One of UFC’s biggest breakout stars is trading the octagon for the squared circle.
“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 [Paul “Triple H” Levesque, executive vice-president for talent and live events at WWE], 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.'”
Rousey played a tremendous role in the early success of UFC, making millions in the process (and earning millions more in endorsement deals). Her rapid victories—she frequently won her bouts in less than a minute—made her largely unstoppable until a 2015 matchup with Holly Holm, where her undefeated streak came to an end. That defeat hit her hard and she has admitted to having suicidal thoughts afterward. A 2016 bout against Amanda Nunes also ended in defeat.
She never returned to the octagon, instead filling her time with movie roles, hosting Saturday Night Live, and posing for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Months ago, whispers began circulating she was in talks with WWE, but nothing definitive emerged.
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Sunday, though, she shocked the crowd by walking out after the finish to the woman’s Royal Rumble. Rousey appeared wearing a jacket from her idol, the late WWE star “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and began setting up the storyline for her inevitable appearance at Wrestlemania 34 later this year.
Rousey, a longtime fan of the WWE, has made one cameo appearance with the company before—in 2015, when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson pulled her from the front row at Wrestlemania and she tossed both Levesque and Stephanie McMahon out of the ring.