Ronda Rousey may be a member of the UFC Hall of Fame, but UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Pena isn’t impressed by the legacy “Rowdy” left behind in MMA.
Fresh off spending a weekend in Dallas for WrestleMania, where she watched Rousey fall short in a pro wrestling match against WWE star Charlotte Flair, Pena took aim at the former UFC titleholder on The MMA Hour and issued an open challenge for Rousey to try to pen a better final chapter in MMA than the 0-2 slump that ended her UFC career in 2016.
“Ronda is so old news, right?” Pena said on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour. “I think that what’s incredible about her is that she opened up the door and was destroying people in 10 seconds, and became a star because she was demolishing people in the first round, and that’s great — but she got knocked out twice and never came back. So how legit is she?
“She had to go to pro wrestling. And I get that and I think that that’s great. But as a fighter and somebody who is competitive, I know that — deep down — it probably truly bothers her, the fact that she went away off of two knockout losses and never came back to make her name good. If it really truly does bother her and if it gets under her skin at the end of the day to know that, you know, her legacy is kind of ruined by the fact that she never came back and never got back on the horse, then I would like to invite her to please come back — and if she would like to come back, I would welcome her with open arms.”
Rousey memorably left the MMA world in 2016 following back-to-back knockout losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, the latter of which lasted just 48 seconds. Rousey had risen to be one of the biggest stars in combat sports prior to those career-ending setbacks, having kicked off her MMA run with a 12-0 record that included 11 first-round stoppages and multiple headlining spots on major UFC pay-per-views. Rousey’s breakout as Strikeforce champion in 2012 is also what convinced UFC president Dana White to ultimately open the doors for women’s divisions in the UFC, and her impact in that regard cannot be overstated.
Still, Rousey’s exit from MMA was ignominious, to say the least, and Pena believes the reality of that fact must continue to eat away at the former UFC champion.
“That’s what I’m saying, she’s kind of a joke in the MMA world now, because she’s a — what is the word? — sellout,” Pena said of Rousey. “Like, a little bit of a sellout there. I mean, I guess I understand, right? It’s like, pro wrestling is fake, you get paid millions of dollars, I get it. But for me, for real s***, for like the ‘you’re the real, real deal,’ I would say that that’s in the UFC. And if she ever wants any of that real smoke, I’m ready.”
The likelihood of Rousey ever returning to MMA is slim. She’s currently busy with a full-time schedule in the WWE, and Pena, likewise, is readying to put her UFC title on line this summer in a rematch against Nunes. Pena and Nunes are also dueling coaches on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter 30, which is set to begin airing in May.
So even if Rousey never takes Pena up on her offer, the bantamweight champ still considers herself a fan of the woman who helped put female athletes on the map in the UFC.
“I thought she had a great [WrestleMania] match,” Pena said. “I thought she was very good, yes. And this is just from girl to girl as a fan — I’m a fan and I think that she’s great and I’m happy for her, and I think that it’s awesome what she’s doing in the WWE — but as a fan, she either needs to be more comfortable in her own skin or needs to figure out a different attire, because every move that she does, there becomes a wardrobe fix. You know what I mean?
“Wear something that you’re comfortable with. Wear something that you love and that you’re not going to have to constantly be yanking at your clothes the entire match. You didn’t see Charlotte Flair one time touch anything that she was wearing, it was just all about the match. But Ronda’s constantly pulling. So wear something that you’re comfortable in so that you don’t have to do that, because it just takes away a little bit.”