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29 December 2013 - Las Vegas, Nevada
Meisha Tate - December 26, 2013
What initially starts out as an impulse slowly takes over the thought process, and once it obtains a sense of urgency, the road to obsession is not too far away. For all the things Miesha Tate wanted for herself - and on a grander scale the sport of women’s MMA - the aftermath of her loss to Ronda Rousey was the perfect environment for the seeds of vengeance to grow.
And honestly who could blame her? Where Tate had been outspoken about her wishes to see women receive the proper amount of respect in the sport even though the grand stage of the UFC wouldn’t have them, her rival had single-handedly knocked down those doors.
UFC President Dana White had long said women would never compete inside the Octagon, but that all changed with Rousey, and the ever-vocal White wasn’t shy in charging the former Olympic judoka as the reason. The last woman to hold the Strikeforce bantamweight title was absolutely the catalyst for women being brought over to the UFC, and everything outside of Rousey’s star power appeared to be exactly that…everything else.
Where her rival’s ascension ate at her, it paled in comparison to coming out on the losing end of their fight. The Washington native is a competitor through and through, and taking the loss when the top two 135-pound women in MMA collided in Columbus, Ohio, nipped at her brain on the regular. The proudest moment of her fighting career came just eight months earlier when she pulled off a submission finish over Marloes Coenen - a fighter she truly looked up to in the sport - and suddenly she was on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Her belt was gone. Her elbow was jacked because of her initial refusal to tap to Rousey’s signature armbar, and she had to sit on the sidelines and watch as Rousey’s profile exploded. While Tate could have set about a spiral of obsessive behavior in her quest to regain her place in the sport, she did the polar opposite and let it all go.
And that is where things get truly interesting. Rather than her story being one of revenge or redemption, Tate’s reality couldn’t be further from those marks. Tate has come to realize she is more than a rivalry and refuses to allow their feud to define her. She’s one of the best fighters in the world at 135 pounds and she’s absolutely willing to prove her worth inside the cage.
“My career is not going to be determined off this one fight or this rivalry,” Tate said. “I’m not trying to put the weight of the world on my shoulders. I believe I’ve done enough thus far in my career to solidify a spot in the UFC, where my value as a competitor isn’t determined by this rivalry. I fully intend to go in there and take that belt on December 28 and go into 2014 as the champion. But, at the same time, I love this sport no matter what.
“My goal going into this season of The Ultimate Fighter and this fight was to realize the truth that Ronda Rousey does not dictate Miesha Tate. Yes, I lost a fight to her once, but I think I grew a lot as both a fighter and a person. I just decided I was going to have fun with it and let go of the feelings of bitterness and anger I had towards her. I was going to be me no matter what. I learned a hard lesson that when emotions get involved and there is so much negativity, it just wasn’t helpful for me. It’s not the way I compete at my best so I had to learn to put those emotions aside. That’s why I attempted to shake her hand after each fight. That’s why I kept my cool.”
In addition to her focus being locked in on personal evolution, she also came to understand how much freedom she found in releasing her previous mindset. Going into her first fight with Rousey, she was admittedly caught off guard by the brash presentation of her challenger. While Tate did her best to keep her game face intact, the truth of the matter is Rousey’s plan to get under her skin and in her head was an effective. But those hooks have vanished and the change in Tate has been noticeable.
Not only by those who train with her, but also by the viewing public that tuned in to watch her coach opposite Rousey on the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter. No matter how brash, no matter the intensity of the tantrum, Tate kept herself in check. Where a “double bird” flash or a mean-mugging from Rousey would put her immediately on the defensive in the past, those antics couldn’t even raise the blood pressure of the new version of Tate.
“It made me a stronger person the same way being the bigger person when she flips me off makes me. I think that’s the harder choice because it’s easy to lash out, but it’s harder to keep your cool and take the high road. People think that’s me being fake, but I’m not going to give her the satisfaction of pissing me off.
