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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

‘This is my life now’: former UFC champion Ronda Rousey makes the leap to WWE during eventful Royal Rumble

One of the worst keep secrets in the world of sports entertainment is out: former UFC champion Rousey will become a WWE wrestler

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 January, 2018, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 January, 2018, 3:53pm

Stephanie McMahon had laughed off a question about whether Ronda Rousey would be in the first WWE women’s Royal Rumble match.

“I can’t give away our secrets, you’re gonna have to stay tuned,” she told a conference call.

In what was probably one of the worst keep secrets in the world of sports and entertainment, former UFC bantamweight champion Rousey did appear at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia for the Rumble – just not as a competitor in the 30-woman, over the top rope battle royal match.

“Well I think first and foremost we would have to officially make Ronda Rousey a part of our roster. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s going to happen,” continued McMahon, in a foreshadowing of events.

Immediately after former Olympian judoka Rousey, 30, walked to the ring after the Rumble match to point at the WrestleMania sign hanging in the arena, it was announced on ESPN she had signed a multi-year, full-time contract with WWE.

“This is my life now. First priority on my timeline for the next several years. This is not a smash-and-grab; this is not a publicity stunt,” Rousey told ESPN. “When I first met with Triple H, I told him, ‘There are other things I can do with my time that’ll make way more money, but I won’t enjoy nearly as much’.”

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Wearing her own new “Rowdy Roddy Piper” inspired T-shirt, Rousey also teased a confrontation with Japanese wrestler Asuka and Raw and Smackdown women’s champions Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair.

As winner of the Rumble, Asuka will challenge for her chosen championship, but Rousey seemed to throw her name into the title mix in a silent appearance, where she also shook the hand of Stephanie McMahon, who was sat at ringside on commentary.

“I don’t have words at all,” Rousey added. “I’m like – this is the most overstimulated I’ve ever been in my life and ... I’m just, like I’m still processing it.

“I’m so happy and I don’t have words for it – and I usually have words for everything; this never happened before.”

A pioneer in the world of women’s mixed martial arts, Rousey has not fought in UFC since a December 2016 loss to Amanda Nunes, having seen her 12-fight win streak (six of those in UFC) snapped by Holly Holm a year earlier.

She had reportedly been training for a career in pro wrestling since last summer, when she appeared at WWE’s “Mae Young Classic” all-female tournament as an audience member.

It appeared to be a matter of time until she made her debut in WWE, and after Stephanie McMahon announced the first women’s Royal Rumble match most fans figured it would be the perfect moment.

However, after 30 entrants came and went without Rousey entering the match in Philadelphia, it appeared she really may not have been trying to swerve fans by saying she would not be there because she was filming “Mile 22” on set in Colombia.

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“It’s funny – it’s kind of like acting, in that it was something I always wanted to do but I never thought was in the cards for me,” Rousey said of wrestling. “And now that I realise I really do have this opportunity, I feel like my six-year-old self would totally kick my ass if I didn’t take it.”

Stephanie McMahon had said on that conference call last week of women’s wrestling WWE that “I don’t think we will have made it until we have women main eventing WrestleMania”.

With the capture of Rousey, one of three UFC main event fighters to draw over a million pay-per-view buys for a single event, WWE may have taken a giant step closer to that reality.