Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey is one of the most electrifying athletes to enter the sport of mixed martial arts. Although serious fight fans know Rousey’s background well, some might be surprised to learn of her connection to North American Black History.
Rousey’s mother, Dr. AnnaMaria De Mars, a renowned martial artist herself, broke open the recent interest in Rousey’s racial makeup after an impromptu street chat caught on video. De Mars’ grandfather, Dr. Albert E. Waddell, was one of the first Black doctors to practice in North America.
Dr. Waddell’s journey began back in 1923 when he and his wife traveled to the states for new opportunities. After scraping by in menial jobs, Waddell left his family in New York and headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada 1928. to attend medical school after being turned down repeatedly in the states because of racism.
While Canada afforded Waddell the chance of a lifetime, it was still replete with struggle and he faced skepticism from both Black and white citizens. Still, he reached out to under-served communities and was a vocal proponent of racial equality. Waddell was also charitable, once hosting Cab Calloway because the famed musician couldn’t secure a hotel room due to his race.
Waddell is the subject of the documentary, Before His Time, which recognizes the doctor’s contributions to Halifax and the surrounding communities. While there is renewed chatter surrounding Waddell’s connection to Rousey, the fighter has been very open about her heritage in past interviews.