Ronda Rousey Takes Down Mental Health Stigma and Global Hunger

When it comes to athletes, there are the greats who make a living dominating competition for a decade and pave a golden road to the hall of fame. Then there are athletes who come into the spotlight, set the world on fire for a few brief moments and promptly come back down to earth. In the UFC, no one exemplifies the latter quite like Ronda Rousey.

Photo: Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services

Photo: Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services

A former bronze medal judo champion in the 2008 Olympic Games, Rousey stormed into the Octagon in 2012 as the first female fighter signed with the UFC. To put her dominance in perspective, she won six fights — and retained her title as the bantamweight champion — in just 1,077 seconds, an average fight time of just under three minutes and hardly more than half a round. Then in 2015, she faced contender Holly Holm who unceremoniously knocked her out in a flurry of punches. She was defeated once again in her next fight, which marked the end of her MMA career.

It can be easy for athletes to fall into obscurity when these hot streaks end, but Rousey has found a way to repurpose her talents. Nowadays you can find “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey fighting in the WWE, as she has continued to make a name for herself and rekindle a career in combat sports. Her professional resume is well-known. What is not as well-known, however, is her deep passion for philanthropy.

Rousey supports charities that routinely deal with hunger and mental health issues, having lost her father to suicide when she was just eight years old. One of these organizations is Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, which provides free counseling for eating disorders and general mental health services for those who can't afford them.

In 2013 during the height of her fame, Rousey gave fans the opportunity to grapple with her in order to raise funds for Didi Hirsch, with participants each donating a minimum of $200. The event ultimately raised nearly $12,000, with $5,000 coming from Rousey’s own pocket.

Another organization Rousey has supported is FreeRice, a United Nations World Food Programme initiative that donates rice to those in need. For each correct response people give to simple questions on their website, the organization donates 10 grains of rice. Rousey promoted the initiative before each of her UFC bouts, which helped feed upwards of 100,000 people — no small feat.

Rousey was one of the most feared competitors during her run, and while her career has taken a change of direction into the entertainment industry of the WWE, she is by no means finished making a positive impact with her platform. Luckily for her competitors in the UFC, she has found a new hobby of tackling mental health issues and battling to put hunger into submission.

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