“She doesn’t get to do that,” Tate added emphatically. “She doesn’t get to make me angry. Yeah, she’s Ronda and she is going to do whatever she wants, but she doesn’t get to dictate how I feel. She says she’s being “real” but in my opinion she’s a real bitch. That’s what I think. She uses this being real thing as an excuse to stomp her feet and act like a brat. If people think that is being real then I would rather be fake. She tried all her antics on me during the show and it made her angry that she doesn’t have that emotional control on me like she did before.”
While the public’s opinion turned on the champion in a big way over the course of the season, their allegiance appeared to sway to Tate’s side of the table. And that’s where another element of their upcoming matchup at UFC 168 this Saturday took yet another interesting turn.
If Tate has taken Rousey’s power to affect her mental state out of the equation, then their rematch in Las Vegas is stripped down to nothing more than a physical contest between two game fighters. Granted, Rousey is a former medal winner in the Olympics and has an incredible grappling pedigree to rely on, but those are physical aspects that can be game planned for. Tate is no slouch in any regard of mixed martial arts, and is heralded as one of the most well-rounded fighters currently competing in WMMA.
The fight is a matchup between the best of the best at 135 pounds in women’s MMA and that is the fight Tate is expecting. She’s over the circus that surrounds all things Rousey and believes the fans are starting to see a true reflection of the person she’ll be sharing the cage with in Las Vegas.
“I think people have finally gotten to see both sides of the story now, and have been able to see both of our personalities,” Tate said. “I think people have had kind of a rude awakening as far as she goes. For the longest time I thought people didn’t understand the reason it was damn near impossible for me to get along with Ronda. She has even admitted it herself that she is the one who started it. I didn’t have a problem with her. When I first saw her fight I thought this chick looks pretty legit. But it was the way she called me out and the way she was so disrespectful before I had even met her that really turned me off to her.”
Tate is confident in what she can do when the cage door closes, and is willing to put her skills up against any challenge inside the Octagon. While this fight will certainly come with additional elements and weighted storylines - one of the most heated rivalries in combat sports, journalists attempting to gauge the amount of bitterness she holds toward Rousey, etc. - her focus is broken down to the simplest form.
She is going to make that walk to the Octagon on Dec. 28 in an effort to become the UFC women’s bantamweight champion, and everything else is just that…everything else.
“This is something I didn’t even think would be a possibility for years,” Tate said. “The fact that it’s made its way around to me so quickly in a sense, I’m so thrilled and excited to have an opportunity like this. It’s amazing to be fighting in the UFC, but more than that, to be fighting for the world title on Pay-Per-View is such an amazing opportunity. It doesn’t get any bigger or better than this. I cannot wait to show the world the new and improved Miesha Tate.
“I feel like I’ve grown tremendously and I’m excited to go out there and have a shot at the title. I’m excited to have another shot at Ronda Rousey and I’m excited to be the first person to beat her. I’m excited to shock the world because I think people think she’s invincible. But I’m not buying it. I see the holes in her game and I think people are going to be shocked when I’m able to go out there and do what I plan to do. It’s going to be very rewarding and I’m looking forward to it.”
Ronda Rousey - December 26, 2013
Everyone’s sweetheart as the year began thanks to her introduction of female MMA to the UFC, the women’s bantamweight champion took some hits during her stint as a coach on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter thanks to her unwavering animosity toward the young lady she’ll meet on Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC 168, Miesha Tate.
In between her first UFC win over Liz Carmouche and her rematch with Tate, Rousey didn’t just coach TUF though. In fact, she disappeared out of the public eye as she worked on “The Expendables 3” and “Fast & Furious 7.” So when she returned to make the media rounds for UFC 168 over the last few weeks, there has been a genuine feeling that yeah, we all missed our dose of “Rowdy Ronda.”
“I’ve purposely withdrawn from the media to make them miss me a little bit,” she laughs. “A lot of people didn’t miss Ric Flair until he was gone, and I kind of feel like I’m in that kind of role sometimes.”
Ric Flair? Well, if you didn’t like Rousey before, you almost have to like her now because of her reference to the pro wrestling icon.
“Come on, ‘Rowdy’ is from Rowdy Roddy Piper, who’s like one of the greatest heels of all-time. I think that bad guys are always the most interesting. Everyone wanted more Joker after the Batman with Heath Ledger. They weren’t asking for more Batman.”
