In between the countless hours of training sessions and media obligations over the past couple of months, Ronda Rousey saw a quote.
She can’t remember where it came from. All she knows is the line stuck with her to the point that it bears repeating.
“Man’s plans are proof that God has a sense of humor,” she recites.
Rousey applies this to her career when talking about 25 short months ago, when she anonymously walked through the Orleans after finishing her amateur career with a first-round arm bar win — what else? — at a local Tuff-n-Uff card. This was a time when UFC President Dana White was still vowing that women would never step foot in the octagon.
Or even a couple of years before that, when Rousey had no plans whatsoever. After returning to Los Angeles from the 2008 Olympics, where she won a bronze medal in judo, Rousey scrounged up jobs as a bartender and briefly lived out of her car to stay financially afloat.
One of the world’s most prominent fighters recently has reflected on everything that’s led up to her UFC debut against Liz Carmouche on Saturday in the main event of UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif.
She’s poured her heart out about the death of her father and traced her judo origins through two episodes of “UFC Primetime.” But Rousey has talked little about how she got into mixed martial arts in the first place, another turn that she never planned on.
“When I was training for the Olympics, me and a bunch of the other fighters lived together, and Rick Hawn, who now fights for Bellator, was actually one of those guys,” Rousey said. “My favorite day of the week was Thursday because our coach wouldn’t show up and Rick would have all of us just grapple with no gi.”
“We would turn the music up, go no-gi and just have such a fun time. We would just hang out. I had more fun doing that than judo, so I just started grappling when I came home from the Olympics because I loved it and I wanted to stay in shape.”
Rousey could more than hold her own with the men she trained with during those sessions, which made them wonder why she didn’t try to make a career out of mixed martial arts. They eventually started telling her she should consider fighting professionally.
It was something Rousey had never thought about. Before the 2008 Olympics, the only MMA fight she’d ever watched was “The Ultimate Fighter” 5 finale when her childhood friend Manny Gamburyan, whom she knew from judo, lost to Nate Diaz via second-round submission.
“I liked it,” said Rousey, who now trains with Gamburyan and Diaz, “but only loosely followed it from there.”
Her relative unfamiliarity with the sport was part of the reason why it took Rousey awhile to decide to pursue mixed martial arts. But not too long.
She eventually made up her mind and excitedly shared the news with Hawn, Gamburyan and her other grappling friends.
“When I decided I was actually going to give it a try, they were like, ‘No, no, don’t do it. You’re going to get hit in the face,’” Rousey said. “I was like, ‘These girls can’t hit me. They can’t touch me.’ And so far, I haven’t gotten a single bruise in a fight.”
Rousey’s rise isn’t quite as unforeseen as it’s painted or how she sometimes describes. From the moment she started training in MMA, Rousey says, the goal was to make it to the UFC.
She might not have expected it two years after turning professional, but that goes back to her belief against trying to look too far ahead. If Rousey lives by a rule, it’s to not set limits on what she can achieve.
“I was talking to my coach the other day and said: ‘Hey, what do you think after I retire in MMA, I go over to boxing and win a world title and then go win the Abu Dhabi world jiujitsu championship? Just do all of it,’” Rousey said. “He looked at me says: ‘You’re nuts. You’re crazy.’ But I’d just as soon be the best at everything I do.”