Ronda Rousey, left, and Amanda Nunes strike a familiar pose alongside UFC President Dana White on Friday in New York to promote their Dec. 30 fight. (Michael Reaves / Getty Images)
The return of Ronda Rousey to a major fight stage was short and not sweet.
The former UFC women’s bantamweight champion from Venice was summoned to Madison Square Garden on Friday night amid the electricity of the just-completed UFC 205 weigh-in to appear for a face-off with her Dec. 30 opponent at UFC 207, new champion Amanda Nunes of Brazil.
So that’s what Rousey did: appear.
She strode onto stage without a crack of a smile or an acknowledgment to those cheering for her, raised her arms for the face-off, tried to wriggle free from the grip of UFC President Dana White, and after doing so, walked even faster than her entrance steps to the exit.
Nunes spoke of her excitement in getting “the fight I always wanted,” which will be at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Rousey, who has been reclusive since losing for the first time on Nov. 14, 2015 to Holly Holm by second-round knockout in Australia, said nothing.
A cross-country journey from her Glendale gym for that?
A day earlier, Nunes, who won the belt by first-round submission over Miesha Tate in July’s UFC 200 main event, said she anticipated delivering Rousey a second consecutive loss and expressed her disappointment with the post-Holm behavior.
“That is never going to happen with me,” Nunes said. “The way I sit down with you [reporters] now, that’s going to happen for a long time, because I’m going to be the champion for a long time. When we were at the beginning of our career, we needed you [reporters].
“I got the belt, I’m going to stay the same. I don’t want to be Ronda Rousey. She doesn’t want to talk to nobody. This doesn’t make any sense. You want to be … like that? I want to be the best and be normal. I want to stop and sign pictures. This is the way a champion has to be.
“You are human, you are normal.”
Nunes (13-4) said her own previous losses strengthened her, revealing weaknesses she’s sought to address. Since losing to former title challenger Cat Zingano on Sept. 27, 2014 Nunes is 4-0.
“Life is like that … you sometimes have to go back to nothing and work your way back, and I think people like to see that,” Nunes said. “Kids look up to [Rousey]. She looks weak as a person now. She’s not saying anything. It’s like she’s forgotten about everybody. She doesn’t know how to take it.”
Nunes takes her belt almost everywhere she goes, and is intent to keep it through her first title defense after Holm turned it over to Tate in March, and Tate surrendered it to Nunes.
“The first couple days [after beating Tate], I walked my dog with the belt, took it fishing on my boat, traveled to Brazil with it,” Nunes said. “I like to see it every day. It’s amazing.
“Beating Rousey will make everything perfect for me and bring me all the respect.”
Tate, who has lost to Rousey twice, was upended in July by Nunes’ punches to the face that set up the finish by rear naked chokehold.
In assessing Nunes-Rousey, Tate said Nunes’ ability to “hit like a Mack truck,” and the “X-factor” of where Rousey’s head is at are the decisive aspects of the bout.
Rousey recently said on the “Ellen” show that she doesn’t expect to fight much longer, a statement that was interpreted by most fight observers as an exit strategy.
“It’s going to be a battle. Ronda Rousey is still Ronda Rousey. She’s going to be a hard opponent,” Nunes said. “But I don’t think she can [win]. I have more to show than her.”
One of those strengths Nunes boasts is armbar defense. She has a black belt in judo and believes her overall skill and conditioning will decide the outcome in her favor.
“I’m good on the ground. I know judo throws. Armbar defense. My striking is getting better and better,” Nunes said. “I’m not only good at one thing. She’s going to have a hard time.”
It’s those martial arts principles that most bother Nunes about Rousey.
“When you learn, judo [and] jiu-jitsu, you’re [supposed to be] humble in losing, focused on getting better,” Nunes said. “I don’t know why she’s so down.”
Nunes has brought happiness to the sport, particularly in her standing as the first openly gay champion in combat sports and her affection for her partner, fellow UFC fighter Nina Ansaroff.
“She helps me not only in training … we go to the gym, discuss the fight, watch it, she cooks for me, pays my bills … she’s my nutritionist,” Nunes said. “She might fight at [the strawweight limit of] 115 [pounds], but she’s tough … this helps me go to the next level.”