UFC

When Ronda Rousey competed at the Olympics

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Even when Ronda Rousey was at the height of her MMA fame, she spoke about the most crushing defeat of her career — that her Olympic judo medal was bronze and not gold.

“That was my childhood dream,” Rousey said in October 2015, two weeks before the first of two UFC defeats that ultimately led to her retirement. “I spent my whole life in pursuit of that. I had to give that up, and I had to really come to terms with the fact that wasn’t for me. I’ve always really been heartbroken from that in a way, and in a way that I’m still really grateful for because I think if I did win the Olympics, I wouldn’t have this never-ending resource of motivation that I have. Every single time I go out there to defend my [UFC] title, it’s like another chance to redeem myself, but it’s never quite an Olympic gold medal.

“In judo, you train your whole life, and you have one day to be an Olympic champion, and that’s it. … Nothing can compare to that pressure.”

Rousey was the face of U.S. judo in the mid-2000s. In 2004, she became the youngest American judoka to compete in an Olympics, losing in the first round at age 17.

Rousey entered the 2008 Beijing Games as a world championships silver medalist. She had a chance to become the second American woman to win a global judo title. The first? Mom AnnMaria De Mars, who bagged the 1984 World title, four years before Olympic judo opened to women (first as a demonstration sport).

“My mom always said she wanted me to know what it feels like to be best in the world because, no matter what happens to you later, you’ll always have that as inspiration to know you can do anything you want,” Rousey said in Beijing.

Rousey didn’t quite get there in judo. She was halted in the quarterfinals by Dutchwoman Edith Bosch, whom the 5-foot-7 Rousey described in her autobiography as “a six-foot Dutch chick with an eight-pack. I looked like a hobbit next to her.”

Bosch had dislocated Rousey’s elbow in two matches in 2007. At the Olympics, they went scoreless in regulation to force a five-minute overtime where the first to score wins. Rousey went for a throw, was countered and turned onto the mat.

“I went back to the warm-up room and sobbed, hot tears running down my face,” Rousey wrote. “I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. Then something clicked and I went from devastated to f—— furious.”

She marched through the repechage, winning all three matches to take the bronze medal. Rousey may not have left a world champion, but she became the first U.S. woman to earn an Olympic judo medal.

“Of all the third-place finishes in my career, the bronze in the Olympics was the only one I took any satisfaction in,” Rousey wrote. “But still, there was a void.”

Rousey took a year off, returned to training in 2009 and competed in 2010. She hoped to continue in judo and start mixed martial arts. But she and coach Jimmy Pedro split, and soon after Rousey canceled a trip to a Brazilian tournament and began focusing on MMA.

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Cyborg to Kayla Harrison: ‘She knows where she can find me’

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Kayla Harrison wants to fight UFC champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino, eventually. The feeling appears mutual.

“She knows where she can find me,” Justino said in a radio interview published Thursday.

“She’s supposed to be the next Ronda Rousey, judo girl,” the Brazilian said. It was unclear whether it was a statement or a question. “I don’t know if [Harrison] can take a punch.”

Harrison, who switched to MMA after repeating as Olympic judo champion in Rio, is 2-0 since debuting in the Professional Fighters League this summer.

Harrison has repeated in interviews that she wants to be the world’s best female fighter, and that would require beating Cyborg. Harrison said Justino is “considered the best, probably, pound-for-pound” female fighter ever.

Harrison brought up the idea that Justino could switch from UFC to PFL after her contract is up.

“I don’t think I’m ready yet [to fight Justino], but I know I will be,” Harrison said after an Aug. 17 TKO in her second fight, according to ESPN. “I’m not going to make guesses on the future, but I do know I will fight Cris Cyborg.”

Harrison is in PFL’s 155-pound division and will fight at least once more this year. Justino fights in UFC’s heaviest division, max 145 pounds.

Justino is 20-1 with one no contest since debuting in 2005. MMA fans and Dana White craved a fight between Cyborg and Ronda Rousey, Harrison’s former judo training partner, but it never happened.

White said they would have fought if Rousey won her last bout against Amanda Nunes on Dec. 30, 2016.

“I had a dream the other night that I was fighting Cyborg, and I got her in an arm bar and I broke her arm,” Harrison said in 2016, according to The New York Times. “But she wouldn’t tap, so I choked her unconscious.”

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Henry Cejudo becomes first Olympic champion to win UFC title

AP
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Henry Cejudo pulled off one of the most impressive upsets in mixed martial arts history at UFC 227 to become the first Olympic gold medalist to win a UFC title.

Cejudo ended Demetrious Johnson’s nearly six-year reign as the UFC flyweight champion Saturday night at Staples Center, earning a split-decision victory over the most dominant active champion in the sport.

Cejudo (13-2) is an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler who only started training in mixed martial arts five years ago, but he used five takedowns and relentless offense to earn the decision over the fighter widely considered the pound-for-pound best in MMA.

Cejudo won 28-27 on two of the three judges’ scorecards to beat Johnson (27-3-1), who had won 13 consecutive fights since 2012 and had defended his 125-pound belt a UFC-record 11 straight times.

“This is a dream come true, from Olympic gold medalist to UFC champion,” Cejudo said. “I was born right here in Los Angeles, in a two-bedroom apartment. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you to these fans in California for their support.”

Cejudo is the third Olympic champion to compete in the Octagon, but neither of the previous two (wrestlers Kevin Jackson and Mark Schultz) became a UFC champion.

Cejudo, who became the then-youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at 21 at Beijing 2008, gained instant fame as the son of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. In Rio, Kyle Snyder broke Cejudo’s record as youngest U.S. wrestling gold medalist.

Cejudo’s story was told in a book, “American Victory.”

After failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials, Cejudo debuted in mixed martial arts in 2013.

He lost his Olympic gold medal escaping a California wildfire in October.

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