UFC Fighter Ronda Rousey Had Some Amazing Words On Body Image

August 3rd 2015

Laura Donovan

On Saturday, Ronda Rousey defeated Bethe Correia to retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship's Women's Bantamweight title. The fight lasted just 34 seconds. Rousey, 28, who now boasts a 12-0 record, is not immune, however, from the challenges facing women struggling with body image.

Rousey prepared to pose for the 2015 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition by gaining weight. Speaking to Cosmopolitan about this decision and beyond, Rousey explained she wanted to display the best version of herself in the publication's glossy pages.

"I felt like I was much too small for a magazine that is supposed to be celebrating the epitome of a woman," she said. "I wanted to be at my most feminine shape, and I don't feel my most attractive at 135 pounds, which is the weight I fight at. At 150 pounds, I feel like I'm at my healthiest and my strongest and my most beautiful."

But Rousey wasn't always so self-assured about her image. When she was younger, she struggled coming to terms with the fact that she didn't have stereotypical ideal female body type.

"I grew up as an athlete doing judo, so I didn't really have a conventional, feminine body type," she said. "I grew up thinking that because my body type was uncommon [i.e., athletic], it was a bad thing. Now that I'm older, I've really begun to realize that I'm really proud that my body has developed for a purpose and not just to be looked at."

As noted by Cosmopolitan, fighters such as Rousey often endure intense training to "weigh into" the lowest possible weight class prior to competitions to increase their chances of winning. With that, Rousey knows the pressure of having to lose weight well.

"It took a lot of time to develop a healthier relationship with food and with my weight," she said. "My mind was backward. I thought I wanted my body to look a certain way so I could be happy. But it got to the point where I didn't feel I looked good at 135 pounds, the weight that qualifies me for the weight class that I fight in. Now I only try to maintain my fighting weight for a couple hours a year — right before weigh-ins. Afterward, I maintain a weight where I'm not starving or feeling weak, which makes me happier."

Earlier this year, Rousey praised Sports Illustrated for celebrating women who aren't "so fake and plastic.”

“They always seemed to use a lot more real women and as the years have gone on, I think that has increased and really affected how people perceive women and what they should look like," she told USA Today. "They use all kinds of body types and use real women, not genetic freakish gazelles of people that look beautiful, but it’s a very small percentage of the population that looks like that... I purposely tried to get a little bit heavier for the SI issue so I was a little bit curvier and not in top fight shape look but the look at which I feel I’m the most attractive. It’s very natural for a person’s body to go through seasons.”

Earlier this month, the New York Times came under fire for publishing an article on female tennis players' body image issues, with a focus on Wimbledon winner Serena Williams. Though the piece does not mock Williams, some felt uncomfortable by the language used to describe the athlete's body.

"[Williams] has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame, which packs the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years," Ben Rothernberg wrote for The Times. "Her rivals could try to emulate her physique, but most of them choose not to."

Anchor Julie DiCaro had a particularly powerful reaction to the Williams story, pointing out that no one else seems to be highlighting the appearances of male tennis champions in print:

In the piece, Williams explained that her workouts don't include weight lifting because she doesn't want to gain more muscle.

“I don’t touch a weight, because I’m already super fit and super cut, and if I even look at weights, I get bigger,” she told the publication. “For years I’ve only done Thera-Bands and things like that, because that’s kind of how I felt. But then I realized that you really have to learn to accept who you are and love who you are. I’m really happy with my body type, and I’m really proud of it. Obviously it works out for me. I talk about it all the time, how it was uncomfortable for someone like me to be in my body.”

Earlier this month, "Orange is the New Black" star Dascha Polanco divulged her own battles with body image issues in an interview with the Huffington Post.


A photo posted by SHEISDASH (@sheisdash) on

"I think it’s very important [to talk about it] when you’re in a position of where you are looked upon or onto as a role model or inspiration," she said. "Young girls and women, we all need that sense of security and that empowerment, so it’s very important for me to display that."

Updated: 8/3 to reflect results of match.