Fierce Female: UFC Fighter Ronda Rousey

PHOTO: Ronda Rousey
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Mixed Martial Arts, where fighters kick, punch and knock out their opponents, is one of the most vicious sports in the world.

The sport is so violent that it has been banned in some countries. And, in some arenas, it has been declared off limits to women.

But "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey is no ordinary woman.

The 26-year-old mixed martial artist and judoka from California -- the first female fighter to be signed by the Ultimate Fight Championship -- is the hottest fighter in this often brutal, bloody sport. Rousey credited her mother, Ann Maria Rousey DeMars, the first American to win the World Judo Championships, for making her into a winner.

"I was brought up doing judo," Rousey said. "[My mom] brought me to four or five different clubs a week. So I would always get to try different styles."

"We were always told, 'You can do whatever you want to do, you just have to be the best in the world at it,'" she added.

But it is out of the ring where she has attracted the most attention recently. She was on the cover of ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue this year and she is this month's Maxim cover girl.

Over the years, Rousey has shown she is not shy about speaking her mind. In a recent interview on "Jim Rome on Showtime," she talked about how she likes to have "as much sex as possible before a fight."

"I jinxed myself. I totally did," Rousey said. "Ever since I said that, I haven't been able to have sex right before a fight."

Rousey is the first and current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion, and she was the first American to win an Olympic medal in judo -- she took home bronze at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing -- but it's been a long journey to the top.

Rousey's father took his own life when she was only 8 years old.

"It's hard enough for an adult to handle suicide but to ask an 8-year-old to deal with her father: 'How ... did you handle that?'" Rousey said. "It was hard. And we didn't really have any grievance counselors or anything like that. It was, he was gone and we were alone."

Under a watchful eye from her champion mother, Rousey used her own judo training to help her cope with the loss of her dad.

"[My mother said] 'Is this something that you really want to do? You want to do this judo thing?' I was like, 'Yes, I want to win the Olympics, I want to be the first American to win the Olympics,'" Rousey said.

While Rousey did become the first American to medal, she needed more and wanted to fight professionally. To do that, she would have to convince the head of the biggest Mixed Martial Arts organization in the world, Dana White, that she had what it took to win. White had vowed that no woman would ever fight in his ring, called the Octagon.

"I didn't like fault him for saying that because, from what he could see from where the sport was at, it was very logical to say," Rousey said. "I had it in my head that, 'I'm going to be the reason, I'm going to make it happen. ... Eventually, at some point, he's going to love me.'"

So Rousey set out on a mission. In 17 months, she won all six of her fights and spent only seven minutes and 39 seconds total in the ring for those fights.

With that successful record, White took notice. In less than two years from her first fight, Rousey not only became the first women to sign a contract with the UFC, she was crowned its first Women's World Champion.

Rousey's first pay-per-view event for the UFC did a reported 500,000 buys, which is the most ever for a female pay-per-view fight.

Those numbers fueled some critics' arguments that adding women's fighting was just a publicity gimmick, and now White is one of Rousey's biggest defenders.

So just because women can fight, should they?

Rousey asks: Why not?

"I think that sports are a metaphor for life, and I'm not scared of anything," she said. "I think that a lot of women spend their lives fearful when they shouldn't."

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