In November 2015, Ronda Rousey tasted her first ever defeat in an MMA fight, losing her Women’s Bantamweight Championship to Holly Holm. Rousey has not competed in UFC since that night, and the Bantamweight title has switched hands a further two times, with no one able to successfully defend it. Rousey will be hoping for more of the same though, as she prepares to fight current champion Amanda Nunes in December, at UFC 207.
Without question, Ronda Rousey’s impact on the world is indescribable. Her dominance over her weight division in the UFC turned her into a global superstar, and with that she was able to use her position and celebrity to better the perception of not only female athletes, but all females who had been denied opportunities in the past. Certainly, it was her success that helped contribute to WWE finally deciding to take their own women’s division seriously.
For a long time, Rousey had the support of the media, and as she grew her brand through not only her fights, but TV show appearances, movie roles, and even a Wrestlemania 31 segment, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who wasn’t onboard the Rousey bandwagon. But just as we and the media like to build people up, we equally enjoy breaking them down, and much was the same with Rousey as suddenly she was seen to be overconfident, and maybe a little arrogant. When she eventually lost her match with Holly Holm, it’s safe to say that there were some very vocal people on social media who were quite happy to see her get knocked back down to Earth again.
Many questioned whether or not we’d ever see Rousey compete in UFC again, and she’s to be commended for accepting a fight next month, as another defeat there would absolutely damage the perception of her in a media that lives for the now, and forgets prior achievements. Certainly, Amanda Nunes represents a tough opponent for the former champion.
More interestingly, despite the fact she’s still clearly under contract to UFC, there have been many discussions in the media about what Rousey will do after her fight with Nunes. A lot of these discussions have inevitably turned to Rousey’s relationship with WWE.
Rousey has never hidden that she is a huge pro wrestling fan, with her nickname even borrowed from the late, great, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. Her appearance at Wrestlemania 31, an event hosted right at the peak of Rousey’s popularity, very clearly was a dream come true for her, evident on her face right throughout her segment with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon. Inevitably, it led to various reports that she would wrestle at Wrestlemania 32 the following year, but such an appearance never panned out.
In typical fashion, WWE have never attempted to distance themselves from Rousey rumours. For them, it’s exposure in multiple markets (MMA, and the entertainment world in general, etc.), and even if she never appears on WWE programming again, WWE will no doubt have got more eyes on them just by association.
That association has led Stephanie McMahon to recently state that she would be very interested in bringing Ronda Rousey into her company once her MMA career comes to an end. Given it didn’t end after her defeat to Holm, it seems naive to think it would do so after her match with Nunes, but a defeat in that fight may well see her sign off from her career in the combat sport and an opportunity present itself in professional wrestling. WWE would certainly love things to go that way, at least.
If such a situation occurs, and in 2017 or 2018, Rousey signs a deal with WWE, it raises real questions right across the board. Firstly, given her minuscule loss rate in MMA, would she want to be seen on worldwide television losing professional wrestling matches? Would WWE instead have to give her the Brock Lesnar booking, turning her into a beast who simple cannot be stopped, bringing into doubt the credibility of their own homegrown performers?
There’s also the issue of who would be worthy opponents for her. Certainly, there seems to be money in a match with Charlotte Flair, with the current WWE RAW Women’s Champion having already spoken about such a match up in the past. As a genuine heat magnet with the fans, a popular Ronda Rousey facing off against the hated Charlotte Flair would seem the most logical direction to take, should Rousey come over to the professional wrestling company.
Beyond Flair, there aren’t any women who you would think could represent real threats to Rousey. Sasha Banks could likely put on a good match with her, but you’d likely never see her win, and the same is probably true of Becky Lynch and Bayley. Maybe there’s money in an Asuka/Rousey fight, given Asuka is as stiff as it gets in women’s wrestling, which would allow Rousey to use a style much more befitting her MMA background.
The challenge would be in creating villains that would keep the audience behind Rousey, because if you’re going to sign Rousey, there’s no real sense in playing her as a heel, which would likely happen if she was going to face anyone but Flair or Asuka. Also, would fans be interested in seeing another monster run by a former UFC champion, given it seems the audience is finally starting to get a little irritated at how stale Brock Lesnar’s act has become the past year or so.
Many would ask what is there to gain for Rousey by joining WWE? To a lot of the MMA world, professional wrestling is not a legitimate sport, and a seeming desire to do a few matches in the sport would appear silly. For Rousey though, a fan of WWE since she was a child, a run with one of WWE‘s championships likely carries a lot of appeal. Without question, they would only sign her for limited dates, and she’d be free to continue her movie career, and perhaps even her MMA career if she so wished.
To go back to an earlier point, the real question is that of legacy. Ronda Rousey is a global superstar already, and has a pretty clean record as far as wins and losses go, so putting public perception of her win/loss ratio in the hands of WWE‘s creative team does seem a rather big risk, given some of their rather baffling decisions in the past. Brock Lesnar losing his first match back against John Cena, anyone?
Whatever happens, Ronda Rousey is back in the mainstream, and whatever she chooses to do following her fight with Amanda Nunes will have us talking for a very long time.