UFC chief executive officer Lorenzo Fertitta believes it's possible former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will fight in New York City before the end of the year, possibly at the iconic Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York.
The organisation will return to New York for the first time since 1995, after the State Assembly lifted a ban on MMA on Tuesday. The UFC is eyeing a major event filled with star names to headline its return to the largest media center in the United States.
As reported by Marc Raimondi of MMA Fighting, Fertitta was asked whether Rousey might be present, and he answered in the affirmative:
Of course. I haven't had any conversation with Ronda about it. But like I said before, when we go to New York, we want to come with a big event. And obviously any time Ronda Rousey fights that is clearly a big event. That's to be seen.
Rousey hasn't entered the Octagon since she lost her bantamweight title to Holly Holm in a shock upset at UFC 193 in November. Per ESPN.com, it was the first defeat of her MMA career, having won all of her previous fights inside the scheduled distance.
Holm lost her first title defence against Miesha Tate, Rousey's old rival, setting up an intriguing storyline for a rematch between the two. But per Fox Sports' Damon Martin, Rousey isn't expected to return to action before October or November, and Tate has no interest in waiting that long to fight again:
I think it's a long time to wait, but I've had eight-month layoffs before. The last fight I had was already end of July. I've waited that long before. It's not a strange thing for me to do, but ideally I think I'd like to fight one more time before.
I know there's a lot of really top contenders, a lot of girls in the division that are champing at the bit. I think I've been called out by everybody in the top six if not potentially the top 10, so they're all gunning for me, they're all dangerous, they all have their different attributes to bring to the table. So I think my job as the champ is to stay ready for whoever.
She has done nothing to avoid the subject, however, and has kept the door for a lucrative bout open, as former NFL star Jerry Rice noted:
The UFC already lost out on a potential big-money rematch between Rousey and Holm for the bantamweight title―although the two will surely still do well at the box office if they meet again, with or without a belt on the line―and the organisation won't like taking a similar risk with Tate, even if she hasn't been defeated since 2013, per ESPN.com.
But if a fight between the two could be made with the bantamweight belt on the line, the UFC's first event in New York since 1995 would be the perfect stage. It would be the biggest event since UFC 200, set to take place in July, and Rousey's return would make for a fantastic headliner.
Another option would be a rematch between Rousey and Holm, which could possibly be used as a title eliminator. Appearing on Inside MMA, Bas Rutten said that bout might even be more important for Rousey:
Per Fertitta, New York's first major event will likely take place in November or December at Madison Square Garden, but it's possible an upstate city like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse or Utica could host a smaller event before then.
As soon as governor Andrew Cuomo signs in the bill passed on Tuesday, the New York State Athletic Commission will have 120 days to draw up the rules and regulations for MMA in the state.