There is a generally accepted theory in the mixed martial arts world that the Ultimate Fighting Championship created a women’s division just for Ronda Rousey.
It’s true that if Rousey weren’t around women would still be on the outside looking in at the largest MMA organization. But the reality is that the UFC still wouldn’t have decided to add the class if they didn’t feel they could build a division around their newest superstar.
The first step toward solidifying the women’s ranks has been made a little more than a week before Rousey makes her UFC debut by defending her belt against Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157.
Miesha Tate, who is at least in small part responsible for Rousey’s surging stardom, will fight Cat Zingano on “The Ultimate Fighter” finale card on April 13 at a yet-to-be determined site in Las Vegas.
Tate, then the Strikeforce champion, fought Rousey back in March in the main event of a Strikeforce card that really seemed to take female fighting to a new level.
The marketing largely focused on the fight being between two very attractive women, but the action was impressive enough to hold up on its own. The fight increased both fighters’ profiles, but Rousey was really propelled by the victory.
“When Ronda and I got matched up it was two marketable females and a lot of people jumped into that fray,” Tate said. “It was kind of a milestone. She was able to make the most of it and she’s been able to take her career obviously to such a high level.
“But at the same time seeing what she has done has been motivating for me because I realize that there is so much further that I can go and that I can aspire to and I definitely want to work back to facing her again one day.”
Rousey headlined one more Strikeforce card and then was named the UFC champion when Strikeforce was merged into the organization. Tate assumed she would soon follow, but it took some time to finally get confirmation.
That happened this week when she got the call that she would fight Zingano in April.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Tate said. “Ronda got a fight right away and I was wondering why it was taking so long for me. I’m just happy the moment is here and I am going to make the most of it. That’s the goal.”
The signing of a UFC contract is the culmination of a long journey for Tate, who struggled just to find opponents when the former high school wrestler in Washington started fighting professionally.
Tate competed in five different organizations in her first six fights. The only reason she competed twice under the same banner was because it was a one-night tournament.
Now 26 and having reached a higher level than even existed when she started her career, Tate scoffed at the notion she could possibly get comfortable on what she has already achieved.
But she’s not finished.
“I’m still very young. I’ve been doing this for a long time in comparison to a lot of the other women, but I’m still in it to win it,” she said. “I want to get my title back. I want still when I retire to say I was the UFC world champion, I broke barriers, I set the bar and did all these things. So I’m definitely not through with it. I definitely have a lot of motivation and ambition to make those goals a reality.”
Tate is happy with the platform she has for her UFC debut. She will be competing on an FX card that also features a flyweight title bout.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better card to be on. I think it’s going to be an excellent card with a lot of viewership and that’s what I want,” she said. “My skill set, my heart and my passion speaks for itself. I just need eyeballs (to see me fight).”
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.