(Reuters) - When UFC bantamweight Ronda Rousey makes her long-awaited return to the octagon on Friday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, she will have just one thing on her mind - avenging her only UFC defeat and winning back what she sees as “her” belt.
Over a year has passed since a stunning knockout by Holly Holm saw her lose the title and Rousey, who has shunned the media for much of the last 12 months, now takes on current champion Amanda Nunes.
“I don’t care how this pay-per-view does. I don’t care how much money I make. I don’t care about interviews and I don’t care how I look,” the 29-year-old Californian said in a brief video about the UFC 207 event posted by TMZ on Wednesday.
“All I care about is winning my belt back on Friday night and that’s it.”
The most dominant female athlete in mixed martial arts and, alongside Irishman Conor McGregor, one of the most bankable stars in the UFC, Rousey’s loss to Holm stunned the fight game and started a period of turbulence in the bantamweight division.
Having won the title in spectacular fashion, Holm lost it just as quickly as Miesha Tate caught her in a rear naked choke at the end of a bruising five-round battle in March to emerge with the belt.
Tate then fell at the first hurdle herself as Brazilian challenger Amanda Nunes swarmed all over her at UFC 200 in July before finishing the fight in the first round with the same choke Tate used to beat Holm.
Rousey has said that this will be one of the last times fans will see her in the octagon, and a defeat to the 28-year-old Nunes may well hasten the retirement of the 2008 Olympic judo bronze medallist.
Rousey’s road to redemption is filled with danger.
Both fighters have a reputation as quick starters and while Nunes, a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, is arguably the better boxer, she will have to be wary of the judo hip toss and arm bar submissions which have become Rousey’s trademark.
Former champion Miesha Tate, who lost the belt to Nunes and was twice defeated in bitter battles against Rousey, has questioned Rousey’s motivation ahead of a fight that could define her legacy.
“I‘m not counting her out, but I am saying if push comes to shove I don’t know if her heart is really in it anymore,” she said in a recent TV appearance.
“Amanda’s is. She’s in it. She’s in it to win it.”
Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Meil Robinson