There were two important lessons Miesha Tate learned from her first fight against rival Ronda Rousey in March 2012 that she believes will help her emerge victorious in the rematch Saturday night.
First, Tate figured out going into the cage angry and emotional is counterproductive. She also found out Rousey is really good.
Tate entered the first fight as the Strikeforce champion and carried bitterness and resentment at all the opportunities and hype surrounding her phenom challenger.
“I think I underestimated her a bit because I was too busy discrediting her, saying she didn’t deserve the title shot and whatnot,” said Tate, who felt Rousey had leapfrogged other contenders who had done more in the sport to earn a title shot. “She’s better than I thought she was going to be.”
The rest is history. Rousey won that fight by armbar late in the first round to earn the Strikeforce title. UFC president Dana White liked what he saw enough to reverse course and add a women’s division to the UFC with Rousey as a centerpiece.
Rousey won her first UFC title fight and then spent a couple months in Las Vegas filming “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show with Tate as opposing coaches.
Now they will fight in the co-main event of UFC 168 at the MGM Grand fighting for Rousey’s UFC women’s bantamweight title on a much bigger stage than they were on 20 months ago.
“As much as I wanted to win the first fight with Ronda, I think it almost worked out better this way because I’m going to win it this time and it’s a bigger, better fight so it’s awesome,” Tate said after a workout at the UFC Gym on Blue Diamond Road. “I feel great. Totally at peace, calm and excited. Mentally and emotionally stable. I’ve never felt this great before a fight.”
Tate’s decision to stress her mental state is no accident. She absolutely despised Rousey going into the first fight and would get visibly agitated at the sight of the Olympic judo medalist.
That emotion is part of what led to Tate’s defeat. She feels she got overly aggressive late in the first round in an effort to hurt Rousey and got out of her game plan, stepping right into Rousey’s strengths.
Tate believes Rousey already had her beat before they even stepped into the cage. She says Rousey, knowing Tate hated her, would come up to her with a fake smile and be overly nice in an effort to get in her head.
“She had mental warfare as part of her arsenal the first time we fought and I didn’t. It wasn’t a weapon on my tool belt, but it’s something I learned the hard way,” Tate said. “I don’t consider it a mistake anymore, I consider it a learning experience. I learned a lot from that fight, not only how to be more technically sound as a fighter, but how to grow and be more mature as a person.
“I just let go of those feelings of animosity. That was a choice on my part and so is happiness, and I’m happy right now. I’m right where I want to be.”
For now, that’s in Las Vegas. Tate moved her training camp to town and said she and her boyfriend and fellow UFC fighter Bryan Caraway are considering moving to the city permanently from Washington state.
They had plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the city while filming the reality show here during the summer. Tate also got plenty of practice dealing with Rousey.
On the show, it was Rousey who was constantly angry while Tate would respond with a smile. It’s rare that either fighter will offer the other a compliment, but Tate did concede that the improved mental aspects of the sport that will help her throughout her career were learned from Rousey.
“I have to give her credit where credit is due. She definitely taught me something in that area. I don’t play it the same way she does, but I have developed the skill set to deal with it nonetheless,” Tate said. “I had to spend six weeks with her day in and day out and she was just nasty and mean and horrible to deal with and you have to learn a way to deal with it. For me, it needed to be different than the first time when I was the one that was angry all the time and she was the one laughing at me. I just got over it.
“For me, it’s not about her anymore so she has my respect as a fighter and an athlete and that’s it.”
While Tate has learned to deal with Rousey, she doesn’t envision becoming friends with the woman she referred to as her “arch-nemesis.”
“I’m never going to offer her to come over and bake cupcakes with me or anything,” Tate said. “She’s just going to be a body in the way of my title and that’s the way I want to keep it. I want to stay emotionally uninvested.”
She will get a chance to show what she has learned on the Saturday night card that also includes a rematch between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.