Published at The Age on Jan. 12 2017.
Fans were told to #FearTheReturn, but it was a short-lived comeback in the octagon for former UFC champion Ronda Rousey.
Now, everyone wants to know what’s next for the mixed martial artist following her latest cryptic Instagram post. As she promises to be return “rebuilt”, here’s what may be on the horizon for the fallen UFC star.
A RETURN TO MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
Rousey’s last UFC victory came in August 2015 when she obliterated Bethe Correira in Brazil. Since then, Rousey has fought twice and been knocked out twice – the first time, losing her title to Holly Holm, and the second at UFC 207, TKOed by Amanda Nunes. To rebound from rock bottom, Rousey will be forced to rebuild all aspects of her game.
After retaining her championship at UFC 207, Nunes gave a frank assessment of where Rousey could begin.
“She thinks she is a boxer. [Coach Edmond Tarverdyan] like, put this thing in her head and make the girl believe in that,” she said post-fight.
“She could’ve gone forward in this division, but he put that crazy thing about boxing (in her head), and her career started going down.”
If Rousey returns to the octagon, she will have to fight back for another title shot. Julianna Peña and Valentina Shevchenko clash on January 28th, with the winner expected to earn a championship match.
Clawing her way back into the title picture would be uncharted territory for Rousey.
The last time she competed in a non-title fight was before the UFC had a women’s division, when she defeated Julia Budd for Strikeforce in 2011.
A CAREER IN PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING
“Rowdy” Rousey loves professional wrestling. In 2015, she made a surprise appearance at WrestleMania 31 alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – a “dream come true”.
“It was such a special atmosphere, something I have loved since I was a kid,” Rousey said.
With the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) holding their biggest show on the calendar in April, Rousey has a golden opportunity be the talk of WrestleMania again.
“Our fans love Ronda,” WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon told USA Today in December. “We would welcome her with open arms. She is the total package.”
However, Rousey’s contract with the UFC looms as a roadblock that may bar her from signing with the WWE.
Rousey may be free if she retires from the sport and is deregistered as a fighter. Alternatively, the WWE could ask UFC president Dana White to let his marquee fighter out of her contract prematurely.
It would require generosity from White, but he does owe the WWE a favour. In July 2016, the WWE allowed contracted star Brock Lesnar to fight for the UFC despite the risk of injury. If White supported Rousey should she choose to transition to wrestling, it would well and truly return the favour.
A RETURN TO ACTING
Coming off roles in The Expendables 3, Furious 7 and Entourage, Rousey’s Hollywood profile was booming. Then she lost to Holm and everything fell apart.
The remake of 1989’s Road House, which Rousey was to produce and star in, suspended shooting indefinitely. Her lead role in Mile 22 was downgraded as Mark Wahlberg was enlisted amidst rumours the studio was worrying about her acting ability.
To abandon the sports world for acting would be a risk for Rousey, but one she can afford to take.
In a promising sign for her box office appeal, Rousey’s last fight against Nunes reportedly drew over 1.1 million pay-per-view purchases.