Rousey’s right, and if she has to play the lady with the black hat leading up to her rematch with Tate, that’s fine with her, even though she does point out that all the bad blood between the two didn’t necessarily have to happen.
“When she came on the show, I shook her hand when I saw her and I was respectful to her, but when she really started doing cheap and backhanded things to the kids on my team and was really insulting to my coaches and friends, it came to my mind that she’s just a bad person and I’m never gonna shake her hand again. Some people call that being a bad sport; I call that being consistent.”
And if you can say one thing about Rousey, she is consistent, in and out of the Octagon. In competition, she has ended all seven of her pro bouts via armbar in the first round. Outside of it, she continues to push the envelope in everything she does.
“I specifically make it like that,” she said. “I think it’s impossible to get just as motivated to reach the same goal twice. I’m a very goal-oriented person and I need high stakes and big goals to really focus and motivate myself. So I purposely make it more difficult for me every single time. I purposely paint myself into a corner and I just have a really solid constant group of people around me that have my back a hundred percent and support me through all this, and they believe that I’m capable of all of it. No one around me doubts me, and I don’t doubt myself. And with all of us, I think that there really isn’t a single goal that I could aspire to that we can’t achieve together.”
So defending a world title, making two films, and being one of the most sought after figures in the fight game is just the beginning. What’s next, President Rousey?
“I don’t know,” she laughs. “I have no idea. I’m improvising. I live like I fight. I kind of do it by feel.”
Yet despite her increasingly hectic schedule, Rousey hasn’t lost sight of her day job, and even though she hasn’t fought since February, that’s fine with her.
“I feel like everything really fell together in a perfect timeline,” she said of her year. “The first fight (with Carmouche) was extremely taxing, and I really feel like I shouldn’t have gone too rapid-fire. The Ultimate Fighter itself was extremely taxing as well, and the time required to wait for them to edit together the show and then for the show to air really allowed me to go take advantage of the movie opportunities that were coming my way. And by the time I was done with that, I was more than ready and super excited to start camp. I was really reinvigorated after the whole Ultimate Fighter thing and I was just ready to fight again. I think it’s the best situation to be really dying to fight again and wanting to get back in the cage instead of being in a position where you feel like you have to again.”
So how did she stay sharp over the last nine months?
“I kind of did an artificial camp while I was in The Ultimate Fighter,” she said. “I was doing a lot of sparring with the kids and I did a weight cut, and physically mimicked what my body would go through for an actual fight. And there was a lot of mental stress, so it kind of recreated that physically for me and so it wasn’t just a lot of time sitting around. Plus, with the whole movie thing, every single day I was in a pressure situation, where a lot of people were watching me and I had to perform and it really kept that ‘laser focus under a lot of pressure’ a daily habit for me, and that was helpful in its own way as well.”
And now it’s time for Tate, who Rousey submitted in March of 2012 to win the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight crown. Some would say Rousey fought the perfect fight the first time, so how does she top it? She disagrees.
“It wasn’t perfect,” said the champion. “There were things that weren’t perfect in the first fight. I think the (Sarah) Kaufman fight (in August of 2012) was a perfect fight. I aim for stuff like that. I aim for the kind of fights that even the biggest hater can’t criticize, and that’s what I’m really aiming for in this fight. I always try to have not a single wasted movement made. I had an amazing camp, I haven’t felt better and I haven’t felt sharper. I haven’t been in better shape in my whole life and I’ve been in two Olympics, so that’s really saying a lot. I’m prepared for the best version of Miesha Tate that could ever be imagined, and there’s no way that she could be prepared for me the way that I am now.”
So with another win over her rival, will we see a Ric Flair “WOOOO?”
“I was never a big celebrator after fights,” she laughs. “Even the last time with Miesha, I sat there, I didn’t even smile, I didn’t run around or anything until she got up and it was made sure that she was okay. And after I beat her this time, I’m gonna contain myself. I came from Olympic judo, and it’s just not something that you did.”
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