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LOS ANGELES NEWS GROUP
FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2014
PHOTOS BY HANS GUTKNECHT, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
FOR PHOTO GALLERIES AND VIDEO, GO TO DAILYNEWS.COM
Nickname: Queen of Spades Birthplace: Sioux Falls, S.D. Raised: Sioux Falls, S.D. Age: 33 Last fight: Lost to Alexis Davis via technical submission (rear-naked choke) in third round at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., on Jan. 5, 2013. Twitter: @QoSBaszler Quote: “You’re gonna be hard pressed to find a group of fighters, especially in women’s MMA, that are as skilled combined as we are. So I think it’s an ideal situation that we’re here to push each other.”
Nickname: The Gun Birthplace: Whitesburg, Ky. Raised: Richmond, Ky. Age: 27 Last fight: Defeated Peggy Morgan via unanimous decision at The Ultimate Fighter 18 finale at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 30, 2013. Twitter: @JessamynDuke Quote: “There’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot to practice, there’s a lot to do. It’s not just being physically gifted. You’ve got to be mentally there, too. And we all kind of have that.”
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by choreographed wrestling routines in the living room and the gym. The best stable of female MMA ﬁghters would not exist. There would be no Four Horsewomen.
When Rousey went to Las Vegas last summer to ﬁlm “The Ultimate Fighter,” she took trainer Edmond Tarverdyan to lead her coaching staff. Also in tow was training partner Marina Shaﬁr, Rousey’s best friend since their days as teenagers competing in judo tournaments. “Me and Marina were always so tight because we never really got along with other girls. Because what do we have in common with the average girl my age?” Rousey said. “’The Ultimate Fighter’ really brought me together with a bunch of other like-minded women.” Of the four women on Team Rousey, the two who stood out and bonded with Rousey and Shafir were women’s MMA pioneer Shayna Baszler, 33, and upstart 27-year-old Jessamyn Duke. Upon the show’s completion, the two continued to keep in touch with Rousey and Shaﬁr. Pretty soon, both were visiting and training at Ta r verdya n’s Glenda le Fighting Club. For Rousey and Shaﬁr, the next step was a no-brainer. They had a big house and rooms available. Why not? “So when Jessamy n comes out and hangs out for a little bit, I was like ‘Marina, can we keep her? Can we keep her?’ “ Rousey, 27, said with her bright smile and a big laugh. “And so the same thing when Shayna came out: ‘Can we keep her? Can we keep her?’ “Even when they came out to visit, it was like, ‘You guys are just moving in.’ I just said it like it was already a decision before they even decided to do it. I was like, ‘Yeah, this’ll be your room ...’ It was like a foregone conclusion.” Shaﬁr, who just turned 26, wouldn’t change a thing. “All of us are such different personalities, but we come together like a puzzle. It’s crazy,” she said. “Ronda and I will sit in the living room and they’ll be out doing whatever. We’ll just sit there and be like, ‘The house is perfect.’ ”
Jessamyn Duke , Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler, left to right, shadow box while holding weights at the Glendale Fighting Club in Glendale.
gling. Coming off an illness, the sparring session wasn’t going as planned. Rousey, Baszler and Duke stood side by side outside the ring, quietly analyzing the action. From the ring apron, Tarverdyan’s criticism was well-founded but loud and direct. “Marina, stop leaning back! Move forward!” After four rounds, Shaﬁr dejectedly removed her headgear and sat by herself. “It was a hard day. I was really sick. And there are no excuses, I should have performed better,” said Shaﬁr, the only one of the four not in the UFC because she ﬁghts at 145 pounds — the UFC has only 115- and 135-pound women’s divisions. “It’s a learning thing. That’s a lesson that’s already in my brain. Yeah, because I need time. I’m one of those people, if I’m pissed off about something, I need time to cool off and immediately think realism in my brain. “If I don’t, just leave me alone. Keep me on ice. Pretend I’m not there.” Weeks later, with a 5-0 amateur record, Shafir would be making her professional MMA debut April 12 at Chaos at the Casino 4 at Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood. Nearly two dozen ﬁghters and their coaches rebuffed offers to challenge Shafir. A running joke at Glendale Fighting Club is featured on the board promoting upcoming ﬁghts: “Marina Shaﬁr vs. Victim.” Shaﬁr eventually got an opponent on eight days’ notice, needing only 1:57 to defeat Chandra Engel — her sixth ﬁrst-round submission victory in six ﬁghts. All in less than two years. In her corner were Rousey and Tarverdyan. No one had a bigger smile than Tarverdyan. “These girls are tough. They have hard days in here. I tell them this is the way you gotta get up. They just do what I tell them,” he said. “They’re like machines. Mentally, they’re strong and they’re real focused. When they want to learn something, they put 100 percent energy and effort.” Not far away in the crowd were Baszler and Duke. Only this time, they were far from quiet. Maybe there was some analysis, but it was mostly wholehearted support. Loud and direct. “We’re not gonna give each other lip service. We’re not faking the funk for any of us,” Baszler said. “We’re pretty straightforward and I think that’s why it works so well between the four of us, is we don’t hold back from each other. “We all like to deal with it differently. But we know each other enough. So yeah, you kinda saw it that day. When Marina’s down, you gotta let her be down for a bit. It’s not even anything conscious. We just know each other.” And in the ring, Shafir celebrated with a group picture. Throwing up the fours.
Marina Shafir, left, and Jessamyn Duke work on their wrestling moves.
most popular and successful groups in professional wrestling. Led by Ric Flair, they were the jet-setting bad boys. Credit Baszler, a longtime pro wrestling fan, for coining the name The Four Horsewomen. “I love it. It started off kind of as a joke, but I think it’s a really good representation of us,” Baszler said. “We’re kind of heels the people love to love and love to hate. That’s kind of the same as the The Four Horsemen. We’re The Four Horsewomen.” And with Rousey — with her 9-0 record, magazine covers and movie roles in “Expendables 3,” “Fast & Furious 7” and “Entourage” — catching heat for how she came off on “The Ultimate Fighter” and refusing to shake Tate’s hand after beating her at UFC 168, it’s not such a stretch. But for all the booing, fans love The Four Horsewomen. “Throwing up the fours” — holding up four ﬁngers — has become commonplace when any of the ﬁghters makes an appearance or pose for pictures. A united front has become a phenomenon. That seemed improbable just two years ago after Rousey won the Strikeforce title. “There were days after I won the belt and I’d still be training alone and I’d be driving alone so many hours a day. It’d get lonely,” said Rousey, who was named the UFC champion in November 2012. “It’s cool, but you’re lonely. It’s so helpful having other people there on the same quest as you and they understand what you’re going through and they’re excited about the same things. We all just really feed off each other.”
Shaﬁr was clearly strug-
Conquest. War. Famine. Death. Each riding a different colored horse, based on interpretations of the New Testament, they are widely viewed as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Hundreds of years later, sportswriter Grantland Rice poetically applied the moniker to the backﬁeld of the 1924 Notre Dame football team. In the 1980s, it was borrowed to describe one of the
Where were you 10 ½ years ago on Halloween night? Rousey, Shaﬁr and Duke were teenagers. Baszler was 23 and at the fairgrounds. About to make her professional MMA debut. “I can remember walking into a barn in South Dakota, and this wasn’t even an idea as a career path. This was just something I did that was fun,” the Sioux Falls native recalled. “It wasn’t a dream.
MMA » PAGE 7
Ronda Rousey, left, gets a big hug from housemate Jessamyn Duke at their Venice home.
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