Every fight is personal to a fighter. They may or may not have actual animosity with their opponents, but the outcome of a bout determines their immediate income, future income, job security, and their family’s financial stability. It’s personal.
But every now and then an athlete crosses the line between fight promotion and the inappropriate during the lead-up to a fight that transforms the bout into a bona fide grudge-match.
Bethe Correia has called out women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey since her arrival in the organization at UFC Fight Night 33 in December 2013. She’s defeated two of Rousey’s friends and training partners: Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler. She intelligently fought and talked her way into a title fight, but took the talking a bit too far.
During a May interview with the Brazilian news outlet Combate, Correia seemingly took a deeply personal shot at the champion by referencing suicide knowing Rousey’s father took his own life while she was an adolescent after suffering for years following a traumatic and debilitating back injury.
“She is focused on movies, books. I am much stronger, I come from a developing country, where people are struggling to survive, not to starve. It is very different from her life of reality. Under pressure, she is proving weak. When her mom put pressure on her, she ran away from home. When she lost, it was because of drugs. That’s not a superhero,” said the undefeated 31-year-old Brazilian.
“When she feels my pressure, I want to see her reaction. She is not mentally healthy. She needs to take care of herself. She is winning, so everybody is around her cheering her up, but when she realizes she is not everything that she believes she is, I don’t know what might happen. I hope she does not kill herself later on (laughs),” she added.
At that moment, everything changed.
“I think everything up until the suicide comment could have been understandable from a marketing point of view. But when she said that is when it really crossed the line and became truly personal for me,” Rousey said during a UFC 190 media conference call.
When the offensive remarks were made public, Correia apologized via Twitter, but some things you can’t just take back.
— Bethe (@bethecorreia) May 28, 2015
“This is definitely the most personal fight I’ve ever had — making such tasteless remarks about suicide when she knows how it has effected me in my past. Then her completely disingenuous apology after, which wasn’t even an apology. She just complemented herself by calling herself humble and asked for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is not an apology,” Rousey recently told a group of media at her gym.
“I think that her actually pretending not to know to save face was just as insulting as what she said in the first place,” said Rousey. “There were so many other events in my life that she cited that were actually from my book, right after it came out, that were much less known than the history of my father and my family. So you’re insulting my intelligence if you expect me to believe that you know those things about me and not know the most formidable event of my life.”
The two will settle their differences in the UFC 190 main event on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, but the fight is much more than just another title defense for Rousey.