Ronda Rousey’s inevitable return to MMA continues to edge closer, but just how close are we really to seeing the former women’s bantamweight champ back in the Octagon?

After Rousey was beaten for the first time in her MMA career last November at UFC 193 when Holly Holm knocked her out cold with a World MMA Awards ‘Knockout of the Year’-winning head kick, it was reported she would be taking roughly a year out from competition with her return anticipated for around November/December 2016.

But things may have changed after Miesha Tate blemished Holm’s unbeaten MMA record earlier this month, submitting her to become the new UFC women’s 135lb champ.

All change at the top

According to UFC president Dana White, Rousey texted him, ‘Looks like I’ve gotta get back to work,’ after hearing about Tate – a woman who Rousey has beaten twice in her career – beating Holm for the title at UFC 196. So does that mean Rousey could be moving her UFC return forward now that the title is held by a woman she knows she can beat?

If MMA’s biggest celebrity does indeed decide to return to fighting sooner rather than later, the perfect stage for her to do so would surely be the upcoming UFC 200 event, which takes place in Las Vegas on July 9th. With around four months still to go before the show, and with no fights having been announced for the card, there is still time for all necessary preparation and promotion on both the UFC’s end and Rousey’s.

With Rousey having already definitely beaten Tate twice – both times via vintage armbar submission – it would appear on the surface that a return against the current champ would be far preferable to a rematch with the woman who dominated her before knocking her out cold. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a quicker return would benefit Rousey more than giving herself an extended break.

Sooner or later?

A return at UFC 200 would see Rousey face a stylistically easier opponent in Tate, but considering how busy she has been with filming movies, as well as other media engagements, it might be wiser for the former Olympic judoka to give herself more time to get back into the swing of things before jumping back into a fight. Then again, Rousey is a lifelong athlete so most likely won’t require as much time as most to settle back into fight mode.

Tate’s confidence will no doubt be at an all-time high now she is holding the UFC title and has beaten the only woman to ever best Rousey. What’s more, the current champ is likely to approach a third fight against Rousey with improved technical ability and a game plan far better than the ones she employed in their first two encounters – especially with Holm having already demonstrated the perfect strategy to beating Rousey. But, realistically, even an improved Tate is still an easier fight for Rousey than Holm.

A return later than UFC 200 would probably improve Rousey’s chances of recapturing the UFC women’s title. Of course, that’s assuming Tate is still champion, but sitting out until the end of the year means Tate could next defend her title in a rematch with Holm or against a fresh opponent should she choose to stay active rather than await Rousey’s return.

UFC bosses will likely push Tate to wait for the Rousey rematch. After all, Dana White openly admitted to doing the same with Holm, but Holm was adamant that she wanted to fight sooner. And we all know where that decision led.

The fact is, if Rousey sticks with her original schedule and returns at the end of the year while Tate continues to fight, it could be Holm or an entirely new queen sitting atop the UFC women’s 135lb division by the time Rousey returns. And if it’s Holm back on top then recapturing the belt once again becomes a daunting task for the ‘Rowdy’ one.

It’s simply a roll of the dice for Rousey. Both options have their pros and cons, but the ultimate truth is that nothing is certain for any man or woman in MMA once they step onto the canvas.

Check out our UFC 200 Fantasy Fight Card to see if Rousey made the cut.