Former UFC champion Ronda Rousey has begun the first true step towards a lifelong dream of becoming a WWE Superstar. According to the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscription required), Ronda Rousey began training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando this week, joining fellow MMA Four Horsewoman Shayna Baszler in her training for professional wrestling.
Following an amateur judo career that earned her gold medals at the 2007 Pan American Games and World Judo Championships, plus a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Rousey entered the world of mixed martial arts in 2011. After a 2-0 start, she signed with Strikeforce and continued her dominance, winning the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Championship in March of 2012. After her only title defence in August of that year, she moved to UFC where she brought her title and became the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. During her impressive run in UFC, she would go on to a 12-0 MMA record, successfully defending the title 6 times en route to becoming one of the sports biggest draws.
But a stunning 59 second defeat to challenger Holly Holm in November of 2015 left the world in shock and Rousey retreating from the public eye. She took over a year recovering and training, before challenging new champion Amanda Nunes in December of 2016, this time suffering defeat in only 48 seconds. She has never fought again.
But although she’s become a pop culture icon for women in combat sports and remains one of UFC’s greatest PPV draws, Rousey has long had a passion and lifelong dream of becoming a professional wrestler. Her nickname of “Rowdy” was bequeathed upon her by the Rowdy One himself, Roddy Piper. Her tight knit group of friends – fellow MMA fighters Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir (wife of WWE Superstar Roderick Strong) – were crowned the Four Horsewomen by fans, and they would strike the imagination of the WWE Universe when they were seen front row at SummerSlam in 2014.
They were also guests at WrestleMania 31 in California, frequently shown on camera throughout the event. During one segment involving The Rock and Stephanie McMahon, Ronda was brought into the ring, leading to a scuffle between Rousey and the WWE’s Billion Dollar Princess. The wrestling fans and MMA world were sure that this was a clear sign that the WWE and Rousey would eventually pair up, sooner or later.
After all four took part in preliminary training with current Smackdown Women’s Champion Natalya that year (as well as with Josh Barnett), leading many to believe that the debut of at least a few of the Four Horsewomen was imminent.
Baszler made the jump to pro wrestling first, appearing for Stardom in Japan late 2015. In 2016, she expanded into North American promotions such as SHIMMER and Ohio’s Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW), where she won the AIW Women’s Championship in September of 2016 from Heidi Lovelace (shortly before Lovelace went to NXT to become Ruby Riot). Baszler still holds that title today. Jessamyn Duke began her training earlier this year as well, with Natalya posting a photo on Twitter of her training her once again.
— Nattie (@NatbyNature) September 23, 2017
After taking part in the Mae Young Classic this past summer with the WWE, Shayna Baszler recently signed with the WWE and is already training at the Performance Center and appearing at NXT Live Events.
— JJ Williams (@JJWilliamsWON) October 20, 2017
While there’s been no confirmed signing yet, with Rousey now training at the WWE Performance Center, the rumoured WrestleMania match-up may actually be happening this coming spring at WrestleMania 35 in New Orleans, in what could be one of the most watched women’s matches of all time.