By Chuck Schilken, The LA Times

Ronda Rousey couldn’t sleep.

It’s not that she wasn’t tired.

She was exhausted after shattering a knuckle at WrestleMania 35. Finally in her hotel bed after surgery, Rousey had a cross-country flight to Los Angeles in five hours.

Then inspiration struck. The former UFC champion and then-WWE superstar had been trying to work on a screenplay, but had only come up with a one-line synopsis: “Two wanted assassins with an unwanted pregnancy learn that giving life is harder than taking it.”

“Do you ever get an idea in your head and you’re laying in bed and then you won’t let yourself go to sleep and you keep repeating it in your head over and over so you don’t forget it by the morning?” Rousey said during a phone interview with The Times.

Sleep never came for Rousey, who typed all five hours in her hotel room and continued on the flight.

Five years later, that screenplay idea is now set to be a graphic novel. A Kickstarter campaign launches July 25 for “Expecting the Unexpected,” a Rousey-written 160-page book with illustrations by award-winning comic artist Michael Deodato slated to be published next year by Artists Writers and Artisans.

Through the Kickstarter campaign, fans will have 30 days to order the book, with access to a variety of special offerings, including limited and signed editions, variant artwork, bonus pages and the opportunity of being drawn into the novel as a character.

The story revolves around a notorious hitwoman who goes by the code name Mom, because she wears a fake baby bump filled with weapons. After she sleeps with a fellow assassin, however, Mom becomes pregnant for real and has to come to terms with the notion of becoming a parent … with a bounty on her head.

In an early look at the novel, provided by AWA, one thing becomes clear upon first view of Mom, with her long hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, muscular arms, white tank top and some very familiar-looking facial expressions:

Mom is Rousey.

“I’m particularly pleased with how I captured Ronda’s essence in the Mom character — her mannerisms, personality, and even her laughter,” Deodato said.

The lead male character’s name is Hapa, the nickname of Rousey’s husband, former UFC fighter Travis Browne. Their first child together, La’akea Browne, was born in 2021.

“It really is our story — even though it didn’t really happen,” Rousey said, adding with a laugh, “ I didn’t really go on a spree of fighting all these people.”

She explained: “The whole story is just the story of me and my husband. Our journey trying to get pregnant, having a baby, our becoming parents — you know, the process from when you become pregnant to when you accept the task of being a parent. … When you actually come to that realization and live up to it is I think a process that isn’t really covered in anything I’ve really seen so far. That was kind of a personal journey that was really important to us.”

Rousey was 21 when she became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in judo, taking home bronze from the 2008 Beijing Games. She became a superstar as a mixed martial artist, winning six UFC women’s bantamweight title bouts before retiring from MMA in 2016. Rousey remained in the spotlight as a professional wrestler, becoming a WWE triple-crown winner before retiring last year.

By 2019, Rousey had appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, but never a leading role. She wrote ‘Expecting the Unexpected” hoping to be the star, but realized she was too unproven.

That’s when she landed upon the idea of a graphic novel, a literary form she had become “a closet nerd” for as an adult.

Writing the script was just the start. .

“This has a lot of action sequences in it,” she said, “I wrote all the choreography for it in the script and I actually had to film them and perform the choreography with a couple of friends of mine in a wrestling ring.”

Deodato, the comic artist, then turns it into illustrations.

It’s a lot of work, but Rousey said she’s enjoying the process.

“I originally intended on this being a movie, but I really think that this is the way it was always meant to be, as a graphic novel. Maybe that’s the path that I was meant for more, to be a graphic novelist,” Rousey said.

All that said, if presented with the opportunity, would Rousey be willing to turn her graphic novel back into a screenplay?

“Twist my arm and I’ll do it,” she laughed.

“But I’m also so happy with where I’m at. I don’t see this as a stepping stone, I see this as a new path that I never dreamed would be available to me, and I’m enjoying the scenery more than I ever thought was possible.”

Learn more about the Kickstarter campaign for Ronda Rousey’s Expecting the Unexpected. For more information visit AWA Studios on Facebook, X, Instagram, YouTube, and

Artists Writers and Artisans, Inc. (AWA) is an award-winning independent graphic fiction publisher and entertainment studio founded in 2018 by alumni of Marvel, DC, NBA, Fox, Hulu, and MTV, with former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso serving as Chief Creative Officer. Armed with some of the freshest and most critically acclaimed graphic fiction in a generation, AWA has established itself as an industry leader regarding its relationship with artists and writers by providing creators the freedom, incentive structure, and editorial support to pursue their boldest, most original, and socially relevant work. AWA has assembled a lineup of the world’s most renowned comic book talent, and its titles have been recognized as Eisner, Ringo, and New York Press Club award winners. With AWA’s Film & TV Studio, the company is building a distinct array of cutting-edge film and TV projects anchored in its burgeoning library of groundbreaking stories. Led by Hollywood veteran Zach Studin, AWA Studios has more than 20 projects in active development with industry-leading studios, networks, and streamers including the feature film adaptation of the AWA graphic novel MARJORIE FINNEGAN: TEMPORAL CRIMINAL, currently in development with LuckyChap Entertainment and Camp Hobart and the television adaptation of DEVIL’s HIGHWAY with Fremantle. Investors include Lupa Systems, Lightspeed Venture Partners, SISTER, and Fremantle. AWA is repped by Grandview.

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