Ronda Rousey Returns At UFC 207 To Fight Nunes
The women’s bantamweight division to which Ronda Rousey returns is a vastly different landscape than the place she left a year ago.
The 135-pound weight class was considered Rousey’s personal playground from when the UFC launched the division four years ago, right up until the point Holly Holm shocked the world and took her title with a vicious head kick-knockout at UFC 193 last November in Australia.
Since then, a division that was once one woman’s realm has turned into a shark tank.
The championship itself has been a hot potato. Holm lost her title to Miesha Tate via fifth-round submission in one of the year’s most memorable fights at UFC 196. Tate, in turn, lost her title in violent fashion to Amanda Nunes at UFC 200. That put Nunes, a name only known to hardcore fans this time last year, in the position of defending the title against Rousey at UFC 207 at Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena.
Others haven’t quite had the chance to get involved in the championship free-for-all, but they’ve made noise of their own. Julianna Pena, the winner of the first women’s “Ultimate Fighter” season in 2013, has risen through the ranks, capped by an impressive win over former title challenger Cat Zingano at UFC 200.
And Rousey’s longtime nemesis, Invicta featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino, upped her stock considerably with a pair of well-received victories at 140 pounds in UFC competition – the latter of which, a third-round finish of Lina Lansberg, was the highest-rated women’s fight ever held on FOX Sports 1, drawing 1.3 million viewers.
Ronda RouseyView photos
Ronda Rousey jumped to the front of the line for a title shot and not everybody is happy about that. (Getty Images)
It almost goes without saying then that the news Rousey will parachute back into the division and get a title shot after a year away isn’t sitting well with the fighters who have been competing in her absence.
Leading the charge has been Pena, who seemed under the impression she was going to get the shot against Nunes before Rousey re-entered the picture. The 27-year-old from Spokane, Wash., has won four straight fights.
Pena, who spent Wednesday retweeting dozens of messages of support from fans, absolutely ripped into Rousey before threatening to quit the UFC.
“It’s bull-[expletive],” Pena told MMA Fighting.com. “That spoiled brat has gotten everything handed to her, and she’s getting everything handed to her again. It’s bull-[expletive].
“Never in the history have I ever heard of somebody have a no-controversy brutal knockout, then quit the sport, and then comeback and get a title shot right away. The girl is mentally weak and Amanda Nunes is going to [expletive] knock her out and expose her ass. She’s literally the worst fighter on the roster, and I can’t stomach the fact that I’m not getting the title shot.”
It’s worth noting that threatening to quit has turned into something of a fad under the UFC’s new regime. Jose Aldo is currently at an impasse with the UFC after being passed over for a matchup with Conor McGregor in favor of Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, and lightweight contender Al Iaquinta pulled out of a UFC 205 match with Thiago Alves in a pay dispute and is threatening to retire. Whether new UFC owners WME-IMG (which, incidentally, also have Rousey as a management client) start calling fighters’ bluffs is a development that bears watching.
Meanwhile, UFC president Dana White attempted to push the ball forward Wednesday by dropping a hint that the long-awaited superfight with Cyborg could be next for Rousey, should Rousey defeat Nunes at UFC 207.
“I know that Cyborg wants that fight,” White said. “Ronda wants that fight too. So, Ronda’s plan right now is to come back and win her title back, and if that happens, the Cyborg fight will definitely happen.”
That’s a big if, on several fronts. For one, we’ve yet to hear Rousey herself state that she wants to fight Justino. Rousey for years resisted the notion of a matchup, pointing out Justino had been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs following a 2011 fight and demanding Justino come down to 135 pounds before the fight could take place.