Ronda Rousey doesn’t owe anyone anything.
The former UFC women’s bantamweight champion who became a mega-star both inside and outside the Octagon fell from stardom when she lost her belt to Holly Holm at UFC 193. After the loss, Rousey spent over a year away from the sport. She was criticized when she spoke to Ellen DeGeneres and confessed that she had experienced suicidal thoughts following her loss to Holm.
After her absence, Rousey made her long-anticipated return to the Octagon at UFC 207 against Amanda Nunes, who had previously beaten Rousey rival Miesha Tate to win the belt at UFC 200. The fight served as Nunes’ first UFC women’s bantamweight title defense. While the UFC had its first-ever openly gay Brazilian champion, the build-up to the fight was centered around “Rowdy” Ronda. UFC 207 came, and the result was the same as Rousey’s last fight. She had lost in a bad way, but this time it only took 48 seconds for her opponent to crush her.
It was after the Nunes fight that it became clear that the UFC’s bantamweight ladies had evolved beyond Rousey. The judoka seemed likely to move on, too.
Yet, the expectations going into UFC 207 were unfairly high on Rousey. Everyone was ignorant to her opponent. Those expectations were unfair.
Following the fight, Rousey again backed out of the worldwide spotlight. As 2017 hit, Rousey decided to do what was best for her. She wanted to be happy. She married fellow UFC fighter Travis Browne. Meanwhile, reports came out that she was training at the WWE Performance Center. More and more, it appeared likely that Rousey would jump to the WWE.
Those whispers got stronger as 2018 approached and the WWE had its first-ever women’s Royal Rumble at the promotion’s annual pay-per-view event. Rousey had been filming a movie leading up to the Royal Rumble, and the movie crew and Rousey did everything they could to make it seem as if she wasn’t going to appear at the WWE event. When the Rumble hit the air, there were 30 participants, and none of them were Rousey. It was only after the battle royale took place that “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett played in the arena and the name “Rowdy” appeared on the big screen. Out walked Rousey, wearing the jacket of the late, great WWE superstar “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Rousey then walked into the ring. She didn’t say a word, but she did point up to a huge Wrestlemania sign that hung high in the arena, letting the three other women standing in the ring — Asuka, Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss — know that she was ready for the biggest show of the year in the WWE.
Without saying a word, Rousey achieved many things. She stopped worrying about everyone else’s expectations, she made her debut on WWE programming, and she finally did the thing that was best for her. There will be critics and fans who doubt her move to the WWE and who will say that she won’t last as a pro wrestler, but none of that matters. What matters is that the “Rowdy” one does what she wants to do.
Sure, there’s a chapter of closure that is unwritten between Rousey and the UFC. Yet, after years of being a world-wide megastar in the Octagon and in movies, magazines and anything else imaginable, Rousey doesn’t owe us MMA fans anything.
For once in her long career that has spanned from judo to the MMA and now the WWE, Rousey is putting herself and her happiness first. Now with storylines and entertainment value attached to her career, it’ll be quite intriguing to see where the person once known as the most dangerous woman on the planet goes from here.