Ronda Rousey hasn’t been in the public eye much since Amanda Nunes knocked her out in just 48 seconds last month in their bout for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship.
That doesn’t mean she’s completely gone into seclusion pitying herself, though.
Rousey arrived in Standing Rock, S.D., on Tuesday, after having purchased a used RV, filling it with supplies and making the 1,500-mile, 24-hour drive from her Los Angeles home to the Standing Rock Reservation.
She told few what she was up to before leaving Los Angeles and traveled with just one friend.
She delivered food and supplies to protesters who are attempting to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in order to preserve their water and protect sacred Native American sites.
“She does more for charity than most people I’ve ever been around, and never talks about it,” her agent, Brad Slater, told Yahoo Sports. “She’ll say to me, ‘Yeah, I’m going here,’ or ‘I just got back from here and did this,’ and it’s these amazing charitable things she does that you wouldn’t believe. We don’t publicize them because she doesn’t care if people know about it. It’s not why she does them, to build an image or get positive press. It’s just something she loves to do and she did that long before we met, which is a long time now.”
Slater said he believed Rousey left the RV for the protesters and rented a car to drive home, but said he wasn’t fully certain. That would be, he said, well within her character to do so.
Those are the acts of a champion.
There is more than one way to define a champion. To many, it’s someone who performs heroic feats in athletic competitions. That type of champion is hailed far and wide, often is paid handsomely, and becomes the idol of millions.
Rousey knows that side of life well. She was an Olympic bronze medalist in judo in 2008 and then in 2012 won the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight championship in just her fifth professional mixed martial arts fight. After she made one successful defense of her belt, Strikeforce was absorbed into the UFC. Rousey was named the UFC champion and went on to make six consecutive defenses before losing.
Along the way, she became one of the best-known athletes in the world, and A-list superstars like The Rock, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Demi Lovato tweeted admiringly to her in her good times and offered support in the bad times.
It’s been 14 months since her stunning loss to Holly Holm, the one that prompted then-Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump to revel in her defeat.
Trump took to Twitter the following day and wrote, “Glad to see that Ronda Rousey lost her championship fight last night. Was soundly beaten — not a nice person!”
But Rousey awakened a champion again this morning, even though it’s less than a month since a devastating defeat to Nunes that may push her out of the sport permanently. Slater said he doesn’t know whether she plans to fight again.
There is no title belt or trophy awarded for the kind of person Rousey showed herself to be with the act, but it was just as difficult and took even more courage than her many wins inside a cage.
Rousey showed up in Standing Rock on Tuesday armed with supplies for protesters who are attempting to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order that will advance construction of the pipeline.
Linda Black Elk, one of the protest leaders, told TMZ that Rousey was inspirational to her group and said Rousey told her she plans to return to join the protest herself.
“It’s very difficult to access fresh food, like fresh fruits and vegetables, especially when you’re on the frozen prairies of the Northern Great Plains,” Black Elk said. “It’s very cold and it’s very difficult to access those things. And she brought a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh bread, fresh cheese. She brought tents and wood stoves. She did a huge firewood order for us and had it delivered right to camp. Just absolutely amazing.
“She’s an incredible person and so humble. She wasn’t asking for any type of publicity. And when I talked to her about that, she basically said that she felt like a disappointment and she felt like everyone was really upset with her. … She actually told me she would come back and stand on the frontlines and get pepper-sprayed along with everyone else.”
She made her gesture and got publicity and could have easily returned to her home in Los Angeles and lived her life comfortably, forgetting the protesters. But she said she’d be back.
It’s immaterial whether you agree or disagree with her stance on the pipeline. She saw suffering and a cause she believes in and took bold, decisive action.
It’s what makes her unique among professional athletes and celebrities and it’s probably why Slater said that her back-to-back losses in the UFC haven’t impacted her business outside of it.
“She’s got a three-picture deal at Lifetime and she’s producing movies,” he said. “We just got our first treatment in for one of them, so we’re moving forward with the producing. We’re still having major conversations with respect to the movies she was engaged with, like ‘Roadhouse.’ We’re waiting for the new draft of that script to come in, which is old news. And I’d like to think that as important as Ronda Rousey is as a pioneer, as a legend in the sport, as a great woman, that the … movie based on her book is going to get made. I don’t think anyone is going to count her wins and losses as to whether that movie needs to get made.
“I can tell you I’ve had very serious conversations with a very serious director who very badly wants to direct that movie. That conversation happened Saturday.”
Slater said Rousey is one of the few who have the ability to impact the lives of others. He told of the video Rousey received shortly after she lost to Nunes from a fan inScotland who had read her autobiography.
“We get this video from this young girl in Scotland who was, I don’t know, 20, maybe,” Slater said. “She made this video to say how much Ronda means to her. She lifts up her forearm and there is a tattoo of Ronda’s autograph. It’s literally like she had Ronda’s autograph stenciled on her forearm.
“She said, ‘I got this because I got beaten so senseless by my boyfriend that I didn’t know which way was up and I didn’t know where to turn until I read your book. And in your book, you said, ‘Nobody is going to fight harder for you than you.’ And it changed my life. I’ve never been happier and I’m on my way back because of you, Ronda.’ And that’s what I’m saying: This woman has touched so many lives, it’s incredible.”
Rousey was pilloried both before and after the Nunes fight for not speaking to the media and a variety of other things.
How many of us, though, care enough about people we don’t know that we’re willing to spend thousands of our own dollars, take much of our time, potentially incur the wrath of the President, and drive more than 1,500 miles into very wintry weather just to lend support to someone in need?
Rousey doesn’t have a title belt around her waist any more, but have no doubt, the woman very much remains a champion.
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