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Some theories as to why Ronda Rousey can’t talk about MMA

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Ronda Rousey media day EL
Don’t ask Ronda Rousey about MMA.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

So, I’ve got some theories on WWE star Ronda Rousey, who did the ESPN car wash yesterday and gave the stink eye to anybody brave enough to mention the dirty letters (“M.M.A.”). One of these theories is probably true. The others are likely also true, though lessly so.

It’s kayfabe? It’s kayfabe!

It’s at least possible that all of this is a master performance that began on that long flight back to America from Melbourne…but wait, wait, wait…let’s back up a minute. You might remember that Rousey wasn’t exactly emitting warm light heading into her fight with Holly Holm at UFC 193. In fact, she seemed on edge. Fatigued. Fed up. There were flies buzzing all over the place and Rousey was waving them away in states of agitation, worn out from a couple of years of incessant travel and media recitals of her own invincibility. When her and Holm squared off at the weigh-ins, Rousey nearly kicked up a row against that long stone figure, which had the sharps racing for the book.

Then she got knocked out, and the world went into shock. Oh, she was vincible, alright. And that’s when a little set of individualized storm clouds rolled over her head, just like in the cartoons, dark tiny storm clouds that have hovered over her ever since. Other than a rather narcotic conversation with Ellen and an eggshell interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, she didn’t talk to media so much as glare at them for the next 13 months en route to her fight with Amanda Nunes at UFC 207.

Or, did little storm clouds roll over her head?

Imagine that she’s on that flight back from Melbourne, and she decides somewhere over the vast Pacific that reality needs to be flipped right side up after everything went upside down Down Under. It’s like in one of those movies, when bing, she crosses the International Date Line and becomes something other than Ronda Rousey the mega-MMA star. She becomes Ronda Rousey the hermetic pro wrestler who is allergic to octagons. Even the mention of eight-sided anythings breaks her out in hives.

Maybe her not being able to “talk about” defeat is an ongoing fib, just as big as the notion of her invincibility (because surely she couldn’t have believed that she was in-freaking-vincible, right? I mean, right?). Maybe Ronda Rousey’s character in the WWE is a psychologically impaired former pop culture trailblazer who has this thing in her past that she can’t deal with. It’s like a dirty little secret that half the globe is in on, perfect for nighttime soaps. Mention MMA and you better duck! Her pupils turn as black as an threatened cat’s, and everything around her freezes.

This is a good shtick, if an involved one.

Is this theory giving her too much credit? See, maybe that’s part of the plan, too — that she has us over-thinking all of this, and we’re like putty in her hands. Because it’s comical otherwise. All this huffing at the mention of MMA. Poor Mike Golic, bless his heart, found out the hard way. During a segment on Mike and Trey he bit down on his mouth guard (to stick with fighter parlance), and went ahead and went there.

“Let’s go back and start with when you knew from the MMA, when you were done there…when you knew in your mind that you’re not going to fight anymore.”

The smile disappeared from Rousey’s face so fast you had to wonder if it was ever there to begin with. Just more WWE theatrics?

“I never said that,” she deadpanned.

“Aww, so there’s a possibility that…you could…go back…in time?”

“There’s a possibility that I can go back in time, that’s your question to me?” she said, cocking an eyebrow up in disgust (wink wink!).

Golic clarified (sort of).

“Go back in time and fight, go back in the octagon…”

“I do not have the ability to go back in time, no.”

See, this is where you have to wonder how far the kayfabe goes…how deep down the rabbit hole, how many fathoms deep, how deep…how deep…wait, maybe it’s actually a kind of worm hole. A DeLorean. Maybe…

…Maybe Rousey really can travel back in time, and she feared (predicted?) Golic was onto her!

It’s at least possible that Rousey is a time traveler, and she always has been. That she convinced Dana White to introduce women into the UFC by visiting (and revisiting) him at the same key moment in time, until she figured out the exact right word combination to spawn an epiphany. Maybe she knew Cat Zingano was going to go berserker right at top of UFC 184, because she’d been there before. Maybe she is an astral cousin to that International Date Line she crossed at UFC 193.

