NEW YORK — Basically, what it boils down to is, Ronda Rousey is done doing anything she doesn’t want to do.
Whether someone believes she’s entitled to feel that way — or thinks she’s a spoiled diva to feel that way — means nothing to her anymore.
Rousey, 31, will appear at WrestleMania 34 on April 8 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The former UFC star will perform in front of about 80,000 people, which is starkly different from the other path she considered, which was to disappear entirely.
“I could very happily be in some house in the mountains and never see anyone again, hang out with my goats and chickens,” Rousey told ESPN. “It would have to be something as great as the WWE to make me this happy, to pull me away.
“Otherwise, no one would hear from me. I would live in the woods and be happy. That’s all I really want.”
That word — happy — comes up a lot when discussing this chapter of Rousey’s life. As successful and rewarding as her last career was — as the UFC’s first and most dominant women’s champion — she wasn’t always happy in it.
Rousey’s entire body language changes when the subject of mixed martial arts comes up, as it did in interactions Tuesday with ESPN’s Mike Golic and Max Kellerman. She doesn’t enjoy talking about MMA, so by and large she won’t.
“I’m only here to enjoy myself. That’s the only thing that’s never been a priority in my life,” Rousey said.
“In judo and MMA, there were times when the process was fun and the results were fun. And there’s a time when things run their course. You fall in love, you fall out of love and you find a new love.
“There was a while when I was just looking for an honorable way out [of the UFC]. I felt satisfied that I’d proven everything I need to prove, but I didn’t feel anybody else felt that way, and I wasn’t sure if the women’s division could survive without me. I felt obligated to do more than what I actually wanted to. But I also have no regrets, and I’m so happy I fulfilled those obligations. And I really feel the women’s division can hold their own.”
In late 2014, in the prime of her run as UFC women’s bantamweight champion, Rousey broke her own rule of never enjoying a night out during fight camp. She attended a regional professional wrestling show (Pro Wrestling Guerrilla) with her friends in Southern California.
Performers that night saw Rousey was there and surprised her by having her “chop” one of the wrestlers in the chest. She had a great time but still left early. And she even acknowledges that she worried, for a split second, about the chop — out of concern she’d suffer an injury before a fight.
Now, ahead of WrestleMania, Rousey’s preparation includes “homework” from WWE stars like Goldust, watching old matches and inventing new sequences with people she’s an actual fan of. There’s pressure in delivering lines and safely executing moves, but it’s nothing like the stress of MMA.
When asked for specifics on how she’s training for a WrestleMania tag-team match with Kurt Angle, opposite Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, she laughs.
“We’re still figuring it out,” Rousey says.
Take an inside look at the former UFC champ Ronda Rousey’s four-hour workout routine as she prepares for her WWE in-ring debut at WrestleMania 34.
If there’s a risk to this new career, it’s only that she’ll eventually stop enjoying it. And whenever that day comes, she’s out.
That means, she’s not doing anything she doesn’t want to do. And regardless of how it’s perceived, that includes going back to her former career.
“There’s a reason I don’t do anything when I walk out [at WWE],” Rousey said. “I’m just paralyzed with happiness every time I go out there. I get to look around, feel it and show myself feeling it — which is something I was never allowed to do. Now it’s all I want to do.”