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Is Rousey afraid to return? Possibly

By: Jaime Saintvil

Ronda Rousey down

“We all have an edge. We all are floating our psyche on top with a great ocean underneath.”
— Brad Dourif; actor who portrayed Billy Babbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

We live in an era where you’re either the best ever or you’re nothing; where average is poor and below average is ignored. It makes sense that the greatest athletes either have or show signs of this. That is why it was a shocking admission but not necessarily a surprising one when Ronda Rousey said on The Ellen Show on February 16 that she had suicidal thoughts after her loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 last November. And that is why it really is not a surprise why we still do not see when she is making her return to the octagon on the horizon, despite her having so many chances to.

To preface this article, I am not diagnosing Rousey, but merely delving into the psyche’s of people like her and athletes in general. In no way am I belittling her, or trying to make light of her situation. Also, I have worked in mental health for 10 years as a mental health counselor and for this article, sat down with a psychiatrist, to clearly emphasize the points made here.

Ronda Rousey kickedThe aftermath of Rousey’s loss to Holm reminded me of a statement hurled at Jon Jones by Daniel Cormier during their run up to their first fight.

“Once he knows he can get beat and no one is scared of him. … He’ll go searching for answers and move to heavyweight. It’ll put doubt in his head. He’ll come out a different man. He might need to be convinced to take the rematch. He’ll lose to me and his career will go in a tailspin,” Cormier said.

We know that the events didn’t follow Cormier’s prediction, but for Rousey, once she lost to Holm her career has met Cormier’s prediction for Jones to a tee. The human psyche is a very tender thing. As writer Anne Grant puts it, “Just as the body goes into shock after a physical trauma, so does the human psyche go into shock after the impact of a major loss.”

Rousey became a household name because of her dominant reign as women’s bantamweight champion. She was throwing other women around and beating them in just seconds. Nobody came close to touching her. She not only transcended the sport into the mainstream as a great athlete, but she also was a heroine that other women (and young girls) could look up to. She had a lot on her back and by winning more and more, it only put more on her.

She took pride in her gender and popularity.

“I’m the biggest draw in the sport, and I’m a woman,” she once said.

She was at the epicenter of her fame that night in Melbourne, Australia. The world knew she was a gifted martial artist, with a bombastic personality, who spoke with brazenness and was unapologetic about it. She walked with an impregnable aura. But when Holm danced around her for a round and then early in the second round knocked her out cold with a kick to the right side of her face, smack on her jaw, Rousey’s world came crashing down. She was no longer untouchable.

To hear her comments on the Ellen DeGeneres show was both saddening and shocking, but it gave us a glimpse into the inner self of an elite, high-profile athlete.

Depression and mental illness in society is not something we talk about often enough. The truth is that athletes, like most entertainers, show a level of confidence that is not real. Often they rely solely on fear as fuel and operate out of a place of false confidence. Once the outward image is broken, some cannot reconcile their inner-selves and their projected image.

Individualistic professions, such as actors, lawyers, politicians and athletes are expected to have an exaggerated psyche and this outward image is most often celebrated. Their self confidence looks untouchable, above the clouds, even narcissistic. The word narcissist has a negative connotation, but the diagnosis is not a yes or no; it’s a spectrum or like a volume knob. We all have varying degrees of it and can see traits in ourselves and others. That is especially true of professionals in those professions listed above. For the most part, their behavior is even celebrated.

Some might say narcissism is necessary for persons in those professions, where their character is tested on a daily basis, and without it they may not be at their particular station in life. In fact, for some people with Narcissism Personality Disorder, their grandiosity shields them from their reality and imperfections.

People in these careers are driven to their prospective fields because of their traits. Rousey undeniably is one of them. And yes, unassailably there is a different paradigm for women, where assertiveness often is misconstrued as being bossy or worse, but sport like all things is an equalizer as well as an enabler. Rousey has had numerous incidents of what can not be called anything other than arrogant or haughty behavior, which is part of the criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The infamous after weight in tweet/Instragram post about Holm:

Or the statement she made about Floyd Mayweather Jr’s reading ability:

“I think I actually made two to three times more than he does per second. So when he learns to read and write, he can text me.”

