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The beast within the beauty

Glendale-trained MMA fighter Ronda Rousey is on a quest to become the best in the world

August 11, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
(Tim Berger/Staff…)

When Ronda Rousey was but a little girl – shy and hushed – her dad bestowed upon her words to live by.

Tragically, Ron Rousey was dead when Ronda was just 8 years old. His words, however, lived on.

"He's the one that told me I'd win a gold medal and be the best in the world someday," she remembers. "And when you're 8 years old, your dad's right about everything."

And now, Ronda Rousey is 24 years old and she's become an illustration of beauty, brawn and devastating mixed-martial-arts skill that has many believing she is, indeed, destined to be the best in the world.

"I've seen plenty of great fighters; I've worked with plenty of great fighters," says Edmond Tarverdyan, Rousey's trainer at the Glendale Fighting Club, "but Ronda's something different. She's just different — she's special."

On a sunny afternoon inside the Glendale Fighting Club, Rousey bounces from side to side atop an oversized truck tire. She watches every faint, every jab, every hook, as a pair of boxers go at it in the ring with trainer Tarverdyan looking on.

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Not long before, Rousey was in the very same ring, but the girl she was sparring lasted mere seconds. Rousey knocked her down and she couldn't get up. In fact, her opponent's knee buckled to the point that she could barely get out of the ring. That left Rousey as the last woman standing in the Glendale corner gym. But it's nothing new for her and it's certainly not something she's uncomfortable with.

"I can walk into a room full of men and not be the least bit intimidated," she says.

While MMA is arguably the world's fastest growing sport, there are still skeptics aplenty. For the burgeoning sport of women's MMA, there are even more. And in a fighting world that can often be a boys' club, Rousey has had to fight to prove she belongs just as vigorously as she has for victories.

"I'm a girl," she says, "I have to prove myself at every new place I go."

But inside the confines of the Glendale Fighting Club or North Hollywood's Team Hayastan or Van Nuys' SK Golden Boys, while Rousey could never be visually mistaken as one of the boys, her fighting skills and tenacity most assuredly could.

"She's always been a tough girl," says MMA fighter Karen Darabedyan, a longtime friend and training partner of Rousey's. "She's really strong, very technical, she's never an easy fight.

"I think she works as hard, if not more [than any guy]. She's a perfectionist, that's what she has and very few guys have it. She's a go-getter.

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