Written by Lisa Turner, editorial intern
After winning the bronze medal in Judo at Beijing in 2008, Ronda Rousey was in the mood for a change. Following the lead of former fighters, she decided to enter the world of women’s MMA – mixed martial arts. Now, nearly two years in the profession, Rousey remains undefeated and graces the 2012 cover of ESPN’s The Body Issue. Craving to know more about the girl inside the ring, we got the inside scoop about her intense training schedule and how she feels about posing nude for the media.
What made you switch from judo to MMA?
After winning bronze at the Olympics, I wasn’t happy with the lifestyle required to be the best. But I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought about joining the Coast Guard, but I had a bunch of friends who transitioned from Judo to MMA. I thought I’d give it a try. If it didn’t work out, I’d join the Coast Guard. But it’s gone beyond my wildest expectations.
How grueling is training right now?
Overall, I really only rest about two or three weeks throughout the year. The rest of the time I’m working. But the anticipation for the fight can actually be more insane. I love the training and fighting, but waiting for it to happen makes me crazy! When they build up something in the press, it can just be mentally exhausting, waiting for that moment to finally be here.
What is your typical workout?
For MMA, you have to be good at so many different techniques: technical striking, Judo, wrestling, grappling, strength conditioning, Pilates and even training on sand dune hills. The coolest part of my training is that I get to change it around based on how I feel. That’s the difference between MMA and Judo – I’m not on a monotonous training schedule. Every day is cool and interesting, so I never dread going to practice.
Gina Carano would have never imagined her life as it is today when she stepped into her boyfriend’s Muay Thai gym nearly 10 years ago. “I grew up in Las Vegas, which is a big fighting community, but never did so myself,” Carano says. “I entered the gym to try it out and one of the guys there said, ‘Oh baby, you need to lose weight. You’re fat!” She took that as a challenge, lost 30 pounds and went on to become one of the nation’s best female mixed martial arts stars (her record, combining MMA and kickboxing: 19-2-1). Talk about fierce!
She caught the eye of more than just fighting fans. Director Steven Soderbergh saw her spar—perhaps he even watched her as “Crush” on the latest incarnation of American Gladiators—and knew that she would be the ideal leading lady for his new action film Haywire, available on DVD now. “We had a four-hour lunch and I walked away with the job,” Carano says. Training from then on to be a freelance covert operative was intense: “For eight weeks leading up to filming, I spent three hours doing boot camp with Aaron Cohen [who has worked in counterterrorism], practiced stunts for three hours and trained in the gym for another two each day,” she explains.
Sharing the screen with big names including Channing Tatum (“hilarious,” according to Carano), Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor and Michael Fassbender could have been intimidating for a new actress, but Carano took it in stride. “It was such a fun experience,” Carano adds. “I’m not like my character at all—she doesn’t smile and I’m such a goofball. It was really healthy to explore the more serious side of me, but I was smiling off camera because I was having a blast!”
So what’s next for the active actress? Carano is in negotiations to star in Fast and Furious 6. If everything falls into place, “I’ll be that girl on set just happy to be there. At this point in my career, I have everything to gain and nothing to lose,” she says.