A consensus is forming in the MMA world that former world champion Ronda Rousey needs to switch coaches and teams if she decides to continue fighting and wants a chance at winning again. Rousey faced the first great striker of her career in Holly Holm over a year ago at UFC 193 and got outclassed en route to a nasty KO.
Last month, at UFC 207, Rousey faced another skilled striker in Amanda Nunes and lost even quicker. Rousey's head coach is striking coach Edmond Tarverdyan, but she has not improved in any of her weak stand-up striking areas, including head and foot movement, nor has she diversified her takedown entries.
Everyone from Rousey's judo world champion mother to former teammate and Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison, as well as several other coaches and fighters like Kenny Florian, Matt Serra and Din Thomas agree that Rousey is getting subpar coaching and preparation. Heck, even the coach of Rousey's rival Cris "Cyborg" Justino, Jason Parillo, has invited Rousey to come train at their camp to help her improve.
As of yet, Rousey says she doesn't know if she'll continue fighting. If she does, she'd likely have no shortage of teams willing to adopt her to help her improve.
Each team has its own strengths, however, so if she's inclined to make a move, she'll have to take her time and consider her options carefully. Below is our unsolicited assessment and advice to Ronda on the top three teams that we think could best suit her training needs.
1. Team Alpha Male
Assuming Rousey could get over her anger at Team Alpha Male member Paige VanZant, Urijah Faber's super team may be a good place for Ronda to begin her new team search. Here's why:
If Rousey decided to train at Sacramento's Team Alpha Male, she wouldn't have to leave her home state to get elite training. She'd also be just about an hour away from her friends Nate and Nick Diaz and their excellent Gracie Lodi academy, so quality skill work and trusted friends would never be far from Rousey.
As martial arts with superb takedowns, judo and different wrestling styles have healthy rivalries between one another. For most of her career Rousey was able to dominate with her judo tosses and trips. Lately, however, her high clinching approach has become predictable and easy for opponents to shrug off.
Plain and simple, Ronda Rousey needs to learn to wrestle. If she does, she can diversify her takedown entries by adding levels to her approach instead of always going high. Team Alpha Male is filled with wrestling-based fighters and would likely be a good place for Rousey to add to her takedown game.
Motivated Coaching and Team Camaraderie
Team Alpha Male is a legit powerhouse, but they aren't particularly overgrown. The fighters we've spoken to who train there always speak of a tight knit and supportive atmosphere on the mats. Rousey appears to inhabit a relatively isolated training and personal world, these days. That is understandable considering her fame. However, a real team environment and training room can be a needed respite, emotionally, for even famous athletes.
At the same time, as good teammates can get someone to relax and open up, they push one another in challenging ways that Rousey has likely not had in a long time. Furthermore, young Team Alpha Male coaches Justin Buchholz, Danny Castillo, and Chris Holdsworth are not just proven elite MMA fighters themselves, but are also now proven world championship level coaches who seem eager and hungry to prove themselves as teachers. Rousey would get plenty of attention at Team Alpha Male, and be challenged, not coddled.
The Size Thing
Rousey would also get plenty of training partners, male and female, around her size. Sparring partners can be hard to find for top fighters. This isn't a problem at a top gym like Team Alpha Male, and since most of their best athletes are lighter weight fighters, Rousey would have a wealth of drilling and sparring partner options
2. American Top Team
ATT is the biggest and most successful MMA team in the world, and there's plenty reasons for that. The South Florida mega-team currently has three world champions on their roster. To give you an idea of how stacked their stable is, longtime ATT member Tyron Woodley won his welterweight world title by beating ATT teammate Robbie Lawler. At this point, gold is simply changing hands among ATT teammates, and that is pretty astounding.
Beyond general success, ATT could very well be a great fit for Rousey for the following specific reasons:
At ATT there are so many elite and experienced coaches that fighters have the chance to find particularly good coaching fits for their skill sets and personalities. Rousey could, for example, link up with former featherweight world champion Mike Brown, or with longtime top-five lightweight Din Thomas, depending on who she clicks best with. We've seen first-hand some of ATT's nuanced and calm coaching from guys like Mike Brown, and it is impressive.
Beyond that head coaching, all ATT athletes have their whole program overseen by ATT co-founder "Conan" Silveira, who brings decades of fight and coaching expertise to leading his squad. ATT athletes also have access to specialized coaching in sub-fields like boxing and strength and conditioning. If Rousey wanted to work on her boxing or wrestling as an ATT member, she'd have the ability to work with coaches who reached the top of their fields as athletes.
It is doubtful that any team has more quality sparring partners than ATT. The team specifically has an impressively long list of elite female athletes, including Amanda Nunes. In fact, two out of ATT's three current world champions are women. Rousey would, probably for the first time in her MMA career, have a plethora of female MMA drilling and sparring partners who wouldn't just challenge her, but who are also better than her. Whenever you're the baddest dog in your gym, you're in the wrong place. That wouldn't be an issue for Rousey at ATT.
We mentioned above that ATT is home to Amanda Nunes - who just beat Rousey. While it would initially seem unlikely that the two could co-exist, ATT has already shown that they can balance and resolve such tension. Joanna Jedrzejczyk moved to ATT this past year and suddenly became a teammate of rivals and former opponents like Valerie Letourneau. There may have been initial tension in the situation, but we were told that all involved quickly banded together and rallied around the strawweight champion. Now, Joanna has moved to Florida and seems to be planning to make her move permanent.
There seems little reason a similar thing couldn't happen with Rousey. Besides ATT's proven record of being able to handle delicate situations like this, if she's honest, Rousey will realize she isn't actually a rival of Nunes at this point. Rousey shouldn't be fighting anywhere near a world title level, at least until she improves a great deal. If she continues fighting, she'll be doing so just to improve enough to beat someone else on the UFC roster, and wouldn't be gunning for anyone on Nunes' level. Hopefully that would ease tension, and not increase it.
3. TriStar Gym
Montreal's TriStar Gym is led by Georges St-Pierre's not-so-secret weapon Firas Zahabi, Rousey would have to travel far from home to train at TriStar, but it could very well be worth the miles. Here's why:
We've trained at TriStar with Zahabi and realized that he's one of the most hands-on, skilled and technical coaches in the sport. Most MMA coaches, even at well-known gyms, paint in broad strokes because they themselves aren't very good practitioners. Zahabi rolls and spars with all his fighters, and more than holds his own. That fighting ability, paired with an analytical mind make for a phenomenal coach. Beyond that, Zahabi seems to genuinely care about the well-being of his athletes, advising them in healthy directions instead of rushing them towards goals that could burn them out.
Teammates on Teammates
You may be starting to see a pattern in this category. Rousey needs more and better teammates to confide in and be challenged by on a daily basis. Like TAM and ATT, TriStar has loads of top fighters, including some notable women, to work with. Zahabi also has relationships with many other camps across the world that would make bringing in specialist sparring partners for Rousey quite doable.
Make the move
Ronda Rousey's legacy is secure. At under 30 years of age, she's already managed to go to the Olympics twice, earn a bronze medal and become a world champion in MMA. The judoka does not have to fight on.
In fact, given how much jarring her brain has sustained in her last two fights, it may be a good idea for her to consider hanging up her gloves and moving on to greener, safer pastures. Every fighter has to retire eventually, and Rousey is a lifelong combat athlete with little to prove.
With all that said, should Rousey continue to fight in MMA, she'll need a long rest. Then, she should consider all her training options with an open mind before signing onto another bout.