Once the most dangerous woman in MMA, Rousey officially made the jump to WWE on Sunday night when she made a surprise appearance at the Royal Rumble in Philadelphia.
The former UFC bantamweight champion told ESPN that she’s fully committed to wrestling and not just planning cameos at WWE’s biggest events.
“This is my life now. Yeah, they have first priority on my time for the next several years,” she said. “This is not a smash and grab, this is not a publicity stunt.”
Rousey made her debut to a crowd of roaring fans Sunday night and pointed to a WrestleMania sign — scheduled for New Orleans on April 3 — as Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation blared through the arena.
She began setting up the storyline for her inevitable appearance at Wrestlemania 34 later this year.
Rousey smiled when Royal Rumble winner Asuka slapped her hand away on an offer for a handshake. Rousey left the ring and walked over to WWE executive Stephanie McMahon who shook hands with her. She left without saying a word but stopped to slap hands with fans at ringside.
Many WWE fans took to Twitter to wish Rousey good luck.
“This has been a dream of mine since me and all my girlfriends would sit around and watch wrestling together,” Rousey told WWE.com. “No matter how much I tried to do other things in my life, this kept following me around. It’s time to take a hint from the universe and go for it.”
Rousey had frequently met with WWE executive Paul Levesque, better known as wrestling superstar Triple H, to discuss her interest in a multi-year deal that finally came to fruition.
She has not fought since she suffered a 48-second loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 in December 2016. Rousey (12-2) lost two straight bouts in 13 months and took a break to extend her entertainment credits, including a stint as team coach in the reboot of Battle of the Network Stars.
Rousey has made cameo appearances on WWE programming during the last few years.
It’s unclear whether Rousey plans to fully give up on the UFC and mixed martial arts, and she would not commit to saying she’s retired when asked directly by ESPN.
“That’s what everybody else seems to say — I mean, I never retired from judo. So that’s what you guys want to think,” she said. “All I know is I really want to devote 100 per cent of my time to wrestling right now and whatever people want to call that they can call it.”
UFC president Dana White said Rousey will never fight again for the company, and Rousey said she hasn’t followed MMA in the past year.
Rousey adopted the “Rowdy” nickname from WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. She wore a “Hot Ronda” shirt in the same style as Piper’s shirts to the ring Sunday at the Royal Rumble.
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Rousey stood side-by-side with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as they fought off Triple H and McMahon in a segment at WrestleMania in 2015.
Rousey also appeared at WWE’s Mae Young Classic. Rousey and fellow MMA fighters Marina Shafir, Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke were known as the Four Horsewomen — a tribute to the nefarious Ric Flair-led Four Horsemen stable of the 1980s and ’90s. Baszler now wrestles for WWE, and the rest of the Horsewomen stable confronted WWE stars Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Bayley at the female wrestling tournament.
—With files from the Associated Press