LAS VEGAS — Ronda Rousey was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on Thursday, becoming the first female inductee in the company’s history.
Rousey was the UFC’s first women’s champion, holding the bantamweight belt from 2012 to 2015 and defending it six different times.
She won her first 12 professional mixed martial arts fights, including six in the UFC, all by submission, with 11 of the 12 fights ending in the first round. All but three of those fights were decided in under one minute, and Rousey owns records for four of the five fastest finishes in UFC women’s bantamweight history.
“I am not the first person who had the ability to do this, but I am here because I am the first person you took the time to watch,” Rousey told the crowd at the Pearl Theatre during her induction speech. “That you put the energy into supporting. Because of you, I am the first woman standing up here accepting this incredible honor. May I be the first of many.”
Rousey was the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in judo when she claimed bronze at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, before transitioning into a career in mixed martial arts. She originally made a name for herself in the discipline as the last Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion before the company was bought by UFC in 2011.
In 2011, UFC president Dana White said that women would never fight in the UFC. Two years later, Rousey, the first female fighter ever signed to the UFC, took part in the first UFC women’s fight when she defeated Liz Carmouche at UFC 157.
“In my almost 18 years as UFC president, I’ve learned many valuable lessons,” White said as he presented Rousey. “And the one that comes to mind tonight is never say never, especially when you’re talking to UFC. In my defense, when I famously said women would never fight in the UFC, I had never met Ronda Rousey. I had never met the woman who would change everything. She started by changing my mind and she ended up changing the world.”
Rousey quickly became one of the sport’s biggest stars. She headlined her last four pay-per-view fights, with the final two drawing 1.1 million pay-per-view buys, and the one before that producing 900,000 buys. The only other UFC fighters to attract those numbers since 2014 are Conor McGregor and Brock Lesnar.
She was named the most dominant active athlete by multiple outlets in 2015, and an online ESPN poll during that time tabbed Rousey as the best female athlete ever. She also became a crossover celebrity during that time with supporting roles in the films “The Expendables 3,” “Furious 7” and “Entourage.”
Rousey was one of the biggest stars in the world and viewed as unbeatable, until her shocking second-round knockout loss to Holly Holm in front of 56,214 fans in Melbourne, Australia, on Nov. 15, 2015. She returned one year later but was knocked out again, this time just 48 seconds into the first round against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 in Las Vegas on Dec. 30, 2016. Rousey has not competed in MMA since that loss. She signed with the WWE in January.
“Every time I walked into that cage, I was hoping to make you proud,” Rousey told the crowd. “We have had this incredible journey, and it was really an honor to be able to live it with you.”