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Former UFC Star Ronda Rousey Signs With the WWE

January 29, 2018, 2:19 PM UTC

One of UFC’s biggest breakout stars is trading the octagon for the squared circle.

Ronda Rousey has signed a contract with WWE, making her debut Sunday night at the company’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view.

“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.

Wrestlemania XXXI
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and UFC fighter Ronda Rousey make an appearance at Wrestlemania XXXI, on Sunday, March 29, 2015 in Santa Clara, CA. 2015 marks the first year Wrestlemania will be held in the San Francisco Bay Area, being made available to viewers in 177 countries via the WWE Network. (Don Feria/AP Images for WWE)Photograph by Don Feria — AP Images for WWE
Photograph by Don Feria — AP Images for WWE

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.