The rise of Ronda Rousey tops the Glendale News-Press' Top 10 Sports Moments of 2012
Women's MMA superstar's popularity and success grew to never-before-seen heights in 2012.
Ronda Rousey, thanks to help from Glendale-based trainer Edmond Tarverdyan, climbed up the MMA ranks in 2012. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer) (December 30, 2012)
“She’s the biggest rising star in women’s mixed martial arts, if not the sport as a whole. Ronda Rousey’s rise has been meteoric,” wrote Sports Illustrated when it crowned Rousey’s rise as the No. 65 sports moment of the year.
Indeed, Rousey’s rise to stardom and becoming a full-fledged star in the burgeoning realm of MMA — and in the mainstream — has grabbed headlines in the Glendale News-Press and myriad other forms of media, big and small.
Viewed by many as the complete package of beauty, brawn and intelligence, Rousey’s year has been one characterized by landmarks for her career and that of the sport of women’s MMA.
“There’s a reason I do this, it fulfills me as a person,” Rousey, a 25-year-old former Olympic bronze medalist in judo, said in a December interview in Burbank. “The brighter the lights are, the better I see.”
In between winning a Strikeforce championship in March and signing on as the first woman to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship before being crowned the organization’s first-ever women’s champion in November, Rousey’s roller-coaster ride of notoriety and prominence has had media of all kinds searching for superlatives and Rousey working overtime.
Tabbed “a rock star” by UFC President Dana White, Rousey, who trains under Edmond Tarverdyan at the Glendale Fighting Club along with at Team Hayastan in Hollywood, has made news over and over. She grabbed Internet buzz with controversial statements about Kim Kardashian being a bad role model and Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps being stand-offish with U.S. teammates. She had stories penned about her in Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Maxim and was on the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s “The Body Issue.” She guest-hosted an episode of TMZ, was a guest on “Conan” and Jim Rome’s Showtime talk show and rang the Nasdaq bell in New York City. She’s become a sex symbol and a sought-after sound byte, as her fan base has grown — her Twitter followers are right around 155,000 — and media attention and demand is never ending.
“This is what I chose to do and I’m not gonna complain,” Rousey said.
At the heart of it all, though, was the fact that Rousey became the baddest woman on the planet as it relates to the world of MMA.
In just her fifth fight, she submitted nemesis Miesha Tate for the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight (135 pounds) title on March 3, using her trademark armbar in a performance that earned submission of the year honors from a multitude of Internet sites and MMA television shows. Maybe more impressive was her first defense of the title, coming against former Strikeforce titlist Sarah Kaufman on Aug. 18. Kaufman, who had previously defeated Tate and was seen as a far superior striker to Rousey, succumbed to the armbar in just 54 seconds and it came after Rousey, showing her ever-improving game, threw out three jabs, landed a 1-2 combo and used it to transition into a clinch that led to a takedown and the inevitable end for Kaufman.
Then, in November, with rumors looming that Strikeforce, Rousey’s home and a sibling company to the UFC, would cease operations, Rousey signed on as the first women’s fighter to the UFC roster. And then, she became the first-ever UFC women’s bantamweight champion. Finally, it was announced that Rousey would headline UFC 157 in Anaheim on Feb. 23, taking on Liz Carmouche.
It was a 2012 to be remembered for Rousey. Alas, it seems 2013 is set to be an even better one.
“It’s very serendipitous,” Rousey said. “Everything came together. I couldn’t have written it any better. People’s dreams done come true like that.”
2) Championship dreams come true for Falcons — The Crescenta Valley High boys’ soccer team figured it might be able to win the program’s first CIF championship. What lied ahead was a roller-coaster ride to prominence.
The Falcons had a new coach in Grant Clark, who was familiar with the Falcons' personnel after previously coaching the school's junior varsity team. With forward Pavle Atanackovic, midfielder Alex Berger and goalkeeper Nick Ruiz as the core of an ultra-talented squad, the Falcons achieved championship status.
Crescenta Valley finished 23-1-6, 12-0-2 in the Pacific League and won the CIF Southern Section Division IV championship. Crescenta Valley knocked off top-seeded El Rancho, 3-0, in the championship match. For good measure, the Falcons advanced to the title game of the CIF Southern California Regional Championships Division I final, falling to Paramount, 2-1.
Atanackovic finished with a school-record 39 goals and nine assists for an area-leading 87 points and was named the All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year for the second straight season. Berger was named the All-CIF Division Player of the Year and Pacific League's Most Valuable Player after finishing with 10 goals and 29 assists for 49 points.
3) Down to the final lap for star-studded Crescenta Valley — After several seasons of falling short in their quest to win a CIF Southern Section division championship, the members of the Crescenta Valley High boys’ swimming team got back on the right track. Under coach Jan Sakonju, the pieces of the puzzle appeared in tact to win a CIF crown for the first time since 2000.
Led by a cast that included Young Tae Seo, Harrison Thai and Louis Wojciechowski, the Falcons were set to take on all challengers. It came down to the final race in the CIF Southern Section Division II Swimming and Diving Championships — the 400-yard freestyle relay — in Riverside for the Falcons to taste victory. Thai, Wojciechowski and Edward Yi teamed with Seo, who swam the final leg, to help the Falcons finish with a meet-record mark of 3 minutes 5.50 seconds and win the elusive crown.