A second consecutive Ultimate Fighting Championship defeat seemed to bring the curtain down on Ronda Rousey’s fighting career in 2016.
Once the untouchable star of women’s mixed martial arts, losses against Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes saw Rousey fall out of favour.
According to data provided by sports market intelligence company Sportcal, the American fighter has failed to attract a sponsor since losing her Women’s Bantamweight title to Holm in 2015.
However, after two years out of the limelight, Rousey rose again last weekend, having completed her transition from mixed martial artist to professional WWE wrestler.
Debuting at WrestleMania, the pinnacle of the wrestling calendar, Rousey wowed the crowd with a tag team victory over Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
Given her character and performance, Rousey will likely now take her place among WWE’s leading females.
A timeline of Ronda Rousey
Following her success at WrestleMania 34, Verdict looks back at the rise, fall and rise of Ronda Rousey.
Gold at World Junior Judo Championships
Having started training with her mother at the age of 11, Rousey produced her first big win at the age of 17 at the 2004 World Junior Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Rousey placed first in the under-63kg category at the tournament, fighting off some of the world’s best up-and-coming talents. It took her just four seconds to overcome China’s Jing Jing Mao in the final.
Bronze at Olympic Games
Having failed to secure a medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Rousey returned in 2008 to claim Bronze in Beijing.
Despite losing in overtime during her quarterfinal fight with the Netherlands’ veteran judoka Edith Bosch, Rousey overcame Annet Boehm to make it on to the podium.
She became the first American woman to ever win an Olympic medal in judo. She followed in the footsteps of her mother, AnnMarie De Mars, who, 24 years earlier, became the first American woman to win a world judo title.
Retires from judo
Following on from her success in Beijing, Rousey was tipped to win gold at the 2012 Olympics. However, despite warning from her coach, two-time Olympian Jimmy Pedro, Rousey retired from judo immediately after returning from the 2008 Olympics.
Instead, Rousey took up a place at the Hayastan MMA Academy to train under expert fighter and trainer Gokor Chivichyan. There she expanded her skillset in pursuit of becoming an MMA fighter.
After training for two years, Rousey made her MMA debut in August 2010.
It took her 23 seconds to force opponent Hayden Munoz to tap out. Rousey claimed her first win using an armbar that would become her signature move in the UFC.
Rousey went professional less than a year later after securing a fight on a Strikeforce card.
Joining Strikeforce, the UFC’s sister promotion, would eventually lead her to MMA’s biggest stage. However, first she had to overcome Sarah D’Alelio. Despite delays, Rousey did just that the following month with yet another armbar.
Won the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight title
This was the night that Rousey put herself on UFC’s radar. It was the first time that female athletes had been chosen to headline a MMA event since 2009 and Rousey didn’t disappoint.
Using an armbar to dislocate Tate’s elbow, Rousey forced her oppoent to tap out after four minutes and 27 seconds.
The submission handed Rousey the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight title and took her record to 13-0-0.
Called out Kim Kardashian
In her first appearance on a red carpet, Rousey took aim at socialite Kim Kardashian, insisting that she would “beat the crap” out of her.
She went on to voice her dislike for “any girl who is famous and idolised because she made a sex video with some guy”, before referring to Kardashian as a “glorified pornstar that’s been taken and somehow pushed to be some sort of role model”.
Whether or not it came from the heart or was a well-executed media stunt, it did generate a few headlines.
Signed with Ultimate Fighting Championship
Rousey became the first female to join UFC when she signed with the company in November 2012.
Not yet a star, Rousey wasn’t given a big unveiling. After weeks of rumours, UFC President Dana White confirmed the contract during a radio appearance.
“She’s a real fighter and she’s very talented. She has the credentials, the pedigree; I mean everything — I think she has that ‘it’ factor. I think she’s going to be a big superstar.”
With Strikeforce set to stop running, Rousey’s Women’s Bantamweight title was brought over from the sister promotion, making her the first female and the first female champion in the UFC.
