Ronda Rousey: I was concussed before fighting Holly Holm at UFC 193

Ronda Rousey recently said concussions ended her UFC career. Now, the former UFC bantamweight champion revealed her brain was injured heading into her fight with Holly Holm at UFC 193.

In an interview Tuesday with Valeria Lipovetsky, Rousey said she was compromised by a brain injury she suffered leading into the 2015 title fight. As a result, she said she was “out on my feet for the entire fight,” which ended in the second round with a brutal head kick from Holm.

“My mouth guard was bad,” Rousey said. “I literally came into that fight concussed from slipping down some stairs already after all these years of concussions. Then I had an absolutely terrible weight cut, which means you have less fluid in your brain to protect it.”

“I was just trying to make it look like I wasn’t hurt, but I wasn’t there cognitively,” she added. “I couldn’t think as fast. I couldn’t judge distance, and just from that one fight, everybody felt like, ‘Oh, she’s a fraud.’”

Rousey previously discussed her history with concussions while previewing her new autobiography, “Our Fight.” She said she suffered several concussions during her amateur athletic career in judo, and she continued to suffer them during her careers in MMA and pro-wrestling with WWE.

In her interview with Lipovetsky, Rousey revealed more details about her knockout losses and her disillusionment afterward with fans and media. She said she obsessed over social media and fought to make fans happy, only to see them turn when she lost in a comeback fight against Amanda Nunes in 2016 at UFC 207.

“I know that I’m the greatest fighter that has ever lived,” she said Tuesday. “But when it got to a point where I’d just taken so much neurological damage that I couldn’t take it anymore, suddenly everything that I accomplished meant nothing.

“So then after that second fight, and I saw how all these people that I was coming back to fight for had suddenly turned against me, all of my appreciation for them turned into resentment, and I just didn’t wanna have anything to do for them and with them anymore. I didn’t wanna do anything for them anymore, because I gave them everything that I had, and they hated me for not being able to give them more.”

A request for comment to the Australian Sports Commission, which regulated UFC 193, was not immediately returned.

Rousey’s admissions reveal a gap in oversight among the majority of athletic commissions that regulate MMA. Athletes are required to submit to the commission pre-fight medical paperwork that includes brain scans such as MRIs, in addition to undergoing pre-fight physicals from commission-approved doctors. (The UFC also collects this pre-fight medical paperwork to submit to commissions in order to expedite the process of medical clearance.) Those alone, however, can fail to give a true picture of an athlete’s brain health when evaluated without the context of previous scans that may reveal clues as to brain injuries. Even conditions linked in some studies to long-term brain trauma, such as cavum septi pellucidi, may not disqualify fighters from fighting because of normal anatomical variance between people with the condition.

But for Rousey, the decision not to disclose her previous issues came down to protecting her career and fulfilling her mission to be the best fighter in the world.

“I think people would have thought I was just making excuses, and I couldn’t say anything after the first fight, because I’d literally just be putting a target out of my head,” she said. “And after the second fight, I didn’t want to say anything to anyone, because the media were just trying to sensationalize everything, and chop everything up into a headline; they weren’t trying to help me tell my story, and it’s the kind of thing I think that could only have been told in a book. Only in that long form, because there was just so much that happened, and so much that I went into at that time.

“Then I also wanted to go into WWE, that they have a very complicated history with concussions in CTE and things like that, and if they knew how bad it was, I don’t think they ever would have hired me. If they knew that I was getting concussions from an open hand slap from Stephanie McMahon or Nikki Bella, they wouldn’t allow me to perform. So I had to keep these things to myself, to keep my destiny in my own hands, and to be able to make my own decisions, because if my coach or [UFC CEO] Dana [White] knew how bad things had gotten, they would have made me retire, and I wasn’t ready.”

See Rousey’s full interview below.

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