In the early stages of Hurricane Ronda’s verbal assault on Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, you almost felt for the Washington state native, simply because she had never run into someone like Ms. Rousey, the Olympic medal winning arm collector who blasted onto the scene with four wins in 49 seconds or less. And “Rowdy” Ronda opened up with both barrels, letting the world know just what she thought of “Takedown” Tate, who didn’t feel that she should defend her crown against an MMA rookie.
But once the fight was made for this Saturday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, something interesting happened. Miesha Tate got mean, and she began giving as good as she got to her challenger. And it wasn’t just selling a fight; it was a champion marking her territory and defending it.
“I see right through Ronda,” said Tate. “She’s a lot of talk and she’s got way more talk than she could ever possibly walk. It’s just not even possible, inside one year, that as much as she runs her mouth that she could ever live up the expectations that she’s creating around herself. She’s setting herself up for failure, and she’s digging herself a hole faster than she could if she had a backhoe. I respect Ronda, I’m not underestimating her, I’m sure she’s going to be a challenging opponent in ways, and she’s good at what she does, but I don’t feel that she’s a well-rounded fighter, and I think that’s going to be pretty easy for me to exploit.”
So far, through the aforementioned four pro fights and three amateur bouts, the 2008 US Olympic Bronze medalist in judo hasn’t needed to show off anything but her takedowns and armbars, and she’s passed every test with flying colors. Even her three amateur opponents couldn’t make it out of the first minute, and this Tyson with submissions understandably captured the imagination of the fight world. But when she armbarred Julia Budd in 39 seconds last November, she stunned many by calling out Tate, who ruled a division Rousey had never even competed in. But when it was confirmed that dropping from 145 to 135 pounds wouldn’t be an issue, Rousey got her title fight, and it didn’t sit well with the champion or the promotion’s veteran bantamweight contenders.
“Ronda hasn’t paid her dues whatsoever in MMA,” said Tate. “There’s no way that she’s more deserving of a title shot over Sarah Kaufman or Alexis Davis, and Ronda, in my opinion, is not a fighter. She hasn’t fought a single fight yet. She’s 7-0 (pro and amateur) because she goes out there and plays into her strong point of judo against people who don’t have any kind of a wrestling or judo background, and who don’t understand how to defend against her techniques. So she goes out there and she outjudo’s these girls. I think I’ve seen her throw maybe five punches in her entire career. She has yet to take a solid punch and she has yet to throw a solid punch; therefore, I don’t consider her a fighter, and my intention is to basically make this into a fight because I don’t think she’s prepared for that.”
Tate, on the other hand, has definitely put in her time in a sport still in the growing stages. A pro since 2007, Tate actually made her debut by fighting twice in one night in a HooknShoot tournament, beating Jan Finney before getting knocked out by Kaitlin Young. Nothing like getting your first pro win and first pro loss out of the way on the same night. From there, she made her Strikeforce debut in 2008, decisioning Elaina Maxwell, and she won four more bouts before losing to Kaufman in 2009.
Undeterred, Tate soldiered on, putting together a five fight win streak that included another two fight / one night tournament, but this time she won both fights to earn a shot at Strikeforce 135-pound champion Marloes Coenen. It was in that bout last July that Tate showed that she had what it took technically to win a big fight, but more importantly, she displayed the heart of a champion as she submitted Coenen with an arm triangle choke in the fourth round. The victory was a stirring one, but you have to wonder, in the midst of Rondamania, has she been able to enjoy her title?
“Yeah, I’ve really settled into it,” she said. “It feels nice and I don’t intend on going anywhere.”
Tate is also gaining a groundswell of support from fans who haven’t exactly embraced Rousey’s ‘tell it like she sees it’ way of promotion.
“I’ve been getting a lot of people on Twitter saying ‘well, I was really a big fan of Ronda at first, but the girl just doesn’t shut up, I’m sick of her mouth, and I want you to shut it on March 3rd. I’m on Team Tate now,’” said the champion. “And I’m just welcoming them. It’s kinda nice to see the shift. I thought she’d start to shoot herself in the foot, because with all the trash she’s been talking, and most of it is pure nonsense, there’s no way she could ever even live up to this legend she seems to be creating for herself. So I think people are starting to see that, and they’re getting tired of it.”
No one’s more tired of it than Tate, who hasn’t just had to read Rousey’s quotes on the internet; she’s also had to spend time with her on numerous media events to promote the bout. That couldn’t have been too awkward, right?
“I don’t like it, but I’m a professional and I can maintain a manner of professionalism,” said Tate. “But the ideal that I can hope for in a situation where I have to be around someone that I can’t stand, and the best way that I feel I can represent myself is to just ignore them to the best of my ability. It’s kind of that old rule your mother tells you, ‘if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.’ I don’t say anything at all because I don’t have anything nice to say to that girl. I don’t like her, and I don’t like what she stands for. She stands for ‘hey, if you’re cute and you run your mouth, you can get a title shot,’ and I don’t agree with that. I think that it should be skill set first, and then whatever else outside the cage second. Call me old school or traditional or whatever, but I feel strongly about that and I’ve always done it that way. I’ve earned this belt, and I earned this shot.”
And now the only thing left is for Tate to introduce her challenger to the deep water she hasn’t experienced in MMA yet.
“There are certain things that you can’t make up for, one of which is experience,” said Tate. “You can’t recreate time in the cage, no matter how many times you spar in practice or how many times you drill. When you haven’t faced adversity in that kind of situation where the spotlight is on and someone’s taking it to you, and you’ve got to pull it together and find a way to win, you can’t replicate that, and you can’t do that any other way than by doing it. And she’s really lacking in that area experience wise, and I think she has a false sense of security because what she’s been doing has been working against the girls she’s been fighting. But stylistically, none of them have been like me, have had a background like I have, or near the pedigree.”
That’s a world champion talking, one who doesn’t plan on relinquishing that belt anytime soon, especially not to Ronda Rousey this weekend. And when you’ve earned your spot as the best bantamweight in the world, the desire to keep it is even more motivating than silencing a bitter rival.
“I’ve earned this position, but I have to keep working to make sure that I stay on the top because there are a lot of really badass women out there, and they’re all hungry and they’re all gunning for me,” said Tate. “So I’m the best for now, but in order to stay there, I have to make sure to not get too comfortable.”
Miesha Gets Mean
"I don’t consider her a fighter, and my intention is to basically make this into a fight because I don’t think she’s prepared for that." - Miesha Tate