Ronda Rousey does not do humblebragging. She, plus her sister Maria, who is credited as co-author, writes it plain and straight. And in My Fight Your Fight, it's clear she certainly had a LOT of things that she wanted to get off her chest. We are taken on a roller coaster journey from young judo prodigy to the most dominant female MMA athlete in UFC history. It’s quite some story and whether you are a Ronda fan or not, there's enough here of interest to keep you entertained throughout.
Ronda’s book is split roughly into two sections. The first half chronicles her judo career and the latter half covers MMA right up to her last fight with Cat Zingano. Ronda being Ronda, you can expect sections where she explains things crudely enough to raise eyebrows – for example her disdain with the ineptitude and disorganization with US Judo (governing body of judo in the US) is mentioned several times.
Another area where she excels at is in pouring scorn and venting her disappointments about her ex-lovers – who are almost universally some form of creep, dirtbag or loser.
Each chapter opens with a foreword where she attempts to offer some motivational insight. I found these opening sections a bit annoying. I turn to Ronda for her immense skill with fighting, not for her philosophical leadership. But I do appreciate that this was her attempt to allow the reader to understand how her mind ticks.
The judo career sections are very interesting. Most regular folk like me will never have experienced what it is like to train for an Olympics. The sheer hard work and never ending training that goes into the modern day athlete is all documented in every minutiae. Rousey qualified as the youngest ever athlete to make it into the US Olympic Team at the age of 16 so her experience is unique. It seems a very lonely pursuit – her family was not always with her when she travelled, team mates were not necessarily her friends (rivals even) and her coaches only seemed to come alive when coaching. Away from home, training, competing, training, cutting weight, training, competing…it’s not the life of a typical American teenager.
The book’s technical judo content is lightly detailed. Judo positions named and sometimes described but largely, it steers clear of becoming a manual of judo fight breakdowns. The main emphasis within these passages were the emotions she went through for each fight. More importantly, and more interesting for the reader, the book covers her various relationships with coaches, friends, peers and those around her as she rose up the judo rankings. The soul crushing loneliness of the Olympic athlete is covered in depth – holed up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, just daily judo training but nothing to do at weekends, not even food to eat as cutting weight was a near constant source of difficulty. It’s hardly the life of glamour.
But there were a few high points too: the life-long friendships made, fantastic sporting successes (junior World Champion, Olympic bronze medalist) and the world beating judo training that took her to so much success in her MMA career. In the first half of the book, we grow up as Ronda grows up, with all the awkwardness, faults and mistakes along the way.
Where this book excels is when Ronda writes about her mother and father. The chapters where she details her relationship with her dad, his crippling injury and physical decline leading eventually to his suicide is heart breaking. And mum, clearly the driving force in her life, the person who Ronda looks up to the most, the passages with mum are very enjoyable to read. One scene, where Ronda is at dinner along with her coaches trying to convince her mother that MMA would be a good career choice is hilarious.
After a brief hiatus basically bumming around and ‘finding herself’ the latter half of the book sees Ronda venture into her MMA career. With no experience in the ring, no money (despite working three jobs), an addict boyfriend and only sheer determination going for her, it seemed even this wasn’t enough to kick start her on the road to MMA fame and fortune. Her Armenian boxing coach Edmond pretty much ignores her for 3 or 4 months, only reluctantly agreeing to work pads with her following a scene where Ronda throws tantrum and walks out after being denied yet agani (Edmond is referenced stating that this incident is what made him realise she did in fact have the passion he was looking for in a fighter).
Inevitably, Ronda climbs up the amateur and then pro MMA ranks in meteoric speed – much of which has been extensively documented within the MMA press. What the book offers instead is Ronda’s own personal breakdown of each of her pro MMA fights. In many respects, Ronda the professional fighter is a different person to Ronda the wide eyed 16 year old judo prodigy, but then again, some things remain the same – her fierce desire to win and her utter self-belief is not too dissimilar to her attitude during her judo days.
Among all the characters in the book, Ronda reserves the most bitter of all words for her ‘rival’ Meisha Tate. Not even the most dirt bag of all her ex-boyfriends (and oh boy when you read what these exes have done…) is written with such venom and hatred. If I was Meisha I’d probably feel quite flattered that Ronda has dedicated so much of these later chapters to her. I must confess I was quite staggered at the vitriol and it’s arguably quite childish. But then again, Ronda is having her say and that’s what her book is for.
Ronda’s autobiography is a roller coaster ride of a read. I personally found the first half more interesting than the latter (MMA) half simply because it’s the part of her story I am less familiar with. Today, as a Hollywood film actress, award winning Champion MMA athlete, it seems Ronda has succeeded wildly beyond her dreams. It's a far cry from the time where she was sleeping in her stinking smelly car, penniless and homeless with only a dream to fuel her. I somehow suspect the Ronda Rousey soap opera will have many more stories to come...which I can only predict will lead to a sequel to this book.