48 seconds was all it took for Ronda Rousey to be reduced to a punching bag by the fists of Amanda Nunes. In just 48 seconds the hard shots of “The Lioness” turned the much-anticipated comeback of Ronda Rousey into a humiliating defeat. Now most pundits and experts are forecasting “Rowdy’s” permanent retirement from MMA.
But, believe it or not, there is still daylight left in Ronda’s career and a way for her to regain the form she had when she ruled the bantamweight division. It is going to take patience and foresight, but it is still not too late to turn things around. And it really all comes down to four simple steps. Here’s my plan for how Ronda Rousey can take back her status as an elite-level warrior.
Step One: Fire Edmond. It’s no secret that Edmond Tarverdyan is the brunt of many jokes from the vast majority of fans and MMA members alike. In back-to-back matches, not only has he failed to come up with a workable game plan and strategy for his fighter, but his in-fight tactics and advice have been terrible.
As AnnMaria De Mars, Ronda’s own mother has observed: “People actually do worse (after going to Edmond’s gym), but he keeps telling them how great they are, how great they are doing, and they stay there. It’s pathetic.”
But don’t just take her word for it. Here’s the cold, hard facts. Travis Browne has gone from a number one heavyweight contender to a fighter who has three losses in his last five fights and is struggling to stay relevant. Jessamyn Duke went from a can’t-miss prospect to a failing fighter. Jake Ellenberger, who was once considered a potential world title contender, was nearly cut after a long losing streak. All of these fighters trained at the Glendale Fighting Club under Tarverdyan and regressed in their skills and development.
But in addition to whatever is lacking in terms of training camps and the work done in the gym, Tarverdyan’s performances during matches is clearly sub-par. He appears lost in terms of strategy and becomes too emotional when things don’t go well. The Nunes fight provided clear evidence of that as he could be heard frantically screaming, “No please! No no no! Please please please! No! No! No! No!”
The best coaches are the ones who stay calm no matter how a bout unfolds and can offer their fighter sensible tactical advice. Edmond Tarverdyan has proven himself incapable of doing that.
Step Two: Hire A Truly Elite-Level Coach. As Luke Thomas of Sirius XM pointed out, “Ronda has enough money that she can fly anyone out and get any number of top coaches to train her.” When talking about someone who has just earned three million dollars for 48 seconds worth of work, that is a fair statement.
It’s past time Ronda had the benefit of a coach and a team that has a history of developing champions. Holly Holm does and it was a pivotal factor in her win over Rousey. While Tarverdyan bragged about how Ronda was going to “outbox the boxer,” Jackson kept quiet in the lead-up to the fight and instead focused on strategy and tactics. During the match Tarverydan acted like a cheerleader and kept telling his fighter she was doing “a good job,” while Jackson was giving Holly instructions on not only what she needed to do, but what he expected Ronda to do. It was no contest in that one woman had a real camp behind her and the other had a fan club.
Many of the top coaches are committed to Ronda’s rivals and thus unavailable to her, such as Jackson, American Top Team and American Kickboxing Academy. But if she wants to stay in California, then Kings MMA with Rafael Cordeiro might be a good fit. Cordeiro helped rejuvenate the careers of Fabricio Werdum, Jake Ellenberger, and Rafael Dos Anjos.
If Ronda wants to go out of state and get away from California, three gyms that would be ideal would be Blackzilians in Miami, The Lab in Arizona and AMC MMA in Oregon. All three can provide top coaches (Matt Hume, John Crouch and Neil Melanson), excellent striking teachers, and gyms that would allow Rousey to grow in more ways than one. Instead of being the face of the gym, Rousey could blend in and have time to focus properly on skill development and refining her technique.
Step Three: Tune-up Fights. As much as MMA fans hate the idea and believe in “The best vs the best,” sometimes a fighter needs to take a step back and get a fresh start. While some call it a “cupcake” match, others will spin it as a bounce-back fight. Either way, it’s about re-building confidence and self-belief.
“Rousey should have never taken on Nunes at this point,” one boxing trainer told me. “If her team were smart and cared for her, they would have taken a much easier opponent and let her get her confidence back.”
If reports are true and the new UFC ownership needs to make money, it might make sense to have Rousey fight some opponents who can push her but not threaten her. A Rousey vs Bethe Correia II fight would definitely draw and allow the UFC to sell it as a bad blood grudge match. If they plan to keep Jessica Eye around, Rousey vs Eye in Cleveland would be ideal for a UFC on FOX card. The point is to get Rousey’s confidence back while improving her striking. Which leads me to the fourth step for Rousey’s rebirth.
Step Four: Regain Inner Faith. When Rousey was at her peak, she was focused and driven. She had the mentality of a pitbull and the faith she would win no matter who she faced. But back-to-back stoppage losses from Nunes and Holm have no doubt destroyed that self-confidence.
“It was like being in a church back there,” Dana White told media members after the Nunes fight. “Nobody was talking and it was not like any other Rousey pre-fight locker room.”
One suspects that a big part of why Ronda didn’t talk to the media before battling Nunes was she wished to avoid reliving the worst night of her athletic career, that mentally she was too fragile to answer questions about the loss to Holm. And now Rousey is like the emperor with no clothes on. She’s had her invincibility taken away and, as we all know, that is something very hard to get back. But genuine confidence and self-belief will need to be regained if Rousey hopes to return. A solid team behind her and some legit wins could allow that to happen.
It’s not impossible for Rousey to be a dominant champion in the future as she is a phenomenal athlete and a past judo champion. At her height she was a wrecking machine who showed killer instinct and the tenacity to dominate. But now it’s time for her to do something she has never had to do: reinvent and re-build herself. Time will tell if she decides to go the showbiz route and join WWE or make more movies, or if she decides to re-dedicate herself to being an elite-level combat sports athlete and take back her legacy. But if her decision is the latter, the steps she needs to take are clear to all. It won’t be easy, but here’s one pundit who believes it’s possible. — Chris Connor