UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey donated her fame to an important cause this week when she traveled to Armenia to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
Although the U.S. government doesn’t recognize the Ottoman Empire’s well-documented attempt to systematically exterminate its minority Armenian population in 1915 as a genocide, 21 other countries do. Germany became the latest on Thursday when President Joachim Gauck described the mass killings as a genocide for the first time.
Rousey’s goal is to urge those, including President Obama, to start using the word “genocide” in place of phrases like “terrible carnage” or “great calamity” to describe the 1915 events. U.S. leaders have eschewed the word to assuage political concerns with Turkey, which has continued to deny the genocide happened.
“I know there was a terrible genocide in 1915 and I’m here to support the effort to get it recognized because I believe the only way for us to learn from our past is to recognize that it happened,” Rousey told reporters after her plane landed on Wednesday.
Rousey has taken up the cause partly because she trains under Edmond Tarverdyan, an Armenian American who runs California’s Glendale Fighting Club.
“[Armenians] have been very kind to me growing up. They accepted me into their culture and I wanted to do something special to help out for the 100-year anniversary and I thought there was no better effort to show than to come and be here in person,” Rousey said.
While in the country, Rousey held an open workout, as well as attended a concert by Armenian rockers System of a Down. She posted photos on Instagram of both.
Caption: “From [Thursday’s] open workout for the athletes of Armenia’s national training center Denamo — was a pleasure to meet so many inspiring and driven young athletes.”
Caption: “On stage for the System of a Down concert tonight in Yerevan — the last stop on their #wakeupthesouls tour to raise awareness for the Armenian genocide — and yeah me and @gfc_diamond (Tarverdyan) jumped right into the pit when they started \m/ #SOAD #1915NeverAgain.”