I am "sporty," but I am not an expert in MMA, or any martial art, or any sport for that matter. I became a weight lifting enthusiast in college, but no team sports really stuck. I played soccer as a little suburban Bay Area kid, but I gave that up for music and theatre stuff long before puberty. I tried Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in college but was turned off by how the moves made me dizzy, and by the overwhelming amount of times a sweaty crotch ended up in my face in the movements I learned during the first practice I attended (I think the word repugnant was invented for that purpose). I eventually settled on rugby for a semester, the bar to entry being quite low since hardly any Americans knew the rules (me included...even after that semester). For a while all of the bruises I collected on my thighs from tackling my opponents felt like some badass badge of honor, but that feeling quickly dissipated when I got my first more serious injury: in practice, a teammate tackled me and I fell on my ankle wrong, causing damage to some cartilage and my ability to walk. Damn. I realized that I actually dislike violence and would rather not do irreparable damage to myself. I quit the team and went back to my yoga and solo weightlifting ways (I've injured myself going too far with that shit, too, but that's another story). Even in my brief forays into various sports, I never watched any professional athletics. The only time I've followed any sports-related news has been by accident on the way to finding out how to execute workout movements myself.
That is, until Ronda Rousey.
Maybe I was indoctrinated by the media. Maybe it was my dastardly feminist bones becoming inflamed with the symbolism of it all. Maybe it was the contrarian inside me that insisted on liking MMA to the confusion of my boyfriend (who has actually trained in martial arts), who introduced me to Ronda a few years back but was sure I wouldn't want to watch her fight since like I said, I dislike violence (and I still find the men's fights really boring). Maybe it was the fact that one of my fitness heroes, Krista from Stumptuous.com, referred to mixed martial arts in some of those articles I read early on in my love affair with lifting. Whatever the cause, somehow Ronda got me to care about a sport. An extremely violent sport.
Ronda is fucking amazing. She's a judo Olympian. A true badass with an incredible understanding of her sport and a reckless mouth that could back up all of the smack talk by making her opponents tap out in under a minute. Undefeated again and again and again until her record was 12-0. In 2011, the owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (who both looks like and has the demeanor of a caricature of a car salesman crossed with a supervillain) was asked, "When are we gonna see women in the UFC?" To which he responded, "Never," supposedly because he couldn't fathom female fighters drawing in viewers. And Ronda proved him so, so, so, so, wrong: she was the first female champ in 2012 (though maybe we've been conned and the "Never" comment was a PR stunt to make sure people like me started giving a shit when women entered the UFC). Last Saturday night's MAIN EVENT Ronda Rousey/Holly Holm fight broke records in UFC viewership. So much of the UFC's hype has been centered around Ronda in the past year or two, and though she was booed when she won fights early in her career, on Saturday night it felt like everyone wanted and expected her to win.
But she didn't.
Enter 19-time boxing champion Holly Holm. She's the opposite of Ronda in every way, from fighting style to public persona. Extremely humble, even meek in interviews. When we heard what her amazing boxing record is, we immediately decided to be one of the Pay-Per-View watchers that night. Even though I had an early morning to perform in a brunch show the next day, I had to stay up and watch. Ronda's weakness, her standing game, would be truly challenged by a complete master. When Holly entered the octagon on Saturday, she began energetically shuffling back and forth, a focused calm on her face. That energy carried through to the fight, where she made Ronda chase her all around the ring. When Holly did strike, it was with the precision of an artist.
Holly beat Ronda unquestionably, soundly, fairly, and completely. By knockout in the second round. She knocked out the unknockable Ronda! As jaws dropped 'round the globe, I googled to find more Holly and encountered this video:
Though Holly did prove the video's title to be true, the more interesting comment she makes in it is that everybody is beatable. Not just Ronda: Everybody. One of the captivating things about Holly is that she has a veteran's wisdom when she talks about her sport; the confidence of a 19-time champ tempered with a deeper understanding not only of the fallibility of anyone who steps in the ring, but the importance of her coaches and her support network and their ability to lift her already amazing talent to greater levels. That phrase really hit me and keeps replaying in my head. Everyone is beatable. How terrifying; how liberating.
As I continue to engage in this uphill battle that is living a creativity-centric life, I worry less today: these difficult things, these insurmountable things, they are beatable. I myself am beatable, but somehow this knowledge frees me be beaten if I must, and then move forward anyway. One of the songs on my new EP (out January 6th ;-) ), Fits And Starts, is actually kind of about this phenomenon, though I think Holly said it better and more succinctly. Everybody is beatable: That's why we fight.