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Click Debate: Should Ronda Rousey's suicide comments raise a red flag?

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ronda Rousey exposed herself last week in an interview. More than she ever could clad in only body paint on the cover of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue.

The former UFC women's bantamweight champion went on "The Ellen Show" and made a raw admission: She thought about suicide following her knockout loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 back in November.

"In the medical room, I was like down in the corner and I was like, 'What am I anymore if I'm not this?'" Rousey told Ellen DeGeneres. "And I was literally sitting there and like thinking about killing myself. At that second, I'm like, 'I'm nothing. What do I even do anymore?' And no one gives a sh*t about me anymore without this."

Wow. In a career of making bold statements and putting just about all of herself out there for the world to see, this was a new level. Everything Rousey says seems to make headlines, but this went viral in a hurry. And everyone seemed to have an opinion.

But what does all of this mean, if anything? There's a bit to unpack here. Should Rousey just hang up the gloves at this point and focus on Hollywood? Is it a sure indictment of her psyche and a red flag?

Perhaps not, according to mental health experts I spoke to last week.

Given the considerable mental and emotional trauma Rousey went through on Nov. 15, maybe those momentary suicidal thoughts weren't all that outrageous.

Adding everything up, this was far from just a loss. Most people thought she would beat Holm, including Rousey herself. Sports books gave Holm long odds. Rousey was a massive favorite, because she had beaten her last three opponents in less than 40 seconds each.

Factor in the record crowd of more than 56,000 in Australia and a few million more watching at home -- just about all of them expecting her to dominate -- plus Rousey's persona as this unbeatable champion, and you have quite the stress cocktail.

"She did not see this coming," said Dr. Deborah Carr, a sociology professor at Rutgers University who authored a book entitled "Worried Sick: How Stress Hurts Us and How to Bounce Back." "It was the double whammy of having her identity completely threatened and on top of that having no emotional and mental preparation for it. You get that kind of triple whammy of the identity loss and the public arena and the not seeing it coming. I think her reaction was actually perfectly normal and honest."

And that's not even factoring in the blow to the head, the personal drama Rousey dealt with before the fight and her umpteen outside-the-Octagon obligations, some of which she stood to lose if she didn't throw Holm on her head and armbar her.

Any major stressor, Carr said, has a direct tie to the feeling of not knowing who you are anymore, whether it be a divorce or getting fired from a job.

"When she lost, the one aspect of her life that her whole identity hinges on really came crumbling down," Carr said. "Not only did she lose her sense of self, but it happened on an international arena for all to see. It was this pressure cooker. I think that is all completely normal that she would be so devastated."

It's worth noting that Rousey brought almost all of the above on herself. She welcomed the fame and attention (at least at first), and why wouldn't she? Rousey is one of the highest paid fighters in MMA history. She's also crossed over to mainstream celebrity in a bigger way than anyone else ever in the sport. Rousey didn't do any of that by being quiet and polite.

She stoked the flames, constantly. Talked trash about opponents and ring card girls. Tore down Holm verbally at weigh-ins. Spoke her mind at every turn. She was brash, cocky and proud of it.

Rousey made her own bed, but that doesn't make what happened to her any less traumatic. If you want to say she brought criticism upon herself, that's not incorrect. That doesn't minimize the scope of what she went through, not if you're looking at it objectively from her perspective.

"I think there are a lot of people who go through a major stressor that alters their thoughts about who they are and they do think about suicide," Carr said. "On some level, by talking about it publicly I think she's actually opening up the conversation for people to talk about their failures and how they respond to loss."

There have probably been more than a few MMA fighters who have had thoughts similar to the ones Rousey had in Melbourne. Everyone loses eventually. Rousey just happened to lose in epic fashion, which is kind of true to her form of doing everything bigger and louder than her predecessors.

Dr. Patrick Cohn, a sports psychology expert who has worked with top athletes in multiple sports, calls what Rousey went through the "gladiator effect."

