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Fighting Undefeated is a Curse

(Photo courtesy of AP)

Responsibility is earned in mixed martial arts.

It’s an upshot of performances inside of the cage and closely watched actions happening away from the cage, which in turn often folds those who procure the power.

This was never more evident, never, than when Ronda Rousey found herself looking up at the Melbourne stars this past Saturday at UFC 193. She fell victim to the unappreciated potency of Holly Holm’s elite striking, finding out the hard way that building a legacy defined by perfection is near impossible.

Now, with her tail between her legs, the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion will be forced to pick up the pieces and regain the torrid momentum that manifested following a 12-0 start to her pro MMA career. She will no longer command an unprecedented amount of belief that she is in fact the most dominant fighter in the sport today.

While much has been said about Holm’s output, pressure, fluidity and admirable serenity following the biggest upset in the history of women’s combat sports, it should also be acknowledged that Rousey was playing with fire.

Not only in the sense that she willingly exchanged with a proven killer on the feet, but more so the fact that fighting undefeated is a curse in itself.

In a sport often dictated by win streaks, awe-inspiring finishes and top-flight production, remaining undefeated can get you a long way. Never losing is the quickest implication of greatness, whether it’s deserving or not.

But when a fighter mashes every accomplishment and gleaming achievement into one idea of being unbeatable, it will eventually culminate into the worst possible outcome when the chips fall. And despite the scarcest phenomenons known to man, the chips will fall.

Granted, believing in oneself at all turns in life is the best policy for success. Just ask Conor McGregor, who has tasted defeat on two separate occasions. But when the idea of invincibility becomes your identity, losing becomes much more than just losing.

For Rousey, who stands as a clear example of perfection gone wrong, succumbing to her own belief that she will never leave the Octagon without her shiny gold belt was her ultimate downfall. Because at the end of the day, fighting undefeated is a game that is rarely mastered, unless your name is Floyd Mayweather Jr.

People may argue that endless obligations outside of the cage deterred Rousey from focusing all her attention on another undefeated entity in Holm, but there was always going to be a time and place when the former champ met her match. It just happened to materialize in the most glorious way possible.

While current MMA superstars have eluded defeat throughout their careers to this very point in time, most notably UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, not one of those fighters will retire without a loss. It’s inevitable. Like Anderson Silva losing to a wrestler or Chuck Liddell getting beat at his own game, MMA is a sport that comes full circle.

Fighters are always going to believe that they will beat anyone standing in their way, or at least they should. This sport is as physically demanding as anything in the world, but it is also won and lost on the mental battlefield. Maintaining fortitude between the ears can assist greatness.

But competing undefeated adds a different level to the entire experience, similar to that of Rousey. The pressure that comes with defending an untainted record is absolutely exhausting, especially considering the doubt and putrid outlooks that people around the sport make known.

It is triumph turned tribulation at the absolute highest level. And when a champion tries to surf that wave into immortality, the swells begin to grow.

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