She was beating everyone she faced. Literally. Her previous three fights had lasted a combined 64 seconds, and her previous four had lasted a combined 130 seconds. She was undefeated. Fans were wondering whether she could beat male counterparts Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather in a fight.
UFC superstar Ronda Rousey was on top of the world in November.
Then she came across former boxer Holly Holm, who was expected to be Rousey’s toughest opponent yet. But Rousey had been so dominant that virtually nobody expected her to have a problem with Holm, much less lose. And even if she somehow lost, Rousey would still be the sport’s biggest star and most dominant fighter.
One kick to the face later, and Rousey’s world flipped upside down. Rousey took a beating from Holm before the final kick to the face that knocked her out and sent social media into a frenzy.
Rousey was so badly beaten that she was rushed to a local hospital in Melbourne, Australia, where the fight took place.
Now three months removed from that night, Rousey revealed on Feb. 16 on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that, in that hospital bed, she contemplated suicide.
This came after all her dominance, after the quickest rise to fame by an athlete in recent memory and after ESPN named her the 2015 Female Athlete of the Year.
One knockout. That’s all it took for such a big star and respected athlete to think about ending her life.
Why would such a dominant athlete consider suicide after just one loss? To fans it made no sense. She was still famous, she still made millions of dollars and she still only had one loss in 13 career fights.
Well, Rousey explained herself to DeGeneres.
“Honestly, my thought in the medical room, I was sitting in the corner and was like, ‘What am I anymore if I’m not this?’ — literally sitting there thinking about killing myself” Rousey said on the show. “In that exact second, I’m like, ‘I’m nothing. What do I do anymore? No one gives a [expletive] about me anymore without this.’”
To fans, Rousey still has all the name recognition and money. But to Rousey, the most important thing she had was an undefeated record. Sure, she loved the money and fame. Who wouldn’t?
But there was so much pressure on her to, not only keep winning, but to keep dominating. Fans expected a knockout within seconds in every one of her fights. And if she didn’t quickly knock out an opponent, it would be considered a disappointment.
At what point do these expectations become too much pressure for athletes? Some people will say athletes like Rousey make millions of dollars, so the pressure comes with the territory. But no amount of money can outweigh the pressure of millions of fans’ expectations.
Athletes are paid millions of dollars for a reason. There are only a select amount of people in the world who can do what professional athletes do. Such few people have these physical abilities that the demand and price for their service goes up every year.
That doesn’t mean that their brains are programed to respond to immense pressure any differently than the rest of us.
Fans have the right to demand high-level performances from their athletes. They pay too much money not to have that right. But it’s ignorant to ignore the pressure athletes face.
Athletes are great performers above all else, and they can mask their feelings better than the average person. So we shouldn’t be surprised when athletes admit things like Rousey did on Tuesday.