Talking With ESPY Female Athlete of the Year Ronda Rousey

Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/August

Ronda Rousey rocked the ESPY awards winning Best Fighter and Best Female Athlete. The UFC fighter beat out Serena Williams for the Best Athlete award, and controversial boxer Floyd Mayweather for Best Fighter. Rousey looked strong and gorgeous accepting her award. She really is the new body ideal, exhibiting power, strength, and confidence. Rousey is the UFC’s first and only Women’s Bantamweight Champion and one of few women to win an Olympic medal in Judo. She's also an actress, appearing in The Expendables 3 last summer, and the Entourage movie. A few months back, I had the chance to get to know this truly inspiring woman. Here's a little bit more about this amazing female fighter:

BB: I am so glad you were able to do this interview.

RR: Me too. I was actually feeling really sick after coming back from finals in China and this is the one thing we did not cancel today because I was just as excited as you are.

BB: That is so nice. Are you feeling better?

RR: I am getting there. Coming home is rough. It’s half-jet lag, half-traveling, and working too much. My body was like, “Nope, now is the time to stop.”

BB: I saw this beautiful picture of you and it stopped me because you were in a bathing suit and you have the most beautiful strong body. Before I even knew who you were I said, “Oh my god this is the new face of beauty.” I said I have to do something on this person. Then I read about you and now I am enamored.

RR: Thank you! We are trying to push strong as the new sexy as much as possible.

BB:  Strong is the new sexy, and strong is the new thin. I am 5' tall, with a muscular build, and all I wanted to do growing up was be really long and tall and thin, like the models, but now I am really proud of how strong I am. I read that you also struggled because you were so muscular. How and when did you come to peace with your shape?

RR: Well it’s been a long process. What I really realized I was doing wrong was dieting and training and doing all of these things that I didn’t even like to get this idea of the body that I wanted. I was focused on the results, instead of the process. I was unhappy and thought that when I got the right body I would be happy. But I was going at it backwards. I had to make myself happy first and then the body came.

BB: So did you try any crazy diets to get this body that you thought would make you happy?

RR: Yeah, I would do all kinds of crazy stuff; I struggled with bulimia and all these things for years. I was unhappy. I had to attend to all of the other things in my life, like my career and my training, to get to a point where I trained just because I loved it. I didn’t even know that was what I wanted, but I made myself happy first and then got the “oh wow” body.

BB: You really are very feminine. A lot of people think that if you are muscular you look like a guy, but you have a very, very feminine body. Do you do anything different? Do you lift super heavy weights? Do you do yoga or anything to elongate? Or is it just your natural shape?

RR: I don’t lift weights at all. Every muscle on my body is for an actual task; there is no muscle that I train for show. If I want to be able to do a certain move or action, I train really hard until I can. And with all of that training comes muscle definition, so it’s really an after thought.

BB: How do you train?

RR: I do different things every day. I never really liked weight lifting because there is no problem solving, whereas when I am fighting, I am trying to solve a problem, so I don’t think about being tired. I box, wrestle, do jujitsu, run up sand dunes, every single day is something different so that I am mentally engaged. That’s what makes me want to train longer. Then it’s like, “Oh my god what am I going to do today?” instead of, “I have to go do my regular gym routine.” There is no routine. I purposefully try to do something different every day to keep my muscles confused and my mind interested.

BB: How many days a week do you train?

RR: I try to do seven, but my coach keeps me to eight—I mean six! I am driving up to Glendale right now actually to go train, and because I am sick I don’t think my coach is going to let me.

BB: You never take a recovery day?

RR: Oh well, I am forced to [laughs]. I would train every day of my life if I could, but my coach forces me to take days off and I think today may be one of those days. It turns training into a privilege.

BB: So what do you eat to stay in this incredible shape and have the energy to work so hard?

RR: Well I go mainly by the Dolce diet. It is a little hard to describe, it’s not really a diet but more of a lifestyle. I eat throughout the day, I have three meals and two snacks and it changes according to what I need at the time. When I am in MMA training camp trying to build muscle, I am eating differently toward the end of the training camp when I am trying to keep my weight on.

BB: So what advice would you give to all of us women who are reading this article who are obviously not fighters, but we want to be in the best shape we can. What can we take from what you do?

