Like any professional athlete, Ronda Rousey sees her sport as her life's work—and she's pretty damn good at it. (Which makes her one hell of an inspiration.) Rousey became the first U.S. woman to win a bronze medal in judo at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Then she quickly rose to the top of the Bantamweight class in the MMA and UFC world, winning 18 consecutive fights before suffering her first and only loss to Holly Holm in November 2015.
After that, Rousey went dark—her rise as an undefeated champ paused as quickly as the head kick that knocked her out in the second round of the Holm fight. She received some flak about her unsportsmanlike conduct and disappearance post-defeat, but the public didn't forget about Rousey—she's still considered "the biggest, baddest female fighter on the planet" by UFC President Dana White. She's slaying it as the face of Reebok's #PerfectNever campaign, which is all about redemption and fighting to get better every single day. And while Rousey isn't trying to be perfect, she is trying to get her title back.
On December 30 in Las Vegas, Rousey is battling Amanda Nunes to regain the UFC Bantamweight Champion title in her debut fight since her devastating loss to Holm. If intimidation won matches, Rousey would have it on lock—her Instagram is full of #FearTheReturn posts sure to send shivers down your spine.
Needless to say, she's been training harder than ever before for arguably the biggest fight of her career—but how hard is that exactly? We wanted to know what it takes to be the best female fighter in the biz, so we caught up with her coach Edmond Tarverdyan of Glendale Fighting Club in California, and asked how he's gotten Rousey to "the best shape of her life."
Rousey's Training Routine
Before a fight, Ronda heads into a two-month training camp with Edmond, where everything from her workouts to her nutrition to her rest days are dialed in to optimize performance.
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: Rousey starts the day with two or three hours of sparring with an opponent (who must wear protective gear including head gear not only to protect themselves but to keep Ronda's hands safe from injury. Yeah, that is how hard she punches.) At the beginning of the camp, they start training with three rounds, then work their way up to six rounds (one more than in an actual fight). That way, Tarverdyan has no doubt his athletes have enough stamina to work through the five rounds of a real match. Then they work back down, training for shorter rounds and pinpointing explosiveness and speed. In the evening, Rousey heads back to the gym for a couple more hours of mitt work (to fine-tune defensive moves and drills) or to the pool for a swimming workout. (Don't leave the fighting to Rousey—here's why you should give MMA a try yourself.)
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays: Rousey starts the day with judo, grappling, punching bag work, wrestling, and take-downs, and crushes another cardio session like a stair workout at UCLA or running. Closer to the fight, she trades that for skipping rope to take the force off her legs and to stay explosive and quick on her feet. Saturdays get an extra boost: Taverdyan says he likes having her do particularly hard physical exercise like long runs or mountain runs before her rest day.
Sundays: Sundays are for #selfcare, especially in an athlete's world. Rousey regularly spends her Sundays in the ice bath, getting physical therapy, and seeing a chiropractor.
Ronda Rousey's Diet
When your body is the only tool you need for your job, it's crucial to take care of it from the inside out. Taverdyan says Rousey did blood tests and hair tests to find out which foods are best and worst for her body, and then that's where Mike Dolce comes in—the so-called "patron saint of weight cutting" and weight management trainer to the MMA all-stars.
Breakfast: Rousey's favorite is a simple chia bowl with fruit and, obv, some coffee. Post-workout she chugs coconut water with blackberries.
Lunch: Eggs are a lunch staple, and she'll have some nuts, almond butter, an apple, or a protein shake as snacks.
Dinner: The night before a sparring session or an extra-tough workout, Taverdyan has Rousey carb up so she has energy that lasts through the rounds. Otherwise, she eats very healthy, well-rounded meals, but since she hit weight (145 lbs) months ahead of the fight, Taverdyan says she hasn't had to be as strict with her diet.
Rousey's Mental Training
When vengeance is on the agenda, there's a lot of mental and emotional pressure that comes with the build-up to a fight. That's why although Rousey's been publicizing the fight a bit, she's been much more focused on her training and less so on the media before her match with Nunes. "Media gets to you," says Taverdyan, "and she's always said the most important thing is winning the fight, so that's what she's focusing on right now." (One exception: her amazing appearance on Saturday Night Live.)
But when it comes to mental training, Taverdyan isn't worried about the mental pressure getting to Rousey. "Ronda has a lot of experience," says Taverdyan. "She's a two-time Olympian. She's mentally always prepared because experience is a such a big factor in competition."
He says they watch film of her opponents to strategize for any possible situation. Plus, he brought in the best sparring partners in the world—like Olympic boxer Mikaela Mayer—so Rousey knows how to crush challenges in the gym and feels fully prepared for anything that comes her way during the fight. The biggest weapon, though, is confidence.
"It's always good for athletes to be reminded that they're the best in the world, and if you don't think you're the best in the world then I don't think you belong in this business." Luckily, Rousey has that down pat. Let's see if she can prove it yet again in the ring in Vegas.