On the last episode of The Ultimate Fighter, my friend and No. 1 pick Julianna Pena defeated my rival coach Ronda Rousey’s No. 1 pick – and probably a lot of people’s pick to win the female tournament – in Shayna Baszler.
As I said last week, I’d have loved to have Shayna on my team as well as Julie. But Ronda picked Shayna and then – without knowing the first thing about Julie – matched them to have the first fight.
I didn’t get to see all the talk she was doing in the build-up to the fight. I watched that on TV with everyone else last Wednesday. I couldn’t believe the stuff coming out of Ronda’s mouth, and the way Shayna was expecting to show up and walk all over any competitor.
Shayna is a great fighter, with lots of experience, and was expected to win by almost everyone there. I think the only people who expected Julie to win were me, my boyfriend Bryan Caraway and our coaching staff. But I had very good reason to believe in Julie – because of the fact we’d sparred together so often.
Julie has “flashed” me a couple of times in sparring. She hits so, so hard. But what made me believe in her most of all isn’t the times she’s kicked my ass in the gym, but the first time I kicked her ass. When she came to work out with me in Washington the first time, she had a “Queen Bee” attitude because in her gym back home she was the best and was used to getting her own way in sparring. She arrived and had no fear of any of the boys, much less any of the girls, and she came at me in sparring.
I dropped her with a big left hook, but to my shock she popped right back up and continued to bring it at me. She was just swinging at me even though I hit her with some huge shots, but she swung back. I loved her mentality – she didn’t back down an inch and didn’t cry foul when I landed big shots on her.
Julianne was so frickin’ awesome, I hit her really hard and she didn’t wilt one bit. She didn’t take offense that she was the less experienced fighter, she had real fighting spirit. We’ve sparred like that ever since. Neither of us gets upset when he take our lumps because that’s how you get better.
So I knew that Julie had a real fighting spirit and that she doesn’t look for a way out or an excuse when she’s in a bad situation, she will keep fighting. That, along with her power and natural talent, I believed would be the edge in the fight.
What I didn’t know was that while I was preparing Julianna to fight the fight of her life, Ronda was filling Shayna’s head with weakness. When you go into a fight expecting it to be easy – and then you find it isn’t easy – you aren’t prepared mentally.
Julie hit Shayna really hard right away. That’s what I told her she had to do. A lot of people who fight Shayna do the pitty-patty feeling-out stuff because they respect what Shayna has done in her career so much. Bryan and I knew that Julianna needed to start fast and not allow Shayna to use her experience to slow things down and start looking to capitalize on any mistakes.
Julie had to go out there and be first, to hit her hard and shock Shayna out of any idea that Julie didn’t belong in there with her.
As you saw it was a great fight, and Julie not only won but subbed Shayna in the second round. Julie had to overcome some bad moments, but she was fully prepared to have things not go her way for a time, to get hurt, to be put in bad positions, and to fight through those situations. My fighter was prepared to fight, Ronda’s wasn’t.
Shayna, from what I saw, showed up to walk through someone she had no respect for. For Ronda to encourage her fighter to go in there expecting an easy time is basically instilling mental weakness in her.
I was so happy for Julie. She deserved the win and it was even sweeter that everyone – even her own teammates – underestimated her. I lifted her up in the Octagon and it was a great feeling, to have my friend win like that.
This was cut from the show but after I put Julianna down and she started celebrating with the other coaches, I went right over to Shayna to commiserate her. I told her that I was so sorry it had to be like this, that I had wanted her on my team badly, that I was a fan of hers and that I know she will be in the UFC regardless one day.
But, apparently, I’m not supposed to celebrate my team’s victories…
After the fight, both teams were walking back to the dressing rooms and Ronda walked past me and threatened me, saying something like: “For laughing at Shayna’s pain, I’m going to hurt you.”
Well, guess what, I’m in the hurt business and I’m not afraid of you. I’ve taken your best and I’m coming back for more. But the threat didn’t bother me, what bothered me is she had the balls to accuse me of laughing at Shayna losing, like somehow Ronda and Shayna were best friends and I had no prior relationship with her.
The truth is I have known Shayna – and I mean known personally, not just admired her as a fighter and an athlete – for longer than Ronda has been in mixed martial arts. I’ve probably known her for longer than Ronda has known what MMA actually is. So for Ronda to dare to tell me that I was “laughing” at “her” fighter’s “pain” was really pathetic and I think shows everyone the kind of person she really is. This is sport, it is competition and for there to be a winner, there has to be a loser. Real athletes and competitors celebrate their victories – not their opponent’s defeats – and laughing at someone missing out on what has been their lifelong dream is something that would never even occur to me.
But, obviously, it does occur to Ronda that someone having their heart broken is something to be laughed at. But that's typical of Ronda. She cannot stand not having her own way. She made massive tactical mistakes in picking the fight, and then massive coaching mistakes and you saw the result.
It was a stupid fight to make, and even more stupid after the result not to see it was a mistake. Put it this way: Joe Silva isn’t losing sleep thinking he’s going to one day lose his UFC matchmaking job to Ronda Rousey because – as we saw – Ronda sucks at matchmaking.
Hit me up on twitter at @MieshaTate.
The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs Team Tate continues Wednesday’s 7/10pm on Fox Sports 1.