Ronda Rousey's a bit busy this week. She has a fight coming up this week you just might have heard about, headlining the first-ever UFC women's title fight against Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157.
The UFC women's bantamweight champ is focusing on her opponent as the days wind down toward the big fight. But that doesn't mean those in her inner circle aren't taking note of goings-on outside the bubble.
Rousey's mother, Dr. Ann Maria DeMars, is an accomplished athlete in her own right, as she was the first American to medal in the World Judo Championships. So when DeMars heard that Rousey's nemesis, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, signed to fight in Invicta rather than drop down to 135 pounds and meet Rousey in the UFC, DeMars scoffed.
"We all know she's doing steroids," DeMars said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "It's like the guy who gets caught with a DUI and says ‘that's the first time I've ever drove drunk in my life.' Well, it's possible, but its not too likely."
Santos, the former Strikeforce women's featherweight champion, hasn't competed since Dec. 17, 2011, a knockout victory over Hiroko Yamanaka which was overturned to a no-contest after Santos tested positive for steroids. She debuts in Invicta against Ediane Gomes in April. To say DeMars is skeptical of Santos' claims she can't safely get down to bantamweight would be an understatement.
"I would say [if] you're a disciplined athletes and you can be disciplined enough to monitor your training and your weight and make your weight you committed to, why can't she do that too? Why should she get special privileges? I don't believe in special rules for special people and I think all of her reasons for not making weight are false."
DeMars used her own trailblazing career -- which peaked with her 1984 gold medal in Vienna at 56 kilograms at the World Judo competition -- to rebut Santos' claims.
"I say that because I competed for many, many years, and the thing about you can't cut weight because it might damage your chance of having children? Puh-leeze. I had four kids and I competed for 14 years and I cut all the way down. To make weight once for three minutes to stand on a scale and someone offers you a bucket of money and you say you can't do it?"
Of course, DeMars is still a bit in awe of the fact everything's happened with her daughter has fast as it has. She assumed Rousey's elite athletic career had peaked when Rousey won the judo bronze medal at 70 kg at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. DeMars, who works at the University of Southern California, thought Rousey would go to college after the Olympics and was taken aback when Rousey informed her of her mixed martial arts plans.
"I thought it was the dumbest idea I ever heard in my life," DeMars said. "She could have gone to USC for free, we went and checked a lot of colleges on the East Coast, she could have gotten a full ride on tuition. I thought she'd go in to the Olympics, maybe put off a college education, and then go into something like marine biology or something. She's really, really smart, and on top of that she could have picked a a free education at a private university, and she could have picked where she wanted to go. And instead she says, I want to punch people in the face, and they're going to pay me for it, even though there's no real pro opportunities. I was like that's the dumbest, I'm going to go be a professional embroiderer. Yeah, right."
Informed of Rousey's new career path, DeMars made it clear she was only going to support her daughter for so long, and after that she'd have to sink or swim on her own.
"I thought she'd be another one of those kids who spends forever living off their parent's dime," DeMars said. "I see a lot of these kids who are quote unquote 'Olympic athletes' doing that ... they're not training that hard, they don't have much potential to win, and yet you see these kids who stick around to their early to mid 30s sometimes, they travel all over the world and cost all this money."
So DeMars laid down an ultimatum: You've got a year to get your act together. She told her daughter: "I'm an able bodied adult, I'm not going to support you because you have a dream. I have a dream too, I want to retire some day. You got a year, you can live here, I'll support your for a year, you can live in this house rent-free, we'll pay your car insurance, at the end of that, if you don't make it, you're going to college."
You know the story from there. Rousey was a quick success in MMA, mainstream media was nearly as quick to catch on to the story of the brash-talking, good-looking young woman who was kicking butt and taking names, and now, seemingly in the bat of an eye, Dr. DeMars' little girl is headlining a history-making event.
But her daughter's sudden rise to fame has meant everything from dealing with detractors to having her personal life explored in sometimes-uncomfortable detail. Most notably, there is the issue of the death of Rousey's father via suicide, a subject which was tackled in the first episode of the UFC 157 version of UFC Primetime.
"I think she handled it as well as possible," DeMars said. "Frankly, I try to be sympathetic because my oldest daughter's a sportswriter and I know its your job to try to get the story, but people ask the question so often. "How did you feel when your husband died? How did you feel when your father died? How the hell do you think I felt? I think it's sad that, its understandable in a way because you have an athlete and you have what you want to bring out some backstory and make it more than just reporting scores. But on the other hand its gets to be difficult to have to say it over and over and over and over."
"I don't think she's very different, just that more people are aware of what's going on," DeMars said. "I think it's better for her, especially in the past year, compared to the Olympics where there's a lot of talk but no one really cares."
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