Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, April 12, 2013 | 2 a.m.
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- Introducing the 14 finalists on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Jones vs. Sonnen
- Ronda Rousey overwhelmed by response and experience at UFC 157
- Ronda Rousey submits Miesha Tate in familiar fashion to win Strikeforce belt
- Fighting section
Miesha Tate was there for the celebration. She just couldn’t celebrate herself.
As happy as the 26-year-old was to finally see women fight in the octagon for the first time two months ago at UFC 157, she secretly stewed at the endless adulation bestowed upon longtime rival Ronda Rousey.
An endless media parade, one UFC President Dana White called the biggest he’d ever experienced, credited Rousey for single-handedly breaking down the promotion’s gender barrier. But that was something Tate had dedicated years to accomplishing too.
“Ronda put in her work and she was just able to get there very quickly,” Tate said. “I can’t blame her for that. If I was in her shoes, I probably would have done the same thing. But it’s just irritating because I wish I could have done more.”
Tate (13-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) gets her moment Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center against Cat Zingano (7-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on the main card of “The Ultimate Fighter” 17 finale.
It’s the second women’s fight in UFC history, but has received nowhere near the attention of the pay-per-view premiere. The stakes for Tate vs. Zingano, though, make up for the relatively tepid interest level.
The winner will meet Rousey in the former Olympian’s second title defense and coach against her on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” For Tate, it’s a way to regain the championship she once held in Strikeforce while simultaneously avenging her last loss.
Rousey submitted Tate with a first-round arm bar when the two met a year ago, a result that ultimately determined who debuted in the UFC first.
“I don’t think necessarily that was the fight for me to win,” Tate said. “I think this is the fight for me to win. I think the fact that I lost to Ronda the first time leads to a bigger fight now and a bigger opportunity.”
But in terms of lasting significance, it’s doubtful any bout could surpass the first time the top two 135-pound female fighters in the world met. White stated Rousey’s victory over Tate was the fight that made him start to reconsider his comments that women would never fight in the UFC.
He raves about Tate’s performance in the fight, which included her persevering through multiple arm bars and catching Rousey clean with strikes, every bit as much as Rousey’s. White’s words prove that, even if she doesn’t garner the same level of praise as Rousey, Tate was just as instrumental in getting women’s mixed martial arts to its current place.
“I didn’t expect it to come so soon, but I did believe in women’s MMA and believed that someday it would be here in the UFC,” Tate said. “I thought it was probably a year from now, but things moved pretty quickly.”
Zingano remembers watching Tate and Rousey fight while she competed in regional promotions, but the undefeated 30-year-old didn’t follow the push to get females into the UFC.
“Now I’m definitely excited for women,” Zingano said. “I want to make history and help pave the path for women. I feel like we all got here together.”
Zingano was never expecting the UFC to offer her a contract four months ago. She described receiving the call with the news as overwhelming.
“It was staggering,” Zingano said. “At first, I felt, ‘Whoa, what an opportunity, this is super cool, so now what?’ I was just told to be ready by April and I was like, ‘OK, do I take a vacation? Do I start training now? Do I start to call all my friends and family?’”
Zingano could have also come up with a viable fourth option that included her phone. She could have called her future opponent and thanked her.
Tate was, after all, one of the main reasons Zingano and every other female wound up in the UFC.