Ronda Rousey has signed with WWE. But she will not say she is officially retired from the UFC.
In a sitdown interview with ESPN, Rousey said she would not completely close the book on a return to the Octagon. The former UFC women’s bantamweight champion was once the most dominant female fighter in MMA history. On Sunday night, she appeared at WWE Royal Rumble and announced to ESPN that she had signed as a full-time WWE performer.
“I wouldn’t doubt myself doing anything,” Rousey said.
Rousey, 30, will not say the “R” when it comes to MMA. She said she couldn’t say it for judo, either. Rousey won the bronze medal in that sport in the 2008 Olympic Games.
“That’s what everybody else seems to say,” Rousey said regarding the retirement question. “I mean, I never retired from judo. If that’s what you guys want to think, all I know is that I really want to devote 100 percent of my time to wrestling right now and whatever people want to call that, they can call it.”
Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar fought at UFC 200 in 2016 and remained as one of WWE’s top stars during that time, coming back to perform on a big WWE show just a month later. So there is some precedent for doing both.
UFC president Dana White has said that he does not believe Rousey will ever return to the Octagon and he wouldn’t be interested in booking her into another fight. White and Rousey remain close, Rousey said, and White backed her move into pro wrestling.
“Dana is still one of my best friends,” Rousey said. “I love him. He’s been very supportive of this from the very beginning. I told him that I really want to bring him to a show, so I can show him. It’s so different when you’re actually there, when you’re really experiencing it. It’s the same thing they say about fighting, like you have to be there. It’s different. And I got him to say he’d come to a show with me someday. I’m gonna give him the intro. It’s almost like bringing your kid to work day or bringing your parent to school day.
“I can’t wait to show him why I love it so much and for him to kind of catch the bug, too. Because I know that he will. I know that he will.”
Rousey is one of the biggest pay-per-view stars in the history of the UFC. She was the UFC women’s bantamweight champion until November 2015 when she was shockingly knocked out by Holly Holm. Rousey, a California native, returned to the cage for a title shot against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 in December 2016, but was knocked out again.
Those losses are still difficult for her. Rousey told ESPN that she’d “rather not” discuss them. But Rousey did open up a bit about her difficulty in overcoming such defeats, going back to her Olympic loss.
“It’s still hard to realize your childhood dreams not coming true,” Rousey said. “I think the only thing that really helped was finding something else to devote myself to and be successful at. I think I only was able to get past the Olympics when I started doing MMA. And I do believe there is a parallel there. It still hurts that I didn’t win the Olympics. It sounds ridiculous to a lot of people, right? ‘You’re an Olympic medalist, you should be happy.’ But it would be hard to explain that to my 10-year-old self that was so sure she was gonna win the Olympics.
“Things all happen for a reason and I really do believe that. I really do believe that the worst things in life result in the best things that could happen. And I think that this journey into this industry is really proving that belief is real.”