If that’s the case — and reader, I have a sinking feeling it is — she knew that Golic was going to ask that question, and she had the answer lined up. She knew she’d say she can’t travel back in time, and that Deadspin would pick it up and that Josh Gross would pose a time travel question on his Twitter feed. Just as she knew that I’d be sitting here writing this theory right now. Maybe she has already read this piece, even as I type these…

Wait, this is spooky.

(Or maybe that’s exactly what she wants me to think, given the new pro wrestling persona and all, which may just be the old one, the one where Ronda Rousey is just Ronda Rousey).

Maybe she really doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation

Of the theories, this one seems most likely. When Rousey was winning and on top of the world in the UFC, she was all about it. She posed for magazines and did television shows and sent up validating precepts (“I’m not a do nothing bitch!”). Young girls worshiped her, and she had no problem making them cry woobly tears of joy when they encountered her in the flesh. She enjoyed being thought of as a kind of demigod. It suited her.

That all went away with a single head kick. It’s like what Abe Lincoln said back in the day, only in reverse, the one where he goes, “nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

(Rousey would know that quote of course, because — if you subscribe to Theory No. 2 — she was there when he said it).

Since losing to Holm, Rousey has gone off the grid for the most part. She has isolated herself to her dearest friends and her husband, Travis Browne. She has rarely acknowledged her fans. All the cries of her ruining her own accomplishments through a seemingly endless power sulk have fallen on deaf ears. We say she’s a poor loser? She and Browne post pictures of love on Instagram, perhaps just to infuriate you. She’s not trying to deal with the Thing That Happened. Nor the Thing That Happened Again. Psych majors would say she needs to let it go, but she doesn’t care what psych majors say. Did psych majors compete in the Olympics? Didn’t think so, broheim.

There’s a way to nourish a chip on the shoulder, just as there’s a way to harness negativity. Rousey is doing that by not caring a lick what you think. It’s possible that’s who she is, and that’s who she’s been all along. If we were duped into thinking otherwise, the operative word is dupe. It was because we refused to pick up the cues earlier. False idol you say? Only because we built up the idea of an idol to begin with.

Ronda was always Ronda, the only difference is the lens — seeing her through wins, or through losses.

It’s not a stretch to assume that Rousey heard the cheers when she competed in MMA, and believed they’d go on forever. When she lost, it scrambled her bearings in a way that she hasn’t yet figured out how to recover. She hasn’t thus far been willing to admit she’s human, or to allow people to humanize her without an icy stare. The world has turned against her, it seems. Or at least a glaring portion of it. When First Take’s Max Kellerman asked her about the negative backlash she encountered upon losing — and it was considerable, you might recall — she turned it into an accusation towards him.

Here was the exchange:

“You must be aware, in the MMA world, there was a lot of talk, ‘well, she was overrated, she was this, she was that,’ and my point of view was at the time and remains, that you achieved amazing heights,” Kellerman said. “Almost no one wins forever, everyone suffers setbacks, but there seemed to be an unusual amount of negative pushback after your loss. Did you not experience that?”

Rousey stared into the camera.

“I experienced a lot of people who quote ‘some people’ that are really just afraid to state their own opinion.”

“Do you think it’s my opinion?” Kellerman asked.

Rousey shrugged, like a person who had just let somebody dig their own grave.

“No, that’s not my opinion, I can tell you that right now,” Kellerman said. “It’s not my opinion. I thought you achieved amazing things. I was and am and remain a big fan of your fighting, and of you. That’s not me saying ‘some people’ meaning me, that’s me saying I read and heard from others and defended you.”

“Well thank you for defending me, I appreciate that,” Rousey said, perhaps not all that sincerely.

If the car wash told us anything, it’s that she’s still not ready to talk about losing, nor speak about the dirty thing that created her (the “M.M.A.”).

Or so she wants us to think. It’s hard to tell with pro wrestlers sometimes, especially when the gimmicks cut so deep for inexplicable reasons.