Miesha Tate On Ronda Rousey Fight: This Is “The Biggest Draw For Women’s MMA”
By Phil Lanides
In every sport, there are athletes that are so synonymous with their profession of choice that you immediately associate the two.
When someone mentions basketball, most think Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James. In football, it’s Joe Montana or Jerry Rice. Baseball has Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens. And Wayne Gretzsky is probably the first name that pops into your mind when hockey is brought up.
In many people’s minds, mixed martial arts is still searching for its defining star. Who is MMA’s Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali? Does MMA have a name on par with Hulk Hogan or Stone Cold Steve Austin? Who represents the fastest-growing sport in the world to the casual fan?
Most would probably tout Randy Couture, Anderson Silva, or Georges St-Pierre as their answer. But turning the conversation to women’s MMA makes the conversation even murkier.
Female fighting has always been a controversial subject. Some only see the sex appeal represented by the athletes. Some simply feel women are not as good of athletes as men, so they don’t perform as well. And some just don’t like seeing girls slug it out with one another.
Fighters such as Mia St. John have been able to carve out a living as a professional women’s boxer. Yet, that sport has never come close to reaching the heights of its men’s counterpart.
Women’s MMA is still in its infancy, most would agree. In the last few years, there have certainly been highlights for the sport.
Probably the biggest has been the main event of Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg in San Jose in August of 2009, when Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Santos fought in the main event in front of 14,000 plus rabid fans, setting a new MMA viewing record for Showtime in the process.
However, female fighting has certainly faced its share of adversity over the last couple of years. Carano has not competed since that summer night in 2009, and Cyborg was recently suspended for failing a post-fight drug test.
In order to generate attention, matchups have been set up that some have felt are based more on the ability of the fighters to draw a crowd than how deserving they are of the particular fight. There is no greater example of this than the next high-profile women’s bout, as Miesha Tate will defend her Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight (135 pounds) Championship against undefeated MMA star and Olympic judo medalist Ronda Rousey on Saturday, March 3 in Columbus, Ohio.
The 25-year-old champ herself doesn’t feel that her opponent, who has only four pro fights on her record and has never competed professionally at 135 pounds, deserves the bout. When asked if she feels that Rousey, also 25 years of age, hasn’t earned the title shot, Tate said, “I think so. There’s a lot of hype going into this fight. I don’t think she’s as deserving as other people, like Sarah Kaufman.”
However, Tate also made it clear that she understands why Rousey got the fight.
“I’m not saying her skill set isn’t there. This is the fight that the fans want to see, so I can see why it’s getting so much attention and getting promoted like this.
“I understand the logistics behind this, and the fact that this fight can do bigger stuff than if it’s me and Sarah Kaufman,” Tate continued. “At this point, this is the biggest, the best…the biggest draw for women’s MMA. But I’m still not budging on the fact that I don’t think she’s earned this fight. You may be one of the best out there, but it doesn’t matter until you prove it.”
It’s clear from the title-holder’s comments that she understands the importance of promoting her sport, and she has responded in kind. Regarding all the extra media attention, she explained, “For me, it’s been a lot of work, more than any other fight, but I’m pretty familiar with the process. It’s time management, reaching out to other people to help me. Promoting the fight is just as important…if I train and go in there and win but nobody’s watching, it won’t matter. It’s part of the game.”
So, has women’s MMA found its new face in Tate?
“We don’t need a face of women’s MMA – we needs lots of faces,” she said. “I always encourage girls to go out for wrestling or start jiu-jitsu. There’s so much more opportunity now, and they need to take advantage of it. But we have a responsibility as women to stick together and try to help other girls. When you have very little opportunity for exposure, you have to make sure you take advantage of it. There’s usually only one televised women’s fight on a big card. So we don’t have a lot of opportunity to show what we can do. A lot is riding on our shoulders.”