Ronda Rousey's mother discusses education work, maternal concerns, and Cyborg

Photo courtesy of Dr. AnnMaria DeMars

Ronda Rousey's mother, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, discusses her new book, innovative new video game to teach children math, Cris Cyborg, and more.

In less than two weeks, the much anticipated UFC debut of Ronda Rousey will happen. While undoubtedly taking a huge leap for women's MMA, Ronda might also be making great strides to push the sport as a whole into mainstream view. It is a significant amount of weight to bear on her 26 year old shoulders, but her mother, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, says she's more than capable of bearing it. I recently spoke with Dr. De Mars, and got thoughts on her daughter's meteoric rise to fame, as well as her own projects, which include a new grappling book and a Kickstarter fund for an innovative video game, designed to teach children mathematics.

Primetime Special

You know, it's really sad, but it does get better when you lose somebody like that, even though it never really goes away. I know that's especially true for girls when something profound happens. Every highlight of your life is kind of bittersweet. When you get married, you will look out and see that your dad is not there. When Ronda won her first junior international gold medal, she said afterwards, 'Dad would love this.' Whenever something great happens, there is just a missing piece that will never be filled. She misses her dad every day.

Helping Ronda prepare for her fight

I do help her out every once in a while, but she's an adult, so what I do is just drop in every few weeks and just watch her. I've been doing judo for 42 years and have been coaching for most of that. I think I started coaching when I was about 15 to pay for my own lessons. I can tel if a person has been training. It's sort of like when you go to a dentist and he knows if you've been flossing or not. Usually, when I go and watch her, there's nothing to be concerned about. Normally, I don't have a lot to say. She's an adult, and she knows what she's doing. Her coaches know what they're doing. Once in a while, I'll notice something that her opponent does, and I'll mention it to her, but most of the time, she's already noticed it herself and prepared for it. I think when you've known somebody their whole life, they don't need to be beaten over the head. A word here or a little bit of guidance there is all it takes.

A mother's concerns

I worry about her all the time. I think I'll be 95 and she'll be in her 70's and I will still worry about her [laughs]. One thing that concerns me, is that the more fame and attention you get, the more people come around that are there for the afterglow. She doesn't have a boyfriend right now, and part of the reason for that is because it's really hard to know if people are really liking her for her, or if they just want to be there when the cameras are on. That applies to friends and business associates. I worry about that whole Hollywood type scene where people think, 'You're only my friend as long as you're doing well.'

When she steps in the cage, I worry about her. It's always way worse than judo, because with judo, I know exactly what's going to happen. With MMA, I don't. I don't even know the rules all that well. That's where anxiety about anything comes from. It's the uncertainty. It's much more nerve racking. I am just very happy that they're over quickly.

Ronda's UFC contract

By the time it happened, I was expecting it. I had actually predicted it, probably a month before on my blog. It just seemed like good business to me. I don't know Dana White very well. I've only said 'Hello' to him a couple of times, but he certainly doesn't seem like a stupid person or a bad business man. It's all about money. When it happened, it seemed like an obvious move to make them more money.

Cris Cyborg

Her excuses for not going down in weight are bullshit. She says she wants to have children at some point, but that cutting the weight might hinder it. I will tell you the deal. What happens when you cut weight or get down to a certain body fat percentage, and this happens frequently with women that are elite athletes, is you quit having periods. It's called amenorrhea. That's a temporary condition. I'm a good Catholic girl. I was married for five years before I had my first child, and then I had three more. I competed for years, and over Christmas time, there were no tournaments, and I had put on some weight. I ended up pregnant. It kept me out of the 1982 Worlds. Her excuses are total bullshit. You can be at 3% body fat, you're done competing, and then you go and have a few cheeseburgers, and you're pregnant the next month. Take it from me, I competed at a very low body fat percentage, and when I quit competing and started putting on a little weight, I had no problems getting pregnant.

She asked to be released from her contract because I think she's realized she can't win without the steroids. She's not stupid, and knows that Ronda would beat her. Ronda holds a grudge, and I'm pretty sure she would break something on her. She definitely holds a grudge and takes things personally, and I think the referee would end up having to pull her off. I think Cyborg realizes that she can't beat Ronda on fair terms. If you look at how she looked several years ago, compared to how she looks now ... that's steroids. I know because I competed at the highest level for 14 years, and I know what just training gets you.

Ronda the philanthropist

She does so many charities, I can't even keep track of them. I'll tell you the ones I can remember. The one that takes the most time is Free Rice. Up to this point, she's raised 76 million grains of rice, which feeds something like 22,000 people. Ronda's also doing a clinic after her fight on March 9th, where all the proceeds will go to the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Clinic. She'll also match with a $5000 donation of her own. She's auctioning off fight gear that she's used to donate that money to the clinic and various other charities, too. We gathered up a van full of clothes for MMA For The Homeless. People don't know that about her, and it's not something a PR agent or publicist sets up. It's all her idea.

Winning On The Ground

A friend of mine in Texas said to me, 'You write this blog and Jim Pedro, Sr. writes about coaching, you guys should get together and write a book. It was incredibly naive of us, because we thought that since I had the blog and he had a bunch of articles, we'd go through and just pick out the best ones, and put it into the book. Well, two years later, we're finally getting the book out. When you write on the internet for a blog, if people aren't clear, they can post a comment, and be responded to. When you write a book, they can't, so the book had to be much more specific and have good photos to accompany it. People paying for a book expect more than what a blog offers.

Spirit Lake Game

They have actually replaced math with our game at one of the schools. Let me tell you the story. A few years ago, I had been working on the reservations in North Dakota. It was something I had done for more than 20 years, and my partner and I got asked to go to Washington DC to take part in analyzing the national Indian education study. What we found was, the more kids learned about their tribal culture, the worse they did in math. It sounds weird until you realize there's only so many minutes in a school day. If you take time out of the rest of the day to learn your tribal language, your history and your culture, there's less time for all the other subjects. On the way back from DC, my friend, Eric, says to me, 'You need to come up with a way to fix this, because I'm not going to accept the fact that these kids can either learn math or learn their culture.'

We came up with this idea that I'd had since I was in grad school. I had this idea that I would do a computer game to teach kids math. I was teaching at a school for kids who are emotionally disturbed, and a lot of them were behind in math. They refused to do their work as a form of rebellion, so I thought if we had it set like a game on the computer, they'd have no one to rebel against. Maybe they would do their math and catch up. I was into so many other projects at the time, I ended up having to abandon the project. Now I had the chance to go back to it, so I did. The kids loved it, and their math scores went up about 3 times faster than the kids at the other school from our control group that just had the regular math class.

Now. we're applying for federal funding to make more levels and get it for more grades. We did the Kickstarter the grant program is looking for how commercializable it is, and how likely is it that there's a market interest for it. If we could get 1000 people to give $10, that would show that there is interest for it, and that will help us get the federal funding. We're offering up great incentives. If somebody donates $2500, they get to become a character in the game.

You can check out a video and donate to the Kickstarter fund here, buy Dr. De Mars' book here, and follow her on Twitter here.

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