"I'm never gonna die, I'm never gonna get hurt or I'm never gonna get beat," Cohn explained. "You get this complex that you're untouchable. Then when you lose, all this comes to a head, it goes against the grain of the expectations from everyone around her, maybe from her persona about being a winner. It's just tough when you're used to that much success and then you have this one failure. Then, no longer are you that unbeatable gladiator."

Cohn doesn't think Rousey being crushed by the loss is abnormal. But he does feel like she should seek counseling regarding her thoughts of ending her own life.

"If you're talking about the suicidal tendencies, that's the time when you need to tell someone, you need to go get some help specifically with a crisis intervention person," Cohn said.

Rousey said on "Ellen" that it was the first time she has talked about those thoughts with anyone besides her boyfriend, UFC heavyweight Travis Browne. It was Browne who was there with her in the medical room that night. Rousey said she might not have gotten through it without him.

"I looked up at him and I was just like, 'I need to have his babies, I need to stay alive,'" Rousey said.

The crowd laughed when she said that, but Carr said Rousey's emotions in that situation are very much in line with the feelings of people undergoing a great amount of stress.

"What she said about the boyfriend and wanting to be a mom, I think that was really important," Carr said. "It shows that she's looking to the future and she knows that she has somebody she can turn to."

Rousey, 29, plans on returning to the UFC sometime in the fall and has not wavered from her desire to face Holm in a rematch. The knee-jerk reaction when she mentioned suicide was that maybe Rousey should never fight again, maybe that unwavering confidence has turned quickly to fragility.

Carr doesn't buy that. Rousey's history of overcoming adversity -- from a childhood speech disorder to the suicide of her father -- make her more capable of bouncing back from this, Carr said.

"She has this history of coping and overcoming," Carr said. "I suspect that this, too, she will overcome, because she has a quite long track record of overcoming these disadvantages and adversities."

Rousey is filming two major Hollywood movies this year even before she'll step into the gym for a training camp. She's already hosted Saturday Night Live, graced the cover of SI and hung out with Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" and we're only about seven weeks into 2016.

The question about whether or not she's doing too much has come up, especially after the stunning loss to Holm. Rousey attempted to defend her belt three times in nine months last year, combined with countless media obligations and the filming of movies in between.

Cohn thinks it's possible that Rousey can juggle everything without fumbling MMA. People believe athletes have to grind away at their craft eight hours a day and focus completely on that, Cohn said, but he doesn't believe that to be the case.

"It absolutely can be done," he said. "Can it become a distraction in the ring? Absolutely, if she doesn't separate that and think that all this other stuff -- her movie gigs and her media gigs -- depend upon her success in the ring. Because that can be too much pressure. Then it's not about the sport anymore and competing, it's about, Well, this is gonna determine how many gigs I'm gonna get over the next year."

It's hard to believe that hasn't entered Rousey's mind already. She has earned a lion's share of these mainstream opportunities through her ability to fight. Rousey's dominance as a fighter put her in position to be famous and wealthy and she took the ball and ran with it. But can she thrive in other mediums without the pull of her being the badass female fighter? Maybe, but that's impossible to know at this point.

Just like we won't know what state Rousey is in until we see her fight again. Those words she uttered last week were jarring. They are not ones we hear often, especially from the mouth of an elite fighter -- or from a well-known celebrity, which is what Rousey has become.

But that doesn't mean we should read too much into them, either. Most of this year will be gone before Rousey sets foot in the Octagon again (and still she might do it before CM Punk fights). In this sport, things can change quickly and drastically. Holm defends the title against Miesha Tate on March 5 and anything can happen. Having an opinion about something that won't happen for another eight months is ill advised.

"It's too soon to tell," Carr said. "She has to see how she feels the next time she enters the ring. Is she fearful? Is she cutting back? The first time will be the hardest and that's true for any stressor. If she can do that, then she'll be fine."

The only person fit to make the decision to fight again is Rousey, despite what her mental state was during a dark moment.