Cagewriter spoke with two of women's MMA's biggest names: Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. Rousey will try to take the Strikeforce bantamweight belt from Tate on Mar. 3 in the main event in Columbus, Ohio. The two addressed the tension that led to their fight and women's role in MMA.
Cagewriter: There has been heat between you two, in tweets and articles. Did that make it an easy decision to take the fight?
Rousey: It was a no-brainer for me. She never wanted this fight. Originally she said she'd be down to fight me, but as soon as I called her out, she changed her tune real quick.
Tate: No. Someone asked me on Twitter, "Would you ever fight Ronda?" And I said, sure, if she ever makes the drop to 135 and works her way up, then of course.
Rousey: No, you did not say it like that. You said, "Sure! Why not?" and then you sent me a direct tweet saying, "Do you think you could make 135?" I took that as directly, "Do you want to come fight me at 135?" Not saying abstractly that at some time in the future that you might want to fight me under certain circumstances that you deem reasonable.
Tate: That's how I remember saying it. Basically, yeah. If she makes 135 then I'm not afraid to fight anyone. At that time, you were in my division and I was in mine. Like, if anyone asks if I'm going to fight Cyborg, if she makes 135. If you're in my division, then yes. I'll fight you. I'm not going to go to 145, but if you come down to 135, and the opportunity presents itself, then yeah. I'll fight you.
Rousey: I presented with my own opportunity to fight you. Sorry it wasn't on your time.
Tate: That's fine. I don't have any problems with that, and I don't have any problems fighting you.
Rousey: Really? Because I see a lot of articles that say the contrary.
Tate: Let me finish. Do I feel you're the No. 1 contender in our division? No. I feel that Sarah Kaufman had the rug pulled right out from under her feet. Not necessarily your fault, but she was promised the spot that you have right now. It was on national television, I had beat Marloes and they brought her in and said, "Hey you're the No. 1 contender. You're coming off two solid wins." And then you come in, 4-0 and never having fought in our division, and you run your mouth, you say, "I'm marketable," and this fight makes sense because I'm marketable, and you get it. That's fine. I'm going to fight you because that's my job. If they tell me to fight you, I'm going to shut up and do that. I don't care who I fight. But morally? Who do I think deserved it? Sarah Kaufman. We're going to fight.
Cagewriter: Women don't often headline cards. What does being the main event mean to you?
Miesha Tate: It's a huge opportunity. I think we're going to draw a lot of attention from people who haven't been paying attention to women's MMA, or MMA period. I think it's going to broaden our fanbase, and I'm excited for the opportunity. I'm glad that Strikeforce is confident enough to give us the main event.
Ronda Rousey: She said it pretty well. We're being given a good opportunity to be able to prove that women can draw a lot of eyes to the sport. The last time women headlined a show, it was Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg, and I think it was the second-most drawing show for Strikeforce. Being given another chance to show what the women can do and how they can appeal to the audience, it's a huge opportunity. Of course, we're going to put on the best show possible so that we can get these chances a little more often than every two years.
Cagewriter: Can women sell tickets the way men can?
Rousey: Of course they can. It's 2012, for crying out loud. To say that women shouldn't be able to go to war and be honored for serving in the military, or somehow say that it's inappropriate for them to fight, or people don't want to watch them fight, it's totally wrong. It's unfair, and it's sexist. I'm glad that Strikeforce is one of those organizations that takes a stand on this, and puts themselves behind women. We get equal rights.
Cagewriter: How do you respond to people who don't think women should fight?
Tate: I tell them not to be so sensitive! I think that it's silly. There are so many people that do support women's fighting that if someone is adamantly against it, I don't want to waste my time on that person. I'd rather spend my energy giving back to the people who support us than wasting my time arguing with someone on why we should get to do exactly what the men do. I mean, we have two arms, two legs, and we're capable. It's silly to say, with any sport, that a woman shouldn't be able to do it. MMA is no different than soccer or softball or volleyball. If the men can do it, the women sure as hell can do it, too.
We'll be able to sell tickets and draw people because women bring something different to the fights in that, we have that wow factor. People stereotype what we should do. A lot of people are shocked that we can get dressed up and wear make-up and high heels, and then get in the cage and mix it up. When it comes to entertainment, women always deliver.
Cagewriter: Is that a responsibility for female fighters? Do they need to be entertaining, no matter what?
Rousey: It's kind of unfair to the women. If someone's watching a women's fight, and it's a boring fight, then it's common for them to say, "Women's fights are boring." But, if I was watching a UFC fight and it was boring it, would be, "These two individuals are boring." People have a tendency to categorize women, so there is an added pressure to perform.
Tate: We get judged a lot more because we only get one shot on the card. If you notice with the men's fights, there are exciting fights and there are boring fights on every card. Usually, there are some that are exciting and end in a knockout, and others that get grinded out to a decision. For women, when we get our opportunity to showcase on television, it's usually just one fight. That's a lot of pressure on those individuals to represent the entire women's division. People will judge it based on one fight. That's a little bit harder, too, because we don't get the opportunities for mass exposure.
Cagewriter: Ronda, you had strong words for Cris Cyborg after she criticized Gina Carano. What prompted you to say that?
Rousey: If she had just said, "My next victim is Ronda, and that's it," I probably would have ignored it entirely. It was the fact that she really had disrespected Gina by taking a picture, after Cyborg had beaten her, and photoshopped it to make it look like she had beat her up more than she had, and then referred to Gina as her victim. I thought that was entirely insulting, and Cris Cyborg owes her entire career to Gina. No one would know who she was if it wasn't for her. That's what pissed me off the most. I thought, if you're going to stoop that low, then I'm going to give you a taste of your own medicine. I did not expect it to be favorited and retweeted hundreds of times, but it was one of my good ones!