Ronda Rousey’s takeover of ESPN led to some revealing moments for the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion.
The 31-year-old Rousey, who recently transitioned from MMA fighter to full-time WWE roster member, made several media appearances for the sports network Tuesday, which included some awkward exchanges with various hosts and personalities when her previous career was brought up.
However, in a candid interview released Wednesday with ESPN, she opened up about how her passion for combat sports fluctuated as her career progressed.
“Judo and MMA, there were times when the process was fun and then there were times where it got to be only the results were fun, you know?” Rousey said. “And then there’s a time when things just run their course. You fall in love, then you fall out of love, and you find a new love.”
A bronze medalist in judo, Rousey became one of the biggest stars in MMA history competing for the Strikeforce and UFC promotions. “Rowdy” started her career off with 12 consecutive wins, almost all of which came in the first round and she reigned as the UFC’s 135-pound champion for two years. She also established herself as one of the promotion’s most consistent drawing acts.
Much of the mystique around Rousey came crashing down when she suffered her first loss, an unforgettable head-kick knockout vs. Holly Holm at UFC 193 in November 2015. Rousey disappeared from the public eye, only to return at UFC 207 over a year later when she was finished via strikes in 48 seconds by current champion Amanda Nunes.
Asked if she “fell out of love” with MMA at some point, Rousey acknowledged that she felt a responsibility to stick around and compete whether she necessarily wanted to or not.
“There was a while when I was just looking for an honorable way out,” Rousey said. “I felt satisfied, like I proved everything I needed to prove, but I didn’t feel like anybody else felt that way, and I wasn’t sure that the women’s division could survive without me. So I felt obligated to do more than what I actually wanted to, I feel.
“But I also think that everything happens for a reason and I have no regrets, and I’m still happy that I fulfilled those obligations. I really do feel like the women’s division can hold its own now and I’m proud of all the work I did there. I don’t need anyone else’s approval to be proud of myself.”
As for why she chose to return to the spotlight that she seemed to shy away from for so long, Rousey explained that it was simply a matter of getting to do something else that she loved. If the WWE opportunity had not come along, the loss to Nunes may have been the last anyone saw of Rousey and that would have been fine for her.
“Honestly, it wasn’t that I missed it,” Rousey said. “I could very happily be in some house in the mountains somewhere and never see anybody again, and just hang out with my goats and chickens and be happy. It would only have to be something as great as the WWE, it makes me this happy, to actually pull me away from that.
”Otherwise, probably no one would hear from me. I would live in the woods and be happy. It’s all I really want.”
Watch ESPN’s full sit-down interview with Rousey below: