Shayna Baszler was at her lowest after suffering a second-round submission loss to Julianna Pena that ended her run on The Ultimate Fighter season 18 where she was among the favorites to win the entire series.
It was in the aftermath of that fight when Baszler sat down with Ronda Rousey, who was her coach during the season, and she offered some prophetic advice. A decade has passed since that conversation but Baszler still remembers the specifics, especially after her MMA career ended and she transitioned into professional wrestling where she’s been a member of the WWE roster for the past six years.
“So obviously I lost my fight on that show, everybody knows by now and I shouldn’t have,” Baszler told MMA Fighting. “Nobody would have picked me at that time to lose and I was really down about it. I believe it was on the episode, but Ronda and I are sitting on the couch and I’m upset and she says ‘here’s the thing, we don’t know what it is but you lose here but it’s going to be something bigger in future, you’re going to think thank god, I didn’t win because you’re going to be somewhere in the future that’s going to be better than what it otherwise would have been.’
“It’s so funny to look back and see where we’re at. Look at us now.”
It was during the May 29 episode of Monday Night Raw when Baszler and Rousey became the new WWE women’s tag team champions, which was really the culmination of that conversation from 2013.
While Baszler has achieved a lot during her professional wrestling career, she admits that finally getting the chance to work alongside Rousey has been like a dream come true.
“It’s weird to say because there has been a lot of moments, not just in my wrestling career, but my MMA career as well, and if you catch that moment at the end where I crawl back in the ring and we’re hugging, that’s a real moment,” Baszler said. “Because we really have been manifesting this since 2013 when I moved in [with Ronda]. It was unexpectedly cool. You’re always happy to win the title obviously but it was unexpected how meaningful it was in that moment.
“I’m not a cryer but it was a really emotional moment to be there. We’ve been asking for this for so long and we’ve manifested this for so long. Finally, we’re here. It’s funny to say finally because it’s just the beginning.”
According to Baszler, she’s been talking to the powers-that-be at WWE about working together with Rousey ever since the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion arrived there in 2017.
The opportunity never happened until recently but Baszler says she and Rousey would always try to find little moments whenever they were in the ring together to show the kind of reaction they would get from the fans.
“We’ve been asking for it since day one,” Baszler said. “I won’t say we’ve pitched ideas but we’ve thrown little ideas out about how to get this going. We’ve tried to stir up chatter on Twitter to open some eyes on it.
“So this second run of Ronda, every time we’ve had some interaction in a match like you talk about the Royal Rumble, all those were made by us. That was not anybody telling us ‘we need a moment now.’ We created those like let’s show people that people will be excited about this. It finally happened. They finally listened and the results speak for themselves.”
While Baszler actually came up under former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett in a catch wrestling style even when she was competing in MMA, Rousey was largely learning on the job when she made her debut back in 2018.
Rousey has often been praised for how quickly she adapted to pro wrestling after spending the majority of her life either on the judo mats or competing in MMA such as her historic run in the UFC.
“The thing with Ronda and it’s the same thing that made her an Olympic champion and a UFC champion is she gets obsessive about learning something,” Baszler said. “If she were to miss a throw in a judo tournament, I guarantee you everyday for the next month, she’s drilling that throw in practice. That carries out through MMA. That carries out through pro wrestling.
“It’s so cool to see her finally get to a point where we can have fun in the ring now. I don’t know if I can explain it well but it’s not about ‘I need to be here and I need to watch for this and this is going to happen.’ We can go out there and be ourselves and have fun. It’s great to see now.”
The run for Baszler and Rousey as a tag team is really just starting now that they’ve claimed the WWE titles but the 42-year-old “Queen of Spades” truly believes this kind of momentum could spiral into bigger and bigger opportunities for them.
Rousey was already one part of the first ever women’s match to headline WrestleMania, which is WWE’s biggest annual event, and Baszler has no doubt that they could achieve the same kind of marquee position as a tag team.
“If you know anything about Ronda, tell her it can’t happen and she’ll make it happen,” Baszler said. “I think The Usos and Sami [Zayn] and Kevin Owens, I think they’ve proven you can make the main story about tag teams and it did not take away from the title story and Roman [Reigns] and whoever he was actively feuding with. There’s room for more than one main story and I think for some reason, especially on the women’s side, it’s been very much like we can’t take away from this happening.
“But this just shines a spotlight on everyone. It just spreads the wealth. That’s what we’re looking to do. Just elevate, elevate, bring it on, we want to beat people up.”