Sandy Hook controversy
Following the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012 that left 26 students and teachers dead, Rousey took to Twitter to share a conspiracy theory video suggesting that the shooting was staged.
YouTube’s recent purge on similar videos following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting earlier this year shows that these sorts of videos generally aren’t very well received.
This was a difficult period for the rising sports star as she struggled to handle being in the media spotlight. The Sandy Hook controversy came soon after her verbal attack on socialite Kim Kardashian. Divisive comments on transsexual MMA fighter Fallon Fox followed.
Despite calls for UFC to issue a suspension, the incident didn’t manage to derail Rousey’s career.
First sponsorship deal
With UFC becoming increasing more popular and the Rousey name growing with it thanks to her 7-0 undefeated record, the MMA star signed her first sponsorship deal in March 2013, according to Sportcal.
A deal was agreed with online insurance agency Insureon, with Rousey signing on as the company’s spokesperson.
Insureon subsequently plastered Rousey’s face on its advertising and branding in the weeks that followed.
There is no data on how much Rousey made from the deal. However, we can assume she was adequately rewarded for her time.
Rousey followed up her first sponsorship with a second deal, agreed with energy drink brand Xyience Energy the following month.
The athlete added electronics manufacturer Monster Headphones and European steakhouse chain Buffalo Grill to the list during 2014.
First kit sponsor
Having made a strong start to life as the UFC’s first Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Rousey was approached by Reebok after the sportswear brand agreed a deal with the MMA organiser to become UFC’s official global outfitter.
A step up from Insureon, Rousey was selected alongside male champion Jon Jones to headline the deal as Reebok prepared to launch a new line of UFC apparel.
First WWE appearance
Rousey appeared destined to hold on to her UFC crown for many, many years back in the early stages of 2015. However, that didn’t stop her from making an appearance in the ring at WrestleMania 31.
Foreshadowing what would come three years later, Rousey joined WWE legend The Rock in the ring to take part in some trash talk with Hall of Famer Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, before giving the crowd a taste of what was soon to come.
Sponsorship with Monster Energy
Having hit the big time, Rousey stepped up her sponsorship game.
She had already attracted offers from the likes of Xyience Energy and Buffalo Grill. However, ahead of her UFC 193 fight with Holly Holm, Rousey agreed her biggest deal yet with leading energy drink brand Monster Energy.
Little did they know, Rousey’s spell of UFC dominance was about to come to an end.
Holly Holm defeat
Having successfully defended her Women’s Bantamweight title 12 consecutive times, those in the crowd at the most attended UFC event in history expected Rousey to make it 13 with victory over challenger Holly Holm at UFC 193.
However, Holm produced one of the biggest shocks in UFC history when she landed a big head kick that handed Rousey her first ever UFC defeat.
Amanda Nunes defeat
December 30, 2016, was supposed to be a big night for Ronda Rousey.
Having taken a year out following her defeat to Holm, UFC 207 was billed as the night Rousey would return to reclaim her throne. It was her face on the posters and she dominated talk in the press conferences.
However, Rousey’s big return was over in just 48 seconds. And not because she had returned to winning ways, as everybody had expected her to.
Rousey was unable to deal with Nunes’ punches. Her inability to defend resulting in a second straight TKO defeat and, seemingly, the end of her MMA career.
Signed with WWE
Rousey has never officially retired from the UFC. However, it was essentially confirmed in February 2018 when it was announced that she had signed with WWE.
Rousey’s arrival in the wrestling entertainment show was confirmed when she appeared at the end of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match.
“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,”
“When I first met with Triple H, 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.’”
WWE debut (WrestleMania 34)
Questions were raised about Rousey’s ability to act prior to her joining WWE. However, she proved her critics wrong at WrestleMania 34 by putting on the standout display.
Teaming up with Kurt Angle to take on WWE executives Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, Rousey pulled off some of the best moves of the night. At one point she hoisted the 116 kilogram Triple H onto her shoulders, before winning the match by forcing McMahon to tap out.