The long wait for Ronda Rousey is scheduled to end Dec. 30 when she meets new UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes in the main event of UFC 207 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
UFC President Dana White announced Rousey’s return Wednesday, saying the former champion from Venice “has been the biggest, baddest female fighter on the planet since we got into women’s fighting.”
Rousey’s invincible aura was punctured in November when former women’s boxing champion Holly Holm knocked her out with a second-round head kick in Australia that sent Rousey into extended seclusion.
She filmed a movie during the absence and appeared on “Ellen” and “Saturday Night Live,” as Holm subsequently lost her belt to Miesha Tate, who was upset by Brazil’s Nunes in July in the main event of UFC 200, also at T-Mobile Arena.
Nunes (13-4) has won four consecutive fights, displaying the “killer” reputation her coaches praise her for in training by punishing Tate with punches before finishing her by first-round submission.
Nunes became the first openly gay champion in fighting with that victory, and she now faces the landmark event of Rousey’s return.
White maintained Rousey’s comeback fight would be for the belt, and after she navigated some minor knee surgery and pain to declare herself fit for a bout, White kept his word.
“Everyone is a good matchup for Ronda,” White told The Times in a Wednesday text message in reference to the now-deepened bantamweight division and the presence of Orange County trained 140-pound fighter Cris “Cyborg” Santos.
While Conor McGregor has posted three of the top five pay-per-view cards in UFC history during Rousey’s absence, White has said he still believes she is the UFC’s brightest star, even with the publicity toll of her seclusion.
It was Rousey’s dominance in the rival organization Strikeforce that moved White to open the UFC to female fighters in 2013.
“Ronda had a bad loss, lost her title, but she’s still Ronda Rousey at the end of the day,” White said.
Rousey (12-1) has been in the gym since August. Although she refused comment on one visit by The Times, she is said to be performing at a high level, determined to ensure that her return closes “with her arm being raised,” according to one confidant unauthorized to speak publicly about Rousey’s preparation.