UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey believes she could still win Olympic gold.
Rousey, a 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist, is 11-0 in four years as a professional mixed martial arts fighter, boosted no doubt by her two Olympics’ worth of elite international judo experience.
The 28-year-old has no wish to return to Olympic judo, but if she did devote an Olympic cycle (a few years) to the sport, she is confident she would master it again.
“I still believe I would be able to win the Olympics,” Rousey, who appeared to have the Olympic rings tattooed on her pelvis and, along with the Olympic motto “citius altius fortius,” above her right ankle, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “That takes 100 percent of your energy. It has to be the No. 1 priority in your life.”
Rousey decided after the Beijing 2008 Olympics that she could no longer devote 100 percent of her energy to judo. Starting an MMA career did not sit well with her judo coach, two-time Olympic bronze medalist Jimmy Pedro.
“He pretty much told me to go [bleep] myself,” Rousey said in 2013, according to USA Today. “He didn’t want to help me.”
Rousey said Tuesday that she and Pedro haven’t spoken much since.
“He just became one of those disbelievers that I had to prove wrong,” said Rousey, who also said she’s never spoken with Michael Phelps, the 22-time Olympic medalist swimmer whom she criticized in this 2012 video.
By 2011, Rousey became a professional MMA fighter. By 2012, she won a Strikeforce bantamweight championship.
She said that’s about when she gave up judo altogether, as she had been teaching classes twice a week at Dynamix MMA in southern California for supplemental income along with working graveyard shifts at 24 Hour Fitness and as a veterinary assistant.
Much was made of Rousey’s win over Cat Zingano on Feb. 28 in a UFC Championship-record 14 seconds. But Rousey said she once beat a judoka in just four seconds at the 2004 World Junior Championships final in Budapest, Hungary. Sure enough, there’s video.
At that time, the Olympics were very much the priority. Rousey even named her cat “Beijing” in reference to the 2008 Olympic host city, before she made the Athens 2004 team at age 17, when she was eliminated from the Games early on.
Rousey said her sister Jennifer has Beijing now, while Rousey owns an ex-roommate’s abandoned cat and her Dogo Argentino, Mochi.
“I still get to visit [Beijing]; I get visitation rights,” she joked.
Rousey says the Olympic chapter of her life “has been closed, written and passed,” but she wouldn’t mind a trip to Rio de Janeiro next summer.
“I have always wanted to go as a spectator,” she said.