It is a common saying in MMA that champions don’t truly settle into the role until they have defended their belt.
Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, Miesha Tate will face that test when she steps in against the outspoken wrecking machine, Ronda Rousey. The pre-fight build up has been rife with tension as the two women have exchanged verbal jabs. But tonight, words will no longer matter.
While Tate is coming into her first title defense as the underdog, she has made her way by proving the doubters wrong.
“I’m over it and I’m done with the talking,” Tate said. “It is to the point where even the sound of her voice annoys me. We are done talking and now it’s too late. She can’t talk her way out of it, and now it’s time to put it all out on the line.
“I think it’s silly that I’m the underdog because Ronda hasn’t proven herself as a fighter. She hasn’t really fought anyone, and she seems very one-dimensional at this point. Based on what we know of her, I don’t understand how people can think she is the favorite in this fight. But it’s just someone’s opinion and it doesn’t matter to me because everybody has one.
“I started proving people wrong back in high school when I started wrestling on the boys wrestling team. People said girls shouldn’t do that. When I started (in MMA) six years ago, people were shocked and said I shouldn’t be fighting because I’m a girl. Here I am getting my first title defense as the main event and it’s awesome. I’ve made a lot of people change their minds and now I have their full support. It is what it is.”
One of Tate’s biggest points of contention in the bout with Rousey is her opponent’s lack of resume. Tate has been vocal with her feelings on the matter, and despite an open dislike for her opponent, she understands the importance of the moment.
“I know this a big opportunity, and women in MMA don’t get this kind of opportunity often," Tate said. "It’s been since 2009 since we’ve seen a women’s fight headline, and this is only the second time in history it has happened. When you talk about it on that scale, it could mean a lot of things. This fight could either be really great for women’s MMA or it could be a bad thing. If this fight is a flop, that would be terrible. It really can’t be because there is so much riding on it. I’m one of those people who work best under pressure.
“When I was younger I was a big procrastinator, especially in school. I would wait until the last minute, but I would always get good grades. I made sure to get it done and do it well, but I’m one of those people who work really well under pressure. I fight harder the more hurt I become or the more damage I take. I’m not one of those people who shy away when the pressure is on. I’ve been proving people wrong my entire career. I know there are a lot of people doubting me and they think Ronda is going to win this fight, but this is another day for me."
The road to Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey has been littered with insults and trash talk, but when the cage door closes it will be time for both women to show and prove. While Rousey may have gotten the better of the pre-fight hype, Tate is confident she has what it takes to earn the victory.
“I’m coming out with a lot of fury and pent-up emotion,” Tate said. “I know I have to keep my cool and I can’t be overzealous. I have the experience advantage in this fight and I’m going to pick my shots and make the ones I throw count. I want to frustrate her and break her will because I believe I’m one of the most mentally tough people in this sport. I don’t think she can hang with me in that regard. She doesn’t have the experience and she doesn’t understand the game because she hasn’t been around it long enough. I want to make her wish she never called me out and make sure she never wants to fight me again.”