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Meet the last woman to defeat Ronda Rousey

USA TODAY USA TODAY 10/11/2015 Martin Rogers
© Provided by USA Today

Ronda Rousey’s career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship can be measured with sounds or statistics. You can quantify the mixed martial arts star’s success with the noise of busted elbow ligaments, courtesy of her signature arm bar, or by the fact her past five fights have lasted 188 seconds. Combined.

Yet as unstoppable as Rousey appears entering her fight against Holly Holm on Saturday at Ethiad Stadium in Melbourne, she was, at least at one point in time, beatable.

Just ask Edith Bosch, a judo player from the Netherlands, who ended Rousey’s dream of winning an Olympic title in 2008, defeating her at the quarterfinal stage.

According to Bosch, the secret to besting Rousey begins in the mind.

“I had short hair, I was looking brutal,” Bosch said in an interview with MMAjunkie, a member of the USA TODAY Sports network. “My attitude and my mindset was, 'You are in my way, I am going to kill you, because I want to get a medal.’ ”

Bosch got what she wanted — assuming she was speaking figuratively regarding the whole killing thing. She won a match that went to “golden score,” judo’s version of sudden death overtime, before going on to take bronze. Rousey battled back through the losers bracket to also claim bronze, which did nothing to calm the American’s fury at being denied the prize she had chased since her early teens.

“That was my childhood dream and I spent my whole life in pursuit of (gold),” said Rousey, 28. “I had to give that up and come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t for me. I have always been heartbroken from that.”

The bitterness still runs deep. Rousey suffered depression and financial hardship following the Beijing Games, even sleeping in her car at one point until her next bartending paycheck cleared. In her autobiography, My Fight/Your Fight, she pulled no punches, casting Bosch in the role of her fiercest competitive enemy. Rousey wrote that Bosch twice dislocated her elbow with illegal moves.

Bosch, now retired from competition and still living in Holland, takes an understandable level of satisfaction from being the last person to hand the baddest woman on the planet a taste of her own medicine. To be fair, she’s plenty tough herself. Remember when a man disrupted the start of the men’s 100-meter final at the London Olympics in 2012 by throwing a plastic bottle onto the track? Bosch, sitting just behind him, rewarded the miscreant with a swift punch to the head.

There was a personality clash between Bosch and Rousey from the first time they competed in the same weight category of 70 kilograms (154.3 pounds). Bosch was unimpressed with Rousey’s antics at tournaments, with the judo world somewhat staid and traditional compared to the high-octane, publicity-pushing UFC.

“Everything starts with the weigh in,” Bosch said, when asked what made Rousey unpopular among her fellow judokas. “Everybody is always silent and quiet because a lot of people have to lose weight. When she got into the weigh-in room she was … talking loud and all busy, and wearing pajamas. I always looked at her and I wondered, ‘Okay, for her (the fight) already starts here.'

“On the mat she is a (expletive),” Bosch continued. “But you have to be. I was too. We didn’t talk.”

Bosch says she has been impressed by Rousey’s progress in MMA, which has transformed women’s fighting from a promotional non-entity into a big box-office draw. If the chance arose, Bosch said she would like to meet Rousey, have a coffee, talk it out and finally get to know the person she duked it out against at events around the world, including at the Pan Am Games and German Open in 2007, matchups both won by Rousey.

Yet rivalries are quirky things. Bosch's admiration for Rousey is clearly there, but so too is her competitive spirit.

She says Rousey’s complaints about the alleged foul that dislocated her elbow are “pathetic” as Rousey is now punching and trying to tear off forearms for a living. Of course, such tactics by Rousey are permitted in MMA.

Rousey says Bosch punched her in the face at least three times in the opening exchanges, a banned move in judo, but was not punished by the referee.

There was a significant difference in the physique of the two athletes, Bosch being taller and with longer reach — “a six-foot Dutch chick with an eight pack” according to Rousey’s book. “I looked like a hobbit next to her.”

Rousey meanwhile, “was a bit of a chubby,” says Bosch, who never thought Rousey would move up in weight class. Bosch maintains she is both amused and flattered by her depiction as a “Goliath.”

The bout was tense and scoreless, until a late exchange when Rousey’s attempt at a throw was thwarted and Bosch executed a maneuver that gave her the winning point.

Rousey appeared stunned when her opponent was given victory, shaking Bosch’s hand so weakly its appeared the referee ordered the pair to salute each other again.

If failure breeds motivation, Rousey has had little to stoke her fires of late. She is 12-0 in MMA, 6-0 since UFC chief Dana White changed his mind about female fighting and implemented a women’s division in the sport’s primary organization. Instead, it is an old memory that gets her worked up when necessary.

“If I did win the Olympics I wouldn’t have this never-ending resource of motivation,” Rousey said. “Every time I go out to defend my title it is another chance to redeem myself, but it is never quite an Olympic gold medal.

“In judo you train your whole life and you have one day to be an Olympic champion and that’s it. You have one shot in your whole life. You can never compare to that pressure.”

So would Bosch consider stepping into the octagon and facing with Rousey in her current sport?

It won’t happen, sadly. Bosch has no plans to get involved in a new type of fighting, not at 35. She is not averse to entertaining the hypothetical, however, and wondering who might prevail in such a clash, wondering if she would fare better than Rousey’s hapless victims so far.

“I thought about it a couple of times,” Bosch said. “Of course you are wondering what would happen if I picked up MMA as well and we were in a cage and really got it on.”

Bosch stops for a moment and bows to reality. She smiles as she rules out ever getting into MMA, and fighting Rousey again. It is the kind of mischievous grin that for a moment makes you think that maybe professional combat athletes really aren’t so different from the rest of us.

Not so fast.

“I would really love to punch her though,” Bosch said.

Contributing: Per Haljestam, Chamatkar Sandhu and Abbey Subhan in Amsterdam


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