Former coach: Why I left Rousey’s camp

Elias Cepeda noted that MMA writers lamenting Ronda Rousey’s media blackout were forgetting their jobs, and that it is possible to do excellent work without ever once speaking to the principal figure. Cepeda was right, and Jonathan Snowden did a tremendous piece for B/R on Rousey, interiewing and excerpting the people around her.

Snowden noted that Rousey followed her mother into Judo, but while Dr. AnnMaria DeMars became the first American to win a gold medal, Rousey managed a bronze in the Olympics, and thereafter found herself working as a bartender, and living in her car for a time. Rousey developed a perverse respect for her coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, who guided her into developing her boxing skills, something Rousey could feel was all her own. Tarverdyan convinced Rousey her boxing skills were world class. For that and much more, Tarverdyan is regarded by the hardcore fanbase as occupying a space in the sport somewhere between ringworm and a staph.

Unfortunately, when she ran into an actual world-class boxer in Holly Holm, Tarverdyan’s coaching nowhere referenced the world-class grappler taking the fight to the mat. Instead Tarverdyan offered Rousey further frenzied boxing advice. It failed. Then in Holm’s first title defense, the BJJ blue belt lost on the ground with 90 seconds left in a fight she was winning handily.

Snowden spoke with Rousey’s former strength and performance coach Leo Frincu, who is not impressed with Tarverdyan.


“The loss to Holly Holm validated something she felt deeply,” said Frincu. “That she wasn’t good enough, that something was fundamentally wrong with her.”

“I bet she felt like a fraud. Or even more, the way she lost to Holm, Ronda probably felt like she can never escape her past, can never feel good about herself. Boxing, or her new and better self, let her down that night. That explains her suicidal thoughts and the reason she collapsed emotionally.”

It is a pretty lonely life being Ronda Rousey.”

Frincu believes Tarverdyan’s initial disdain for the eager, female, MMA neophyte Rousey helped cement the relationship.

“He may not even know he does it,” said Frincu. “Maybe it’s cultural. Maybe that’s who he is and that’s how he treats women. It just happens that the worst thing that could happen to her is pairing up with that guy.

“She associates guilt and emotional blackmail and all this poison with love. That is love to her. To show anything different than that—to show respect, to treat her like a professional and a human being—that’s foreign to her.”

Frincu says the relationship with Tarverdyan is tumultuous, with Rousey at times texting or calling dozens of times in an hour. Rousey believes that Tarverdyan drives her to emotional lengths in a way that mimics the pressure of a fight, and leaves her better prepared as a fighter. Others attribute the apparent machinations to simple incompetence.

Frincu said the filming of The Ultimate Fighter in 2013 was more than he could contenance. Rousey was stressed to the point her hair was falling out.

“The way he talked to her—wow, what I witnessed,” said Frincu. “The way he talked to everybody, going on these rants. Cursing about how terrible she is. I didn’t feel physically safe. I’m a guy who can take care of himself, but I felt uncomfortable. The next morning I took a plane and I left.”

“It’s almost like there’s not a real world around her. Nobody keeps it real. It’s almost like a self-destructive organism.”

“It’s all emotional. There’s no logic in that camp. And that makes it very unstable. It’s like walking on eggshells. It’s terrible. It’s so stressful to be in that camp. It’s supposed to be hard work. But it has to be rational. There has to be a plan. Everything there is rage and anger.”

Rousey’s motto for this camp is “F*** them all.”