For what seemed like an eternity, it was nothing but judo.
Wrapping yourself in a gi, taking your place on the mat and enduring throw after throw in a routine seemingly patterned after Sisyphus.
The by-product was the elite status to which Ronda Rousey ascended in the sport. In order to become the first American judoka to ever win a medal in the Olympics when she was 21 in 2008, she had to make judo her life.
The prioritization took place back then. Only it was so much simpler.
No work. No school. Just judo.
Yet as Rousey prepares to defend her women's bantamweight title against Alexis Davis on Saturday in the co-main event at UFC 175 in Las Vegas, prioritizing has taken on an entirely different meaning.
There's plenty of work, inside the Octagon and out. There's even some school, as the 27-year-old Venice resident works with acting coaches on her burgeoning Hollywood career.
“Being able to have a multi-faceted career and really be able to handle so many things at once is a skill that I've really had to develop over time, and I really had to form a team to be able to tackle it,” said Rousey (9-0), who will appear in “The Expendables 3,” “Fast & Furious 7” and “Entourage.”
“It got to a point where it was really beyond just myself. My coaches and my teammates and my representation, everybody, they find a way to make it work. I would be lost in a pile of paperwork without them.”
And there are the peripherals — clamoring fans and a demanding media — that come with becoming the biggest star in the history of the UFC, according to UFC President Dana White, in less than two years
“Media-wise, it's gotten really crazy. And you can't do normal things, like you can't go to the Promenade to go window shop,” said Marina Shafir, Rousey's close friend and training partner.
“She gets hounded. And it's not bad. It's always fans and stuff, but it's exhausting. You can't go to the grocery store. You can, but you plan on having like a half-hour or 45-minute grocery trip and it turns into a two-hour thing.”
In order to alleviate the overwhelming weight of responsibilities, Rousey has created her own version of the triangle offense.
And her team runs it seamlessly.
Edmond Tarverdyan of Glendale Fighting Club handles her fighting career. Brad Slater of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment represents her in all things Hollywood. And her teammates — specifically roommates Shafir and fellow Four Horsewomen Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke — help keep her grounded.
“There's so many surprises that happen in her life with fame and her work and her career that when she comes home ... we kind of neutralize all of it,” said Shafir, who has known Rousey for almost 12 years from their judo days. “I don't want to say ‘humanize' because she's not some superhero. She's a normal person who went after her goal and is just reaping the benefits of her goal. That's what it is.”
The 135-pound champion also benefits from Tarverdyan and Slater having an implicit understanding: Fighting comes first.
After all, without her success in the Octagon, what would there be?
“We make sure that machine is as finely tuned as it can possibly be so the car's always running, and all the other stuff kind of falls into place,” said Slater, who counts Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Costner, Forest Whitaker and Jerry Ferrara — Rousey's co-star in “Entourage” — among his clients.
“As long as the fighting career comes first and we get all that out of the way ... it makes a lot of the other stuff easy to deal with. And it's a trememndous amount of work and she's defintiely always on the go, but she manages beautifully.”
Each has said nothing matters more in these relationships than communication.
Tarverdyan and Rousey are together for several hours a day throughout training camp, crafting plans and honing her skills. Slater checks in on Rousey but steers clear of talking business. Instead, he talks frequently with Tarverdyan about Rousey's progress.
“We have a good team behind her, the management team, Brad Slater, their office, everybody's doing a hell of a job, guiding her with her movies, her acting and all that stuff so it doesn't get complicated,” Tarverdyan said after a recent Rousey workout at his gym. “When we're in training camp, it's just about boxing and MMA and training. It's about her fighting career, so we keep the movies away so then when she's here 100 percent, it's easy for us to schedule everything she's going to do throughout the day.”
Slater will occasionally pop in to the gym. Other times, it's a phone call or a text. But Rousey knows he's there.
And while Slater doesn't offer advice on training, he is a fan of the sport and trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. And his agency does represent the UFC, so conversations with White about Rousey's second career aren't uncommon.
“I'm lucky enough to be working with people that are very understanding of my situation and they don't put pressure on me during fight camp. And when [camp is] done, they know I'll be on it right away to do work,” Rousey said.
And for his part, Tarverdyan has visited movie sets to watch his prized pupil in front of the cameras. Much like Slater in his gym, he wouldn't think to offer his opinion on how to direct a movie.
But he does see a familiar scene — an unparalleled dedication to whatever Rousey is doing.
“She's an athlete, yes, but what makes her special is her personality and her attitude. She goes and gets whatever she wants,” Tarverdyan said. “She shows that every time in the Octagon. She shows that out of the Octagon. She works hard. Everybody's impressed with her work ethic and her mind.”
Slater, meanwhile, sees a parallel to one of his clients who left his own brand of fighting to embark on a highly successful career in front of the cameras.
Johnson — who as The Rock became one of the biggest superstars in World Wrestling Entertainment history — had to find a balance to achieving Hollywood stardom while staying true to the business that helped build his profile.
“Coming out of the WWE, he always was really, really smart about it and always said before he could ever make a real big transition into becoming the movie star that he is, he knew that he had to give everything he could possibly give to that company and to those fans,” Slater said.
For her part, Rousey says the two crafts complement each other. And having something besides MMA is critical for someone who isn't content to rest on her laurels.
Saturday's fight against Davis (16-5) will be Rousey's third defense in a little over seven months. And she wouldn't mind fighting again by the end of the year.
Such is life for the woman known to quench her competitive drive during a drive by attempting to conquer the commute time dictated by her GPS.
But acting fits perfectly into her life.
“I don't want MMA to become what judo was. I don't want to burn out on it,” Rousey said. “I think acting is keeping me from burning out on fighting and I think fighting is keeping me from burning out on acting. I think being able to balance the two will enable me to ... do both even longer.”
Helping that is the plan laid out by Slater and his team. The movie gigs have been a natural progression of supporting roles in highly successful franchises.
After all, Slater said, it's a marathon, not a sprint.
And so far, it's a smooth and steady pace to everyone's liking.
“She's out of the gate beautifully, she's got a really nice start on a really nice sunny morning where the weather is 70 degrees and it's gonna be a really nice race for her,” Slater said. “I think she's in like the 3-mile marker and hasn't broken a sweat.”