Rumors continue to swirl regarding the possible return of women’s MMA pioneer ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey following Amanda Nunes’ retirement from the sport last month.
After running roughshod over the bantamweight and featherweight divisions for nearly a decade, Nunes walked away from the sport following a decisive unanimous decision victory over Irene Aldana at UFC 289. Since her announcement, bantamweight contenders have come out of the woodwork, looking for a title opportunity now that the division is essentially wide open.
The likeliest scenario will see the division’s top two ranked contenders, Julianna Pena and Raquel Pennington, square off for the vacant 135-pound crown, but recent rumors suggest that fans could witness the return of the promotion’s first-ever female world champion, Ronda Rousey. Rowdy’ is undoubtedly the most influential woman in the history of the sport, paving the way for women to compete inside the Octagon despite Dana White’s claims that women would never compete on his global stage.
Speaking about the possibility of a Ronda Rousey return, UFC play-by-play man Jon Anik suggested that women who have stayed active in the division are likely more deserving of the opportunity, but he can’t deny the excitement and intrigue that would come with Rousey making a comeback to the Octagon after seven years away from the sport.
“I would encourage it, in some part, but I would also be hypocritical if I said to you she should come back and fight for the title just because of this Amanda Nunes vacancy,” Anik said while walking the red carpet at the UFC Hall of Fame ceremony. In the past, I have said aloud I didn’t love that Henry Cejudo got to come back and cut the entire line of all these bantamweight contenders that had been in the gauntlet, that had been in the USADA pool for three years, right?
“I like a meritocracy, and there are definitely worthwhile contenders – Raquel Pennington and Juliana Peña chief among them. So, as a mixed martial arts fan, I get a little bit uneasy when someone comes back having not competed and just cuts the line. But if anyone deserves to cut the line, it’s probably Ronda” (h/t Yahoo! News).
UFC 290 Ad Has Fans in a Frenzy Over the Potential Return of Ronda Rousey
Going 12-2 in her bright, but brief career, Ronda Rousey captured both the Strikeforce and UFC bantamweight world championships while amassing an incredible 100% finish rate and nine sub-one-minute victories. After becoming the biggest name in MMA, Rousey hit a brick wall in 2015 named Holly Holm. ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ scored one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, knocking out ‘Rowdy’ 59 seconds into the second round of their bantamweight title tilt. Devastated by the defeat, Rousey took the next year off, but returned in December 2016 in what she had hoped would be a return to form.
Unfortunately, the woman she was matched up with was none other than Amanda Nunes. ‘The Lioness’ blitzed Rousey, earning a 48-second KO that sent Ronda Rousey into retirement. Since then, ‘Rowdy’ has been busy honing her craft in the WWE as one of sports entertainment’s top draws. In 2019, Rousey once again made history by becoming the first woman to main event WWE’s annual extravaganza, WrestleMania, alongside fellow WWE Superstars Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.
Recent reports suggest Ronda Rousey could be on her way out of the WWE, leading many fans to speculate a potential return to the Octagon with Amanda Nunes no longer a threat. Some fuel was added to that fire when Rousey was spotted as part of a DraftKings promo for UFC 290.
With UFC 300 less than a year away, the stars could be aligning for what would be one of the biggest returns in MMA history.