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UFC's Ronda Rousey on being an Olympic athlete

Bronze medalist Ronda Rousey of the United States

Bronze medalist Ronda Rousey of the United States holds her medal at the ceremony of the women's 70kg judo middleweight division finals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. (Aug. 13, 2008) Credit: AP

Should you ever be asked who to pick to win any particular season of "Dancing With the Stars," or any other sort of show, put your money on the Olympian.

I never needed a reality competition television show to understand this basic rule: Athletes are wired differently that civilians, and Olympic athletes are wired differently than professional athletes.

"There's a level of honor and idealism in Olympic athletes that’s completely different," UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey told Newsday. "They do it for every reason other than money and that separates them from other professional athelets.”

Rousey would know. She became the first American female to win an Olympic medal in judo, earning the bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Making money isn't the main motive for Olympic athletes. After all, there's not all that much money to made in those events, even less if you don't medal. And the shelf life for an Olympic athlete is far shorter than major pro sports.

By comparison, the 25th guy on the bench for a Major League Baseball team is guaranteed at least $400,000 per season, even if he never gets a hit or throws a pitch.

An Olympic athlete basically spends four years trying to qualify for the Olympic team just for the chance to compete in the Olympics. (Not including certain sports such as basketball and tennis, which pluck from the NBA and ATP and WTA.) There's a dedication to be found in Olympic athletes.

“I’ve been through hell and back trying to win the Olympics," said Rousey, who defends her title against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 on Feb. 23. “I know I can deal with anything and be capable of anything. It pushes you to be aware of what your limits are, but to experience what your limits are. It gives the confidence of being there before instead of thinking it when you're there.”

New York Sports