Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Fight / Your Fight by Ronda Rousey

Why would I want to read a book about a woman cage fighter? This was the question I asked myself as I stared disbelieving at the Best Books of 2015 list on “Fake fighting,” I said to myself. But my gut (reference SueAnn’s #16) said, “Look a little deeper,” and I am glad I did.

Supposedly Ronda Rousey is the only female professional athlete in the world paid as much as her male peers. That alone was enough to get my attention. She is also an Olympic medalist in Judo who went on to become the first woman to compete in what is called the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) – the cage fighting thing I always rush by when channel surfing because I’m repulsed by people beating the hell out of each other.

Undeniably UFC is as much about entertainment as fighting.  However, unlike the very staged faux fighting you see in the WWC (World Wrestling Championship), in UFC fights, if you’re not highly skilled in a wide variety of legitimate fighting techniques, in ultimate physical shape, and not convinced you are invincible, you’re not there.

The story Ronda tells is about discipline, determination, and the drive to win she inherited and learned from her mother, who won a gold medal for Judo in the Olympics and expected no less from her daughter. Ronda began taking Judo lessons at a young age and continued to compete, working her way to the top. But it wasn’t the lessons that carried Ronda to the top. It was her mom, who taught her with harsh brutality, that if you’re not the best you’re nothing.  Rousey also talks a lot about her father, who she idolizes and who dies too early, and it’s a sweet story. But I don’t think Rousey is who she is because of her father.

We learn about the 24/7 workouts and pain and single-mindedness that are apparently the hallmarks of all the best athletes. We also learn that fighters walk the fine line of being as strong as possible (carrying as much muscle as possible) without going an ounce over the highest weight allowed for their weight class. They obsess over weight, to the point that they fast and run, and do without water for days prior to a weigh-in, then feast and hydrate afterwards to get their strength back and to gain more heft to aide their fight.

I went into My Fight / Your Fight with a heightened sense of curiosity and skepticism, and ended it with a tremendous amount of respect for Ronda Rousey’s discipline, an evolved appreciation for the psychological benefits of self-promotion and confidence (otherwise perceived as arrogance), and a corrected perception of what the sport of UFC is about. I probably won’t ever watch UFC fights, but I got a good story and I learned something, and that is always valuable.

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