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Josh Barnett on Ronda Rousey’s WWE criticism and concussion revelation: ‘You’ve got to look out for yourself’

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Josh Barnett believes Ronda Rousey was in a difficult situation during her WWE run.

In October, Rousey left the WWE after two separate stints with the promotion. During a recent interview promoting her autobiography, Rousey criticized the WWE, calling it “an absolute s*** show”. She noted her personal history with concussions and how that conflicted with WWE’s complicated relationship with them. Such was her discontent with the WWE that Rousey said she has no intention of ever returning.

Speaking with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Barnett, who has been on both sides of the fence as a wrestler and promoter, suggested a lot of the animosity could be attributed to Rousey’s fast rise and the mishandling of the situation on both sides.

“It’s a lot to ask anybody to become a professional wrestler and carry — [to] be a part of main events, and all that comes with it,” Barnett said. “It’s not just about wrestling. It’s about all the media and the press and everything. Same with fighting in the UFC. It’s a delicate balance, where you can easily push someone way too far that now starts not getting positive returns in the long run. You can also stress things to such a point that their performance starts to decrease.

“It’s up to the wrestler or the fighter to speak up, but of course, I understand that there is a lot of apprehension in doing so, in terms of potentially upsetting the person that’s paying your paycheck. I get that, too. It’s not an easy thing to do as a fighter, or a wrestler, under the contracted auspices of any of these companies. But you’ve got to look out for yourself. And ultimately, I think that good bosses would understand that if you approach it the right way, you’re not doing this to try and make everything easier for yourself just for the sake of it, but you’re in fact on board with the process, and you’re trying to give the best thing that you can give to someone.

“At the end of the day, you can decide. If you’re the one calling all the shots, OK, if I’m going to use this person, maybe there is a bit of a cap on what I can do with them at this point. And that’s completely acceptable. You shouldn’t expect any and everyone to be able to do things at the highest level, and to do it always, over, and over, and over again. They guys and gals that can consistently live in that place are few. And there’s a reason for it. And sometimes those that can live at that highest level are capable of doing it at the expense of themselves, over time.

“But when you’re running it, unless you are aware of it, that’s out of your control. If they’re capable of always being that main event person and doing everything that comes with it, even though they’re burning themselves out, if you can’t notice it, you’re just going off what they tell you.”

Barnett also noted that given the circumstances, Rousey’s run in the WWE was likely only ever going to go one way: she was simply to big to be patient with.

“She was hot at the moment,” Barnett said when asked if he thought Rousey was rushed. “It was a turn-on-a-dime moment. Bang, got blasted in the nose. She did the right thing, the best thing you could have done, because all of a sudden, people were like, ‘Holy crap, I want whatever this is. This is getting me involved in a way I that I hadn’t been before around this person. Alright, sign me up. Put me in line for this.’ And when the fans are speaking like that, it’s tough, as the promoter. We’ve got to deliver in some way that’s going to keep them satisfied.”

While the bulk of Rousey’s criticisms were reserved for WWE, her MMA run was not perfect, either. She recently revealed her retirement from MMA was due in large part to repeated concussions and her disillusionment with fans and media after she lost.

While Barnett is sympathetic to what happened to Rousey, he also notes all of that is part of the greater combat sports experience.

“It’s unfortunate that she had such negative experiences, because in the end, I think the forward-facing aspect of it was positive things,” Barnett said. “Even though I’m sure it sucks for her to see it, and maybe even hear it, making Holly Holm a star was still, overall in the grand scheme of MMA, a positive thing. I’m not saying it was good that she got knocked out or anything like that, it’s just a part of being a professional fighter.

“They say if you’re going to race cars, and you’re thinking about or worried about crashing, don’t get behind the wheel. Don’t get in the ring, don’t be worried about losing, don’t be worried about getting knocked out, don’t be worried about getting submitted. You just go out there, and you put your faith in what you’ve done, and who you are, and what you can do. That’s just what you go with. And some days it ain’t going to be your day. It could even be a win, but a bad performance. But hey man, that’s it. You will have more. You will have more days and more time to go out there and do your thing, if you do it right.

“These are high stakes, high pressure things, and when you get to the point where she was at her peak, people want to get every squeeze out of that possible, and that can be a delicate situation.”

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