The next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself, just be glad you’re not Stephanie McMahon.
In the past 11 years, the WWE exec who moonlights as a villainous wrestler, has only stepped into the ring on one occasion.
But this weekend at WrestleMania, the 41-year-old mother of three will be squaring off against one of the toughest, most brutal female fighters of all time — 31-year-old former MMA champion Ronda Rousey.
“She’s a formidable force,” McMahon, the daughter of WWE CEO Vince McMahon, tells PEOPLE ahead of her upcoming feature on PEOPLETV. “She’s a beast. If you’ve ever seen her train, I mean, you talk about an athlete. She really is one of the world’s greatest athletes.”
McMahon will have some support to take on the “beast”, as she is fighting alongside her husband, wrestling icon Triple H, while Rousey, who was the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in judo, will also have help with WWE legend Kurt Angle joining her for the tag team match.
Rousey and McMahon at a recent press event.
For WWE’s hundreds of millions of fans worldwide, WrestleMania is a yearly spectacle (this is no. 34) that’s vaguely akin to the Super Bowl mashed up with the NASCAR Cup Series Championship—only with more pyrotechnics, elbow drops and curb stomps.
In the walk-up to the event held in New Orleans, McMahon has been squeezing two-a-day gym sessions into her chaotic globe-hopping work schedule as WWE’s chief brand officer and philanthropist, trying to get back into fighting shape.
“I don’t feel like there’s any amount of fitness that I can do that can get me up to Ronda’s level, so man, I’m just desperately scratching and clawing, trying to catch up,” says McMahon, who has been doing a variety of intense cardio, boxing, strength and conditioning workouts in recent months.
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She’ll need it. Rousey, a former SI Swimsuit model and UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion spent years as Planet Earth’s most formidable MMA fighter. But after two back-to-back losses in 2015 and 2016, she decided to move on from MMA fighting and focus her skills as a pro wrestler.
“My last match was four years ago, and prior to that was 11 years ago,” says McMahon. “We’re talking basically 11 years since I was a regular doing anything in the ring, so I’ve had to recondition my body . . . big time. I’m just going to try and give Ronda a level of competition that will play at WrestleMania, that will be entertaining, rewarding and exciting.”
- With reporting by ANTHONY KANE