Girls and boys, women and men of all ages from near and far descended upon the Glendale Fighting Club on Saturday afternoon to watch Ronda Rousey take center stage.
Far removed from the bright lights and big stage of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and exactly two weeks removed from her historic title defense of the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, Rousey conducted her first-ever mixed-martial-arts clinic, demonstrating some of the knowledge and technique that’s made her an unbeaten phenom.
Only this time, the only fight Rousey and the 30 participants who took the “Don’t Throw Up, Throw Down Clinic” were taking part in was against eating disorders on behalf of the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.
In all, Rousey and Co. raised a reported $11,800 thanks to the cost of the clinic and Rousey’s $5000 donation.
“I just feel like I’ve been really fortunate with everything ... instead of hoarding all that fortune, you should pass it along and pay it forward,” said Rousey, who has also taken part in charitable efforts for cancer, including making an appearance at Friday’s Hoover High Stars Shooting for Hope basketball game, and spearheaded a free rice program to donate to the World Food Program.
Rousey, who is 7-0 as the first-ever UFC women’s champion and defended the belt in the inaugural women’s bout in UFC history at UFC 157 on Feb. 23 against Liz Carmouche, has made plenty of headlines during her rapid ascent to super stardom.
Her fights, her honest and eloquent sound bytes, her good looks and everything in between have drawn a seemingly endless media storm, but often overlooked has been her steady stream of charitable contributions.
“I do it because it needs to be done, not for the attention,” Rousey said. “I’m just gonna do it to do it and help the people I can help.”
The clinic was the brainchild of Rousey, with much of the hard work organizing the event coming from Ann Maria DeMars, Rousey’s mom.
“I thought it was great, I thought everybody had a great time,” said DeMars, who was the first American to win at the World Judo Championships, winning the 1984 tournament. “I think everybody had a great time, so that was successful. They raised a lot of money for Didi Hirsch, so that was successful.”
Beginning at noon and wrapping up around 2 p.m., though Rousey stayed long after, signing autographs, posing for pictures and doing interviews with the media, the clinic was a first-hand look into the MMA game that has made Rousey an undisputed and unbelievably successful champion.
“[Rousey] did 90% of it. I just stood there and she threw me around,” joked GFC proprietor and Rousey’s lead trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan, who said the clinic started with drills on striking, closing distance, judo takedowns and ultimately Rousey’s signature armbar. “And then she showed exactly how to finish an armbar.”
While Rousey has finished all seven of her professional fights with first-round armbar submissions, the sold-out clinic finished with a long line of those who participated and the many who squeezed into the Glendale Fighting Club to watch it waiting for an autograph or even to present Rousey with a gift.
“I actually think Ronda Rousey is the greatest grappler I’ve ever seen and I’ve actually trained with Royce Gracie,” said David Hannah, 41, of Los Angeles, referring to one of the UFC’s original hall of famers, who was a pioneer of MMA and Brazilian jiu jitsu. “It was watching a true martial-arts master. It was a great experience.”
Indeed, Rousey’s drawing power has become a major topic of late, as she headlined the UFC 157 at the Honda Center and drew clinic members from quite a distance.
“I just wanted to see her,” said 8-year-old Ace Mather, whose dad, Dave, drove him all the way down from San Luis Obispo. “She’s nice.”
Fourteen-year-old Kaila Loera’s mom drove her all the way from Vacaville, a trip of “six or seven hours” Loera said. But it was well worth it for Loera, who donned a UFC 157 T-shirt that she got while attending the event in Anaheim.
“[It] was totally worth it, it was so cool,” Loera said. “She showed us all the grips and the armbar.
“I got so many new ideas, so many things to try. It was so awesome.”
For Loera, training and learning MMA is also something she said she’s excited to continue.
“You get self-defense, you stay in shape,” she said. “It’s so much fun.”
DeMars said the farthest anyone traveled was one man who came in from Honduras, making sure a business trip would coincide with the clinic, while another came from New York.
“It’s really flattering that people would go so far out of their way,” said Rousey, a former United States Olympic bronze medalist in judo.
For DeMars, a proud mother to be sure, there’s myriad accomplishments her daughter has realized, but she said a day like Saturday is what really make her smile.
Said DeMars: “I’m proudest of her when she does stuff like this.”