Ronda Rousey hasn’t fought since losing to Holly Holm at UFC 193 on Nov. 15 of last year, and her return remains a mystery. Even with two of the biggest pay-per-views in UFC history scheduled for the next few months, it’s unknown when the former women’s bantamweight champion will fight again.
There was speculation earlier in the year that Rousey might fight for the title at UFC 200 on July 9, but instead Miesha Tate will defend her belt against Amanda Nunes. That led many to believe that Rousey would come back on Nov. 12 for UFC 205, the MMA company’s first event in New York. But UFC president Dana White indicated that Rousey might not even be back for that PPV.
"She has as much time off as she wants or needs. Obviously, I would love her to come back sooner than later so we'll see how that plays out but it wouldn't be a bad thing to roll into New York with Ronda but I just don't know if she's going to be ready," UFC president Dana White said on "The Michael Kay Show.”
When Rousey does decide to come back, she’ll have no shortage of opponents. Since she last stepped inside the octagon, UFC’s women’s division has greatly improved its depth. Holm proved to be a top fighter when she became the first woman to beat Rousey, and Tate took the title from Holm just a few months later.
The last two bantamweight champions might not even pose the biggest threat to Rousey. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino had her first fight with the company at UFC 198, needing a little more than a minute to defeat Leslie Smith by TKO. Cyborg came down from featherweight for a fight at a catchweight of 140 pounds, as she prepares for a possible fight with the top female star in combat sports.
White has been supportive of Rousey’s decision to take some time away from the cage, and Rousey has made UFC so much money that the former champ will undoubtedly be able to fight whomever she wants. After all, UFC initially gave Conor McGregor his rematch with Nate Diaz at 170 pounds, even though that meant he wouldn’t defend his featherweight championship for a second straight fight.
Tate is no guarantee to win at UFC 200, though she is favored to beat Nunes. The champ has said repeatedly that she wants a rematch against Rousey, who has already beaten her twice. But if Rousey won’t be back for UFC 205 in November, Tate could have multiple title fights before Rousey returns. That leaves even more uncertainty concerning whom Rousey will face when she finally comes back.
Soon after she dropped the belt and Holm was still the champion, Rousey made it clear that she wanted revenge against Holm. She also indicated that she might retire if she was unable to win.
"I guess it's all going to be determined by what happens in the rematch," Rousey told ESPN in her first interview since her loss to Holm. "Everything is going to be determined by that. Either I'll win and keep going or I won't and I'll be done with everything."
UFC now has multiple women that casual fans want to see fight, but none of them have the mass appeal that Rousey does. She’s become a pop culture icon, headlining PPVs that have been among the highest selling in UFC history.
UFC 193 reportedly surpassed one million buys, making it one of the five most successful UFC PPVs ever. White might publicly support Rousey’s decision to hold off on returning, but UFC will be thrilled when one of their biggest draws finally returns.
"When she announces she's going to be back, it's going to be big," White said.
UFC continues to increase in popularity, but the company relies on its top stars to do big PPV numbers. Rousey and McGregor are unquestionably the two biggest names in MMA, and it’s unknown when either one will return after suffering shocking defeats.