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This story first appeared in the July 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Ronda Rousey takes a break from a five-hour training routine inside the sweltering Glendale Fighting Club outside Los Angeles. It’s June 25, and she’s prepping for an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bout against Alexis Davis in Las Vegas (she’ll go on to win in 16 seconds). The 27-year-old has a wide grin, sun-bleached hair and a fighting weight of 135 pounds (she’s 5 feet 6 and, yes, she’s single). An elite mixed-martial artist (MMA) and Olympic medalist in judo, Rousey is in the throes of a career reinvention as she parlays her UFC popularity — she has 3 million social media followers — and kick-ass looks into a film career. She appears in August’s The Expendables 3, and if things go her way, she’ll soon be known as “the female Rock.”
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You’re on the precipice of a busy film career and are also MMA’s top female fighter. Is it strange to have one foot in two very different worlds?
Yes! I’ve done Expendables 3, Fast & Furious 7 and the Entourage movie, but nothing has come out yet. And I’ve had three fights in the meantime. People think the fighting is so easy. It may look easy, but have you tried multitasking like this? It’s insane! I guess if it looks easy, I’m doing a good job.
How was it being the only woman in the Expendables 3 cast alongside such macho stalwarts as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham?
To be honest, I’m really comfortable in an all-male setting. I grew up in gyms doing judo or MMA. I was always the sore thumb. People did not want me there, and I felt like an annoyance. But I was like, “You know what? I’m not going to cry.” So I Million Dollar Baby-d the hell out of my coach! That was pretty much how that went down.
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Did you get any practical advice from your co-stars?
Sly really took me under his wing. I know it was a gamble to bring me on to the film; he wrote the script, and there were bigger names thrown into the pot. But he believed in me from the beginning even though I felt like I was embarrassing myself on set. Sly told me: “Don’t ever be embarrassed. You’re just playing. Some people take this stuff too seriously. We’re really just playing pretend, and they pay you money for it.”
You just wrapped the feature-film adaptation of Entourage. How was that experience different?
I was much more out of my element doing Entourage. If I’m around a bunch of ultramasculine guys, I feel like a lady. But the Entourage guys are more Hollywood-looking types with designer clothes. In Expendables, I got to lean on my strong suits, like shooting a gun and fighting.
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Whom do you play?
I play myself, in that Entourage version of reality. It required a lot of walking and talking, which is new to me. Also, it’s a comedy, so you have to be really articulate and have good timing.
What is your ultimate goal in Hollywood?
I never thought that being an action movie star was in the cards for me. My agent, [WME’s] Brad Slater, kept telling me, “You’re going to be the female Rock.” Then I started to believe it could be a reality. I don’t half-ass anything. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it to be the best in the world at it. A lot of actresses appear in action movies, but there aren’t any female action stars. I love Angelina Jolie, but … it’s about believability for me. Milla Jovovich is one of my favorite actresses — The Fifth Element really opened my eyes, and the Resident Evil franchise was amazing. So definitely a mix of Milla Jovovich and The Rock is what I’m going for. People love chick fights. They love tough, empowered women. And there is a demand. People just don’t know it.
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