Or this one in a Maxim interview in 2012 about Arianny Celeste and her ranking in the Maxim Hot 100:

“It would have been really funny if I’d beaten [UFC Octagon Girl] Arianny Celeste, because that would be like a triathlete coming along and beating the runners in a marathon. Like ‘Ha-ha, it’s your job to show your t**ies; I do that better than you!’ Maybe next year; she’s only getting older, and I’m reaching my prime.”

Ronda RouseyThis one is from Romona Shelburne’s ESPN Magazine article published on December 8, 2015:

“Every chick I try to intimidate in a different way. You have to think about their personality. You have to think about what would get under that particular person’s skin the most.”

Aside from bringing up the very serious matter of suicide, Rousey’s comments about it showed vulnerabilities of a very high-profile athletes. Her confessions of depression and suicidal thoughts, speaks of a person holding up a persona. The inner dialogue of a person dealing with depression, and of course and ego like hers (or any high profile entertainer, athlete, lawyer or doctor with narcissistic traits) “see now everyone knows that I’m not that great, special or unique. Maybe I’m a fraud.”

While the well-rounded person would have enough self-esteem to say that one moment wouldn’t define them, I caught up with former UFC veteran Alan Belcher and asked him if he ever went through depression during his years as an active fighter.

“I was always scared of failure,” he said. “I was never truly confident, just resilient at times. I went through pretty bad depression after each loss but I always seem to bounce back after a few weeks. What I learned from this was that I was always in control and I could have controlled my thoughts at any time. Even directly after the loss.”

The ripple effect of Rousey’s period of adversity is that her legacy, brand or career will be forged from here on by what she does since her period of adversity, jut like legendary UFC Champion Chuck Liddell. Liddell came into his first title match riding a 10 fight win-streak before losing his first attempt at UFC gold to fellow veteran Randy Couture. He then rattled off a 3-1 record with three knockout wins and a victory over former sparring partner Tito Ortiz, before dismantling Couture at UFC 52 and again at UFC 57.

Cormier’s prediction was that Jones would need to be convinced to have a rematch with him. Rousey declined another encounter with Holm, but perked up after Holm was defeated by Miesha Tate.

If and when she ever gets back in the cage we will have to see if she still has that edge she always had; if she still understands that she is immensely talented and can beat anybody if she fights her way, or if her psyche is so damaged from her one loss to Holm that she no longer thinks she is invincible and her doubt makes her fights a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As a fan myself, I hope to see again soon.

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Raised in brooklyn, NYC, music and sports were the muses of life. Hip-hop was the soundtrack to life, arguments about who's the best rapper or athlete was everyday. Writing, music and competition was therapy. Growing up in NYC meant you had to make decisions early, Giants or Jets, Mets or Yankees, Biggie, Nas or Jay-Z. Jaime chose the Giant’s and the Mets and in the 80’s it was fun times. Number 27, of big blue, Rodney Hampton was mashishing linebackers and the Met, Darryl Strawberry was hitting home runs, the 90’s were a different story. The 90’s rose also rose the arguably the best basketball team of its era,The Chicago Bulls and the great Michael Jordan. The knicks were a hapless organization and Jordan and the Bulls ensured that. So becoming a Bulls fan was an easy choice. Jaime as an adult found martial arts, first dabbling in Muay Thai then to Jiu-jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing and MMA. He has trained in Jiu-jitsu for the past five years, earning a blue belt. Jiu-jitsu is physical chess and being a practitioner you learn lessons that you take off the mat. The same can be said for Boxing, MMA, Wrestling or Muay Thai, through combat sports you learn humility or it smacks you in the face. He has competed in amateur boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu and mma. Now he’s filling out his dreams and doing what he loves love most; writing and being around competition. And if you’re wondering about Who's the best MCs, Biggie, Jay-Z, or Nas? Biggie Smalls is the illest.

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