Why Miesha Tate isn't ready to think about a trilogy fight with Ronda Rousey

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Miesha Tate looks on before her fight against Sara McMann. (Getty)
Miesha Tate looks on before her fight against Sara McMann. (Getty)

Miesha Tate has options. The former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion can do just fine if she never finds herself locked alone in a cage with Ronda Rousey ever again.

Tate is 0-for-2 against Rousey, who submitted her in the first round in a Strikeforce bout in 2012 and then repeated it at UFC 168 in 2013.

Since then, the Rousey legend has grown enormously. She’s become the biggest star in the UFC and has won her last three fights, against Cat Zingano, Alexis Davis and Sara McMann, in a combined time of 96 seconds.

In addition, she’s appeared in several movies, has written her autobiography, graced the cover of Maxim and been part of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Tate is firmly in her rearview mirror.

Except, that, well, perhaps she’s not.

Tate has won three in a row herself since the last time she encountered Rousey, defeating McMann, Rin Nakai and Liz Carmouche. She’ll go for a fourth successive win on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago in the co-main event of a UFC card to be televised on Fox when she meets No. 5 Jessica Eye.

The winner of the Tate-Eye fight will meet the winner of the Aug. 1 bout at UFC 190 between Rousey and No. 7 Bethe Correia.

Given that Rousey is an enormous favorite to defeat Correia, there’s a great likelihood that we’ll see Rousey-Tate III before the year is out.

Tate tries to shrug off the rivalry with Rousey.

“I want to beat her, of course,” Tate said. “But I want to win all my fights.”

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to convince a truly elite athlete that there is someone who is simply better.

And despite the first two results, Tate hasn’t accepted the conventional wisdom that Rousey has lapped the rest of the field.

Her first bout under the direction of coach Robert Follis was her match with Rousey at UFC 168. She took Rousey to the 4:27 mark of the third round before being submitted.

Since then, Tate has become more comfortable with Follis, and Follis with her. Time has forged a better fighter-coach relationship and the result, Tate said, is a more well-rounded, dangerous fighter.

In two fights, she’s spent 17 minutes, 22 seconds in the cage with Rousey and is the only Rousey opponent to survive the first round. Rousey’s nine other opponents have lasted a combined 15 minutes, one second with her.

Miesha Tate, left, unloads with a Superman punch on Liz Carmouche  (AP)
Miesha Tate, left, unloads with a Superman punch on Liz Carmouche  (AP)

Tate is loathe to talk too much about Rousey, not only because she still dislikes her very much, but also because she doesn’t want to look past Eye.

Eye is one of the better strikers in the women’s bantamweight division, and that alone makes her dangerous.

Tate conceded that Eye has terrific striking technique, but said she believes her power is going to play a big role in deciding the fight.

“She’s dangerous, and she’s good in a lot of different areas and I think she’s pretty well-rounded,” Tate said of Eye. “I really think her biggest strength is on her feet. She has some of the best boxing in the women’s [bantamweight] division. She has good footwork, she has great head movement and she has accurate punches.

“Those are essential things to be a good striker. So would I say Jessica is a good striker, yeah, I would. But I feel I’m the better, more well-rounded mixed martial artist. I also feel I’m the more powerful athlete. Sometimes, when Jessica punches, they don’t all matter. But when I hit you, I feel like, ‘It might be one, but it’s going to count.’ ”

So Tate plans to pressure Eye and not let her get comfortable from a distance and find an easy rhythm. Tate said she felt Sarah Kaufmann, another ex-Strikeforce champ, allowed Eye to do that at UFC 166 when they met.

“I’m not going to play that game,” Tate said. “I’m going to bring a lot of pressure, a lot of heat and make the fight ugly. She’s going to want to fight a technical fight, but that’s going to be hard to do when the opponent won’t play the game.”

The win, if she gets it, will earn her another shot at the UFC title, most likely against Rousey.

Now, it’s not as if Tate needs to win the title to become a star. She’s already one of its most popular fighters, and she has a bright future as a broadcaster.

She’s so good on the Fox broadcasts that it makes one wonder what took the network so long to hire her and get her on the air. She has terrific insights and not only is well-spoken, but has the ability to explain complex things in a simple, easy-to-understand manner.

Tate turns 29 next month and doesn’t plan to be fighting when she’s nearing 40.

Miesha Tate (L) is declared the winner over Sara McMann in their UFC 183 fight. (Getty)
Miesha Tate (L) is declared the winner over Sara McMann in their UFC 183 fight. (Getty)

She’s already had a successful career and, despite the lack of a win over Rousey, already has a championship belt in her trophy case.

It’s not like she needs a win over Rousey to validate her.

But she wants that win because that’s the kind of competitor she is.

“After that last fight between Ronda and I, I knew I had to get out there and keep knocking off everyone they put in front of me,” Tate said. “I believe I can [defeat Rousey], but I knew after having lost to her [at UFC 168], I needed to put some wins together.

“I’ve won three in a row and now, with this fight, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The reward for all the work I’ve put in is right there for me. If I go out and beat Jessica, I’ve gotten myself back to where I’ve earned that title shot.”

None of that comes without a win over Eye, though, and so Tate has been single-minded the last few months in pushing herself toward the goal of besting Eye.

Everywhere she goes, everyone wants to talk to her about Rousey, though all she would prefer to talk about is her fight with Eye.

“It’s a cliché, but in sports, you can’t look down the road,” Tate said. “Jessica Eye has my completed, undivided attention, because my most important fight is July 25 in Chicago. The fight after that would be the reward for the effort I’ve put in.”

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