After a nearly 14-year MMA career, Shayna Baszler began her transition to pro wrestling in 2015 and since then has put it in time paying her dues.
Tuesday night represented Baszler’s hard work on the independent circuit finally paying off as she performed in the finals of the inaugural Mae Young Classic, WWE’s first all-female tournament. Baszler, who won three previous matches in the 32-woman competition that taped in July, lost to Japanese actress turned pro wrestling star Kairi Sane in the live finale at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ronda Rousey, Baszler’s former MMA teammate and longtime friend, sat ringside for the match and the “Smackdown Live” show that preceded it. There was speculation Rousey would somehow partake (likely in the form of interference), but the match ended clean.
Afterward, in an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Rousey praised Baszler for reaching this point in her pro wrestling journey.
“I’m just so proud of her and all the work that she’s done, and to really put in over the years, coming up through the indie scene, and going and fighting in Japan,” Rousey said. “Everything that she’s done has been to prove to herself and to everyone else that she’s done the work to deserve to be here. I think she really proved that to every single person watching tonight.”
Rousey wasn’t interested in talking about her own future.
Since her 48-second TKO loss to Amanda Nunes last December at UFC 207, Rousey (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) has remained silent on whether she’ll return to the UFC. In fact, she hasn’t spoken on the record about her future until Okamoto sneaked in a question near the end of his 2 minutes with her.
Rousey predictably remained evasive.
“You know what? I don’t want to come to Shayna’s event on Shayna’s night and talk about myself,” Rousey said. “I just want to keep tonight all about her. And go, Shayna Baszler.”
There’s been speculation that Rousey, who married UFC heavyweight Travis Browne last month, has been training pro wrestling for a potential WWE story line that would culminate with a match at the Survivor Series pay-per-view in November.
At the very least, a non-answer leaves the door still open for a return to the octagon – slim as it might be.
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