Despite swirling rumors that Ronda Rousey will make her WWE debut on Sunday at the inaugural women's Royal Rumble match in Philadelphia, the former UFC champion continues to deny it.
Rousey was stopped at the airport by TMZ on Thursday and denied that a deal is done. The 30-year-old, who hasn't appeared in the Octagon since a 48-second TKO loss to Amanda Nunes in 2016, also revealed she will be out of the country this weekend.
"I appreciate everyone's confidence [about joining WWE], but I'm actually leaving to Colombia right now to finish shooting [the Mark Wahlberg film] 'Mile 22' and I won't be back until mid-February.
"I haven't signed anything regardless to what everyone has said. No pen to paper for me."
Considering we are talking about pro wrestling, Rousey's comments need to be taken with a grain of salt as WWE has long relied on the element of surprise, particularly surrounding appearances at the Royal Rumble.
The idea of Rousey and WWE joining forces is nothing new and has felt inevitable for most of 2017. The fact that Rousey was seen in Los Angeles two weeks ago having dinner with WWE executive Paul "Triple H" Levesque only seemed to solidify that belief.
Levesque, who has publicly shared his interest in signing Rousey ever since her memorable WrestleMania 31 appearance in 2015 (when she joined The Rock in a standoff opposite Levesque and Stephanie McMahon), spoke on the topic Wednesday during a media teleconference.
"We've had discussions, and we've talked about a million different things," Levesque said. "She's interested. We're interested. We've had back and forth conversations. We're busy, she's busy. Getting to the point of being able to sit down and hammer something out has not happened yet, but the interest is clearly there."
In December, Rousey tweeted out a video promoting her website which showed footage of her working out at WWE's Performance Center in Florida and wrestling in a gym with current superstar Natalya.
"She has been training for this, actually, for a long time," Levesque said. "I saw videos of her, I think, four years ago doing this kind of on the side while she was fighting, still kind of doing the sports entertainment part of it on the side. This is something she has been thinking about and been very serious about doing for a long period of time.
"If she does this, she likes this to the point where I think it would be tough for her not to be all-in. But we'll see when we get there."
WWE has played as big a part as anyone in furthering the rumors by hosting Rousey last July at the Mae Young Classic women's tournament and posting a video of her talking trash opposite Charlotte and WWE's version of the "Four Horsewomen," which was the nickname Rousey had previously used for her MMA training partners. The fact that most of those training partners, including NXT superstar Shayna Baszler, have now joined pro wrestling only added to speculation.
"I'm fortunate enough to be able to choose what to do with my time instead of going from one necessity to another," Rousey said about acting. "So I'm just having a lot of fun doing this and learning."
Despite Rousey's comments and the conviction used in her voice, it's difficult to take this news as anything but a creative smokescreen to quell rumors and aid in making her debut that much more of a surprise. Considering how much WWE has credited Rousey's rise to stardom with forcing them to take women's wrestling more serious, it's only fitting that she would make her debut during such a historic event as the first women's Royal Rumble match.