Ronda Rousey: WWE Pulling Crown Jewel from Saudi Arabia Would Be 'Wrong Move'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2018

Professional wrestler and actress Ronda Rousey attends the 2018 NBCUniversal Upfront at Rockefeller Plaza on Monday, May 14, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Evan Agostini/Associated Press

WWE superstar Ronda Rousey said moving the Crown Jewel event out of Saudi Arabia would be the "wrong move" Friday.

TMZ Sports provided comments from Rousey, an Olympic bronze medalist and former UFC women's bantamweight champion, about why she believes in the power of sports to "find what we have in common and be able to understand each other more:"

"I'm a 2-time Olympian, so I'm an idealist when it comes to sports. Nowhere else in the world would some man from Iraq and a little girl from Venice Beach be respecting each other and sharing space. And, I think that sports is where we really find that common ground with each other.

"And, I think that pulling out of the 'Crown Jewel' would be the wrong move because I think that this is an opportunity to be able to share our cultures, and to define what we have in common and in times especially when, you know, times of adversity between two countries that's the absolute wrong time to be able to pull away."

Crown Jewel has sparked controversy after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. 

Khashoggi, who was often critical of Saudi leadership in his writing, was initially said to have disappeared after visiting the consulate October 2. After Saudi officials initially denied knowledge of his whereabouts, they announced October 19 that he was killed during a fight as part of a "rogue operation."

On Thursday, the Saudi attorney general described the murder as "premeditated," while U.S. officials are also investigating the murder.

Rousey won't take part in the event, which is scheduled for Nov. 2 at King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh, because of the country's restrictions on female performers, but she told TMZ she hopes that's another area where change can be made possible by the WWE.

"Women can't compete in Saudi Arabia right now, but I think if the 'Crown Jewel' is a huge success, and WWE really takes off in Saudi Arabia, they're going to be demanding to see the women soon," she said.

The company announced Thursday it was moving forward with plans to hold the event as part of its third-quarter earnings report. It included a statement about the decision:

"WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base. Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for November 2 in Riyadh. Similar to other U.S.-based companies who plan to continue operations in Saudi Arabia, the Company has decided to uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event. Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled."

The high-profile show, which will feature the in-ring return of legend Shawn Michaels, a World Cup tournament and multiple championship matches, is scheduled to air on the WWE Network.

WWE previously hosted the Greatest Royal Rumble event at King Abdullah International Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in April.