UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is no different.
She had already competed in the 2004 Olympics as a Judoka – where she failed to medal – and was in the middle of another run, preparing for the 2008 Olympics, where she would win a bronze medal. She became the first American to win an Olympic medal in women’s judo.
It was her judo team that unintentionally exposed her move to a career in fighting.
“My judo team got into watching MMA and we would have little ‘fight nights’ where we would all get together and watch the fights that were on,” Rousey recounted in a recent interview on the Fox Files.
“I remember one of them, I saw Gina Carano and Julie Kedzie fight, and I just sat there and I thought, ‘I could beat both those girls. I could be doing that right now.’ But I didn’t want to say it because I was in the middle of an Olympic run and everyone would turn to me and call me an idiot.”
Once she medaled in the Olympics and the prospects for judo started to wind down, Rousey jumped head first into mixed martial arts. Much like her mother blazed trails for women in judo – she was the first American Judoka to win a World Championship – Ronda began blazing trails in fighting.
She hasn’t had the opportunity to fight either of her initial inspirations. Gina Carano hasn’t fought since 2009, forgoing fighting for Hollywood, while Julie Kedzie is still competing, but hasn’t been able to put herself in a position to challenge Rousey.
Meanwhile, Rousey’s ability and magnetic personality has led her to a 7-0 start in her career and helped usher women into the UFC’s Octagon.