Night Live hosting stint and her presence as one of the cover models for Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue. But a rematch with Holm has yet to be scheduled (though Rousey says in the interview that she wants it to happen).

Meanwhile, Rousey leaves viewers with something worth contemplating. Winning or losing a fight is a fact, but being undefeated is a state of mind, she says. We'll all lose, possibly many times, but being undefeated is about more than that. It's about confidence and trying again. And it's about accepting that just because you've lost, you don't have to be a failure.