RR: Drink as much water as possible all day long. I swear to god people say it all the time, but you really need to listen. And find a way to train that you enjoy and that you’re excited about—training should not be a chore. Same thing with eating, junk food shouldn’t be a reward, or the thing you look forward to. Find healthy foods that you love and stick to them. I used to eat a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s like it was no thing, but now it’s so rich I can’t even eat it.

BB: What did you bring with you on the airplane? Airplane food is, I think, the worst food in the world.

RR: [Laughs] I don’t eat much on airplanes. It is kind of rough.

BB: Do you bring your own snacks or do you just not eat?

RR: I eat what they have, but I will drink a lot of water because the food is really salty. And I won’t eat everything! On this flight, I ate the shrimp and vegetables and I let everything else go—the bread, the rice. I am pretty much gluten-free; I barely ever eat bread and the only dairy I eat is Greek yogurt and goat cheese.

BB: Do you ever drink alcohol?

RR: Rarely. I was a bartender for a year so I pretty much drank all the alcohol I needed for my lifetime. I like a Malbec or Pinot Noir if I am going to drink, which is not often. Also, I am obsessed with chia seeds, I make this one oatmeal almost every morning: 1/3 hemp seeds, 1/3 chia seeds, 1/3 oats, with some almond butter, cinnamon, and berries or raisins. It makes you so full because chia seeds expand in your stomach.

BB: Now you’re training and fighting, but you’re also filming movies. Has being in the public eye changed your style?

RR: A little bit. I think you naturally get tired of wearing the same thing all the time. It was the guys in the gym who made me be more fashionable! I had lost a bunch of weight and only had a couple of pairs of pants, which I had had since I was 17, and they were always like, “Ronda, why do always wear this stuff?” I was broke, I couldn’t buy anything, but as soon as I made a little bit of money they took me under their Armenian wings. It’s funny that it was the men who really girlied me up instead of the other way around. Once I started getting into it, I was really into it. Now my whole Instagram feed is fashion. 

BB: What do you wear to work out?

RR: All Lululemon. I destroy clothes—you have no idea. I do some rough stuff when I am training and my clothes only last a little while. Those Lululemons, man, they really last. It might cost $80 for a pair of pants, but you’ll have them for six years.

BB: What do you do when you are not working out? What’s fun for you?

RR: I make out with my dog a lot. I go on Reddit all the time with my friends, we watch a lot of wrestling. I am so addicted to it; I can’t get enough. And I am super into anything that has anything to do with the ocean: skin boarding, surfing, paddle boarding.

BB: So you never sit still?

RR: I sit still when I am looking at Reddit!

BB: What are you most proud in your life so far?

RR: What I am most proud of? No one has ever asked me that! That’s a loaded question. I would say…damn, I have done so much! I think it is a tie between winning an Olympic medal and UFC title. The UFC title is cumulative, because I have defended it so many times so it’s all those fights together. So I am most proud of my Olympic medal.

BB: And your movies! You’ve got to be proud of your movies.

RR: I am proud that I got to be a part of them, but I can’t say, “Oh I did an amazing job, I got a bronze medal in Entourage.” I am definitely proud that I was able to get into the industry at all, and that these people would even consider me, but I feel like there is so much more that I want to accomplish. It’s hard to sit back and be proud yet. I can be proud of my judo, because I am done with that, but MMA and acting? I still have so much to do that when I feel like I have done everything that I set out to, then I can sit back and be like, “Wow I am pretty proud of myself.”

BB: You are the biggest female in your sport and you have so many fans, but I know there are a lot of crazy ones. How do you handle the critics? It’s easy to take the compliments from the nice guys, but there are a lot of jerks out there saying really mean things, how do you handle that?

RR: I think there is an Eddie Murphy quote that I am probably butchering, but he said, “Don’t let the compliments make you feel good because then you are going to allow the insults to make you feel bad.” So I try not to let how people perceive me be how I perceive myself. I try not to take any of them to heart.

BB: I hope that after everything that you have gone through to make yourself feel confident and feel powerful, that you keep paying it forward and teach young girls to feel good about themselves. If you can encourage them to feel as good as you feel about yourself then I think that is amazing.

RR: I am trying my best and that’s the best I can do.

BB: Well you have encouraged me. I am going to go try to move my body outside, so thank you.

RR: Make sure it is something you enjoy!