November 15th 2015 will go down as the night Holly Holm turned the combat sports world upside down when she violently knocked out Ronda Rousey with a devastating leg kick. It was a moment that had fans either crying in despair or cheering in jubilation, depending what side of the Rousey fence you are on. However if it is true that Rousey intends to rematch Holm on July 9 at UFC 200 in Las Vegas without a tune up fight, it is time for “Rowdy” Ronda to do what, according to her, is the unthinkable. It is time to fire her trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan.
Defeating Holm is already a tough task for Rousey, especially as she insists she will continue with her movie projects, including a remake of Road House that casts her in the Patrick Swayze role. This leaves little time for her to focus on altering her style and modifying her tactics to combat a fighter with an advanced striking game that left Rousey battered and bloodied the first time around.
Simply put, to go into a rematch against Holm with the same trainer spells disaster for Rousey. She needs a true professional coach who can help her become a more well-rounded MMA fighter, instead of a Judokist who throws big, wild punches which are easily countered. And while some fighters such as Michael Bisping have stated Ronda should stick with Edmond, the majority believe she needs to move on.
“I think Edmond is a terrible coach, and I will say it publicly,” Rousey’s mother and former Judo World Champion Dr. Anna De Mars said during the UFC 193 PPV lead up. “I think he’s a terrible coach. I think he hit the lottery when Ronda walked in there.”
And in fact MMA coaches are talking privately about how Edmond Taverdyan appears unable to produce any other elite level fighters who can succeed in the UFC. Many point to the fact that the rest of the Four Horsewomen (Jessamyn Duke, Shayna Baszler and Marina Shafir) have yet to win a fight since they started working with Taverdyan and, combined, the three women are 0-6 in Zuffa-promoted matches.
More to the point, despite Rousey being with a so-called “boxing trainer” in Taverdyan, her technique, punches and footwork were completely exposed by Holm, a former world boxing champion. It was so bad that at one point Rousey almost fell on her face after throwing a punch that hit nothing but air as Holm slipped it with ease and left the champion completely off-balance.
“It’s scary how ill-prepared Rousey was for that fight,” an experienced boxing trainer stated to me off the record. “She looked more like a tough-man competitor than a boxer. And Edmond had no idea how to handle her corner. He gave her terrible advice.”
To make matters worse, while Rousey displayed her lack of defense and technical striking ability, Holly Holm showed the world she was a more complete fighter than most realized.
“Ronda tried to box, and that wasn’t successful,” Jackson MMA Coach Mike Winkeljohn said after the fight. “She tried to clinch and found out how hard that was. She tried to armbar. There was a lot of things that happened … and people [saw] what Holly can do.”
What most fans don’t realize is how vital the head coach is to a boxer, beyond what they do in the corner. The coach is the one who decides on the fight plan well before training camp starts, and begins scouting the competition to learn their strengths and weaknesses. The great trainers will start making adjustments and tweaks to their charges’ style well in advance based on what they know about an opponent. So far, Edmond Tarverdyan has not shown any of that kind of tactical preparation.
“Ronda Rousey is at that stage where she can fly in the best trainers to where she lives,” Sirius XM Fight Commentator Luke Thomas stated recently. “Rafael Cordero, Freddie Roach, any top coach … she can afford them.”
Rousey has always stated that Edmond is “her family,” but at this point in her career he is more of a cheerleader than a head coach. Many credit Ronda’s true development as a fighter to her mother and the US Olympic Judo program rather than Tarverdyan. His words to her after the opening round against Holm showed what little grasp he had on what was actually happening.
“There was coaching and then there was whatever happened with Ronda,” Tim Kennedy told Fight Night on 1300 The Zone. “I don’t want to diminish that word and call it coaching because that’s not what happened in Ronda’s corner.”
This would not be the first time a great fighter suffered a terrible loss and made a switch to a new and better trainer. In boxing, both Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield brought in Emanuel Steward to bounce back from bad losses, while Miguel Cotto hired Freddie Roach to remake him as a fighter. Both Rafael Dos Anjos and Fabricio Werdum made the switch to Kings MMA where they became world champions, while Amanda Nunes went to American Top Team after her loss to Alexis Davis. If all of these fighters can find success by going to different trainers and new gyms, naturally Rousey should be able to get a new trainer who can help her perform better.
For most of her career it has not mattered that Rousey’s striking technique was lacking or that she had not developed any wrestling takedowns, or even that her footwork and head movement were non-existent. Rousey was either bigger and stronger (think Miesha Tate and Alexis Davis), more athletically talented (vs Beche Correia), or she just intimidated her opponents into making mistakes.
But now for the first time, Rousey is in a do-or-die situation as she faces a fighter who not only appears to have her number, but who possesses advantages in striking skill and corner wisdom. A loss to Holm a second time around would be disastrous for Rousey’s career and possibly send Ronda straight into MMA retirement. This is the time when most champions start cleaning house and making big changes in order for them to regain the drive and edge that they have had before.
For Ronda Rousey, now is not the time to be a friend and stand by her loyal trainer. Now she must be a professional business woman and fighter and bring in a coach who has a track record of developing game plans, improving technique and skill, and being able to make proper adjustments. Otherwise she and Edmond Tarverdyan will look back at UFC 200 as the day that Holm sent “Rowdy” into retirement for good. — Chris Connor