And just like that, Ronda Rousey is back...but not for a fight.
As Saturday Night Live's official Twitter revealed Tuesday, the former UFC women's bantamweight champion is set to return to the limelight for the first time since her crushing UFC 193 loss to Holly Holm by hosting the January 23 edition of Saturday Night Live. Rousey herself confirmed the news on social media not long after.
While there is little debate that this is a huge honor for Rousey, the first mixed martial artist to ever appear on the long-running comedy show, many are wondering what this means for her both in and out of the cage.
With questions still swirling about if Rousey's hectic schedule—which included a number of talk show appearances and walks down the red carpet—may have contributed to her upset loss, it's worth wondering whether appearing on SNL is the first step down the path to another crushing loss or a return to A-list status.
Bleacher Report MMA columnists Mike Chiappetta, Steven Rondina and Jonathan Snowden are here to discuss just that. Is Rousey starting her comeback tour? Or is this just proof that "Ronda Rousey the celebrity" is the worst enemy of "Ronda Rousey the fighter"?
It's very curious to me that Rousey is emerging from her hermitage both this quickly and in this way. When a half-cryptic, half-pretentious Instagram post with a quote from Shakespeare emerged on Rousey's Instagram feed Monday, my immediate assumption was "well, she isn't coming back any time soon." The next day? She's hosting SNL.
Obviously, there are a few ways to take this, but at least from a competitive perspective, isn't this a white flag when it comes to her fighting career? Not that she's retiring, per se, but that she is going to continue walking the same path that saw her get viciously knocked out? It certainly feels like it.
The loss to Holm was a big wake-up call for many fans, and Rousey was probably caught off-guard, too. The former champ faced little adversity in the cage to that point, but Holm showed that, despite Rousey's past dominance, there were many problems with how she was approaching the sport.
Some of those problems are in the cage. Most of them, however, lie outside competition and are far more difficult to solve than silly little things like boxing and judo.
Surrounding her fight, there were public issues involving her coach, her mother, her former manager and her boyfriend. There were countless press conferences, photo ops and TV appearances that visibly wore her down by the time she reached fight week. And of course, there were the obligations and expectations of Hollywood, heaping more on to her already full plate.
Rousey has a lot to fix both personally and professionally if she's serious about returning to MMA and becoming a champion again. She has to choose between hurting some of the people closest to her in order to optimize her chances in the cage, or maintain her comfortable status quo at the expense of her in-cage success.
It's possible she truly thinks she can simultaneously juggle the rigors of professional athletics and Hollywood celebrity. I doubt it, though.
For the most part, MMA exists in its own world. There is endless and robust discussion, but it is confined to a subsection of the Internet where most people rarely tread.
Rousey has never been confined by those artificial chains of genre or niche.
In 2013, before she had ever stepped foot into the UFC Octagon, my profile of her was featured on CNN.com. It wasn't relegated to the agate type. It was the lead article on the entire site, one whose purview is literally anything and everything.
Interest in her knows no boundaries of age or gender. She's burst free, not just from the MMA section, but from the shackles of sport as well. Rousey is, in victory or defeat, the queen of mixed martial arts. This is her coronation.
Some of the greatest athletes in modern history have hosted Saturday Night Live, from Wayne Gretzky and Chris Evert to Michael Jordan. To be plucked from the realm of sports and inserted into the world of mainstream entertainment this way is a distinct honor, one unthinkable for an MMA fighter even five years ago.
This isn't a sign Rousey isn't serious about fighting anymore. Rather, it's a clear indication that her hard work has paid off in a major way. Rousey fought with all she had to earn a place for herself in what has traditionally been a man's world, pulling women's athletics with her as she yanked endlessly on her own bootstraps.
Many of us have likewise spent years and countless hours evangelizing for this sport. Thanks in no small part to Ronda Rousey, we've made it.
She deserves this week. We all do.
If we had any doubt that Rousey’s star power would survive Holm's left leg, we have our answer. Saturday Night Live may be an endless target of criticism, but it is also a bona fide television institution. Outside of true global superstars, who exactly would turn down the chance to host it?
We are supposed to be addressing whether Rousey is her own worst enemy. I would answer this is proof she is the exact opposite. She has succeeded in a way that few combat sports athletes ever have.
While, yes, SNL is another time commitment for her, a one-week gig is not nearly as intrusive in her career as some of her other Hollywood projects. She is simply doing what anyone who finds themselves in this situation would do: finding a way to capitalize on their own sweat equity.
Just before Rousey faced Holm in November, I wrote about the fame monster that constantly needs to be fed and how it would eventually eat her alive. I didn’t think it would be so immediate, but the pressure on her was clearly mounting. In some ways, it was inescapable. This is the reality of fame in 2016. The opportunities are greater, but so is the exposure, and so is the risk. Rousey is embracing it all.
How will this affect her in a rematch? I think that’s what we’re getting at here. Most fans would like to see Holm preparations as her sole focus, but what is life without variety, adventure and a little bit of danger? That’s SNL, and it’s also Rousey. What makes her great also makes her vulnerable. If she can live with that, we should, too.