Ronda Rousey return to fighting ended 48 seconds into her first fight in 13 months Friday night, losing to bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 207.
Rousey (12-2) never managed to get her footing against Nunes (14-4), who rocked Rousey with her very first punches. Rousey showed little defensive acumen as she staggered and stumbled backward with Nunes relentlessly pursuing her and landing 27 punches in the brief bout.
“Forget about Ronda Rousey!” Nunes shouted to the sellout crowd. “She’s going to go do movies. Forget about her. She has a lot of money already.”
Indeed, Rousey’s future in the sport is clearly in question. The biggest star in the women’s game, who left the arena without giving an interview, is likely considering retirement shortly before her 30th birthday.
“That’s it for her,” Nunes said. “For sure, she’s going to retire.”
Referee Herb Dean stopped the bout with Rousey still on her feet, and Rousey briefly protested the stoppage before leaving the cage in her mother’s arms. Nunes put her finger to her lips and circled the cage after the stoppage, pausing to taunt Rousey’s much-maligned coach, Edmond Tarverdyan.
“Her coach put some crazy things in her head, and her career started going down,” Nunes said. “I’m the real striker here.”
Cody Garbrandt won the men’s bantamweight title in the penultimate bout at UFC 207, battering champion Dominick Cruz to earn a surprising decision victory at T-Mobile Arena in the promotion’s traditional end-of-the-year show in its hometown.
But the sellout crowd left shocked when Rousey couldn’t compete in her first fight since losing her belt to Holly Holm 13 months ago in her first career defeat.
Rousey became arguably the world’s most famous female athlete and a combat sports trailblazer while she rocketed atop the UFC, but a year away from the sport apparently did little to heal the holes in her game. She made a guaranteed $3 million for her comeback bout, while Nunes’ guaranteed payday was just $200,000.
“I knew I was going to beat (Rousey),” Nunes said. “I’m the best on the planet.”
Rousey hadn’t fought since November 2015, when Holly Holm stopped her with a head kick in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport. Rousey had never lost or been in much trouble while the former Olympic judo medalist earned a series of one-sided victories, but Holm’s veteran striking made Rousey look unprepared.
Nunes claimed the belt at UFC 200 in July with a violent stoppage of Miesha Tate, who had beaten Holm in March. Nunes made an impressive ascent after losing three fights earlier in her career to opponents beaten easily by Rousey.
Rousey nearly vanished from public view after her first loss, taking time away from the gym and attending to her acting career. The UFC also was sold during her absence to WME-IMG, the entertainment conglomerate that also represents Rousey’s career.
But Rousey refused to promote this pay-per-view show, leaving Cruz, Garbrandt and Nunes to do most of the work. While Rousey’s media blackout will hurt her cut of the pay-per-view revenue, it didn’t affect her guaranteed payday, which matched Conor McGregor for the biggest disclosed check in UFC history