Ronda Rousey, one of the most transcendent stars that mixed martial arts has ever produced, will officially return to competition on Dec. 30.
And one can't help but wonder if it will be for the last time.
UFC president Dana White announced Wednesday that Rousey, 29, will attempt to reclaim her bantamweight championship against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 in Las Vegas. It will mark Rousey's first appearance since a stunning and vicious knockout loss to former champion Holly Holm last November.
That was the first loss of Rousey's MMA career and she has laid low since. She made a handful of public appearances in 2016, including a hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live," but has otherwise cherished privacy.
One can certainly understand why as Rousey's fame blew up in 2015. It's not that she wasn't a public figure before that, but a 14-second armbar victory over Cat Zingano at UFC 184 sent her into uncharted territory. Six months later, a 34-second, one-punch knockout of Bethe Correia in Brazil took Rouseymania to a feverish state.
The UFC then asked Rousey for a quick turnaround, as the promotion needed a headliner for a stadium show in Melbourne, Australia. It would be the final act of a truly insane year for Rousey -- one in which, looking back, she might have been better off turning down.
Rousey appeared on edge heading into the Holm fight; her media demands were exhausting. In the weeks prior to the event, her romantic relationship with UFC heavyweight Travis Browne, who had faced accusations of domestic violence on a former spouse months before (no charges were ever filed), spilled into the headlines.
Also before the fight, Rousey's mother, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, publicly criticized her coach, Edmond Tarverdyan. When the bout did arrive, Rousey looked agitated. She shoved Holm, who'd been nothing but respectful, during a staredown at the weigh-in. There was talk Rousey would take an extended break from the Octagon after defending her title.
All of this brings us to the present: Rousey is scheduled to face a very talented, athletic opponent in Nunes, who is coming off a first-round submission win over Miesha Tate at UFC 200.
No one can predict the future -- Rousey's last fight is a great reminder of that -- but it sure seems reasonable that Dec. 30, win or lose, could end up being Rousey's last fight.
For starters, there was always reason to believe she was never extremely long for the sport. Opportunities in other career paths were banging down her door prior to fighting Holm and, although they have seemed to cool in the wake of her defeat, she will never want for a job.
She has dealt with injury, some of which can likely be attributed to a long career in judo prior to MMA. She has had trouble with her knees and underwent minor procedures in 2016. She dealt with a gruesome fight-related hand injury in 2014.
And of course, she has now been on the receiving end of a concussive head kick to the chin, which she later told ESPN.com prevented her from biting an apple for months.
Exiting the sport on that kind of loss would have been a tough decision. Not only had she become a Mike Tyson-esque, invincible combat athlete, she was a symbol of female strength.
Rousey was never supposed to fall at all. But to not get up when it happened? That wouldn't have been a very "Rousey" thing to do. And in her first interview with ESPN.com following the loss, she did immediately promise she would be coming back.
But once she has done that at UFC 207, will she stick around? A loss might push her away for obvious reasons, but a win could do the same. If she is successful in reclaiming her spot at the top, overcoming doubt for the first time in her career, how attractive will a dangerous catchweight fight against Cris "Cyborg" Justino (or a Holm rematch) really be?
Rousey is an Olympic bronze medalist with six UFC title defenses to her credit. I'm not questioning her competitive resolve, I'm just saying there's reason to think this might be the final go.