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The Rivalry: Rousey vs Tate

A Deep Dive Into The Rivalry That Captured The Imagination Of Fight Fans Everywhere

While there have been some good rivalries in women’s MMA over the years, none captured the imagination of fight fans quite like the two-fight series between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. From Strikeforce to The Ultimate Fighter to the UFC, the names of these two bantamweight stars were consistently linked together, and yeah, they didn’t send each other Christmas cards, either. Ultimately, it was Rousey winning both of their bouts in Strikeforce and the UFC, but no one will forget Tate’s willingness to walk through fire in her attempt to secure a victory against “Rowdy” Ronda. Here’s a look back at Rousey-Tate.

ROUSEY PRE-TATE I (STRIKEFORCE)

Ronda Rousey was stumped. The loquacious lass who has taken the mixed martial arts world by storm not only with her penchant for collecting the arms of her opponents but also for some of the best quotes this side of Chael Sonnen, was at a loss for words when asked the difficulties her next foe, Strikeforce bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, would present in their March 3rd title fight.

“Difficulties...” she muses, waiting a few seconds before responding. “I don’t know. I just feel like I’m so prepared to fight someone that’s her style, I feel like stylewise she fits so well for me.”

Welcome to the World of Ronda. Untrained in the art of sports clichés, Rousey, a 2008 United States Olympic Bronze medalist in judo, has injected a jolt of energy and reality into the world of women’s mixed martial arts, and not just because she tells it like it is in her own unique way. But that is the part of the package that has gotten the most attention, with her Twitter battles with Tate, former Strikeforce featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Santos, and whoever wants to take aim at her garnering attention that the female side of the game hasn’t seen since Gina Carano had her gloves on. And for the record, Carano, long considered “the face” of women’s MMA, approves of “Rowdy” Ronda.

“I respect Ronda Rousey,” said Carano, who recently starred in the action film “Haywire.” “Here we have an Olympic athlete coming into our sport and that’s exactly the type of athlete we want to come to women’s MMA, and she’s stirring things up and she’s going for it, and I completely love that about her.”

Some have taken offense though, believing that four wins in four fights, all ending via armbar submission in 49 seconds or less, doesn’t warrant a world title shot, especially in a division (bantamweight) that Rousey has yet to fight in.

Ronda Rousey: Exclusive Interview With Megan Olivi
Ronda Rousey: Exclusive Interview With Megan Olivi
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“I’m not out to go and make 20,000-50,000 new friends,” said the 25-year old from Venice, California. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to further my career, and if that involves accumulating some critics, they don’t know me. They take a few fragments of information that they get about me and they make some sort of judgment about my character without even knowing me. And if someone that I’ll never meet is making a wrong judgment about me from very little information, that’s not really my problem at all, so I don’t really feel that bad about it.”

As for her move to 135 pounds after winning four pro and three amateur fights at featherweight, Rousey says that it’s a natural progression predicated by her intense training regimen and queries from fans and media about eventually fighting Tate, the newly crowned champion who was initially expected to fight Sarah Kaufman after taking the title from Marloes Coenen last July.

“Doing MMA training is so much different from judo training that my weight kept dropping and dropping and dropping, without me even trying,” said Rousey. “And when it got to the point when people started to approach me about a fight with Miesha, she acted like she was open to the idea on Twitter until I was actually like ‘yeah, I want to do it.’ Then she was like ‘oh no, I don’t want to do it.’ So I think it’s funny that originally on Twitter she was like ‘yeah, I’d be down to fight Ronda,’ and then as soon as I said you got your wish, honey, here I come, she didn’t want to do it anymore.”

Was that a surprise?

“No, it doesn’t surprise me at all. If I wasn’t me I wouldn’t want to fight me because I’m the best female fighter in the world.”

From most fighters with less than 10 pro bouts, you would raise an eyebrow at such boasts. With Rousey, you tend to nod your head and agree. She’s perhaps the most accomplished athlete to step into the female side of the sport, taking home Gold in the 2004 and 2005 Pan Ams and in the 2004 and 2006 Junior World Championships, earning a Silver in the 2007 World Championships, and making two United States Olympic teams, winning a Bronze in the 2008 Beijing Games. That 2008 Olympic medal was the first ever won by an American woman in judo. She also comes from good stock, as her mother, AnnMaria De Mars, was a World Champion judo player herself. She’s also lent her daughter a healthy dose of independence and confidence.

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“I come from a very outspoken family of very empowered women, and when I was training as a kid, I kinda got bumped around to a lot of these fighter houses where I was hanging out with all men in their mid-20’s ever since I was around 13 or so,” said Rousey. “So I always kinda had more of a brash sense of humor and rapport with my teammates, and that compounded with very empowered and educated women in my family, and it kind of turned into the way I present myself today, which I admit is not very normal, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”

It’s not, and for all the attention paid to her looks and her outspoken views on the world in and out of the sport, the bottom line is clear – she can fight, she can hurt you, and no one has found the solution to her puzzle thus far. Rousey doesn’t believe Tate will be the one to do it either.

“I think the style of fighter that I would have a problem with would be a very high quality striker with very good footwork and takedown defense,” said Rousey. “Whereas she (Tate) is a wrestler with decent submissions, but she doesn’t have better takedowns than me, she doesn’t have better submissions than me, I’m much more accustomed to fighting wresters than she is to fighting judo players, and most of her wins have been by decision or submission. There’s no way she’s going to submit me, and if she’s just hoping to last 25 minutes without getting submitted by me and win by decision, I think that’s just ridiculous. I never take a fight that I don’t think I can win, and I think this fight is extremely winnable for me, and I think she also knows that too, which is why she’s been resisting the whole idea from the very beginning.”

Pardon the use of the UFC catch phrase, but this is “as real as it gets.” And it may be in stark contrast to the way Rousey was before making it to the world stage as a judo player. In an interview before her Strikeforce debut last August, she told me that “I couldn’t even speak in full sentences until I was six years old. I was very shy, and all through high school I wore baggy clothes every day just to cover up my arms because I was just embarrassed. The self-confidence that people see in me now has developed over time. It didn’t come to me from the beginning. It came mostly from doing well in sports. I felt that if I was amazing in something, I’m actually a cool person and I should think more of myself. It’s something about medals – having a tangible thing to hold in your hand, it’s like ‘oh look, I’m awesome.’”

By then, the world was already catching on to what she brought to the judo world, and as soon as she made the move to MMA in 2010, everything just took off, with Rousey garnering Jon Jones-esque attention for a still growing sport. Her mother and sisters are undoubtedly proud of her, but the one who probably would have been beaming the most would be her father Ron, who tragically took his life when his daughter was just eight years old.

Afflicted with Bernard-Soulier syndrome, a rare blood disorder that kept him from healing properly, Ronda’s father saw a broken back worsen to the point where he was told he had just two years to live, and instead of having his family watch him die, he took matters into his own hands. But before he died, he gave her the tools she needed to succeed.

“I was raised with the mentality that if you’re going to do anything, you’re gonna do it to be the best at it,” she said last year. “Ever since I was a little kid, my dad told me that if you’re gonna swim, and you’re gonna be a swimmer, you’re gonna win the Olympics in swimming. And I switched from swimming to judo, and I was like I’m in judo, I’m gonna be a judo player and I’m gonna win the Olympics in judo. And when I switched to MMA, I completely have that same intent. So it’s not a big change for me; I’m just trying to continue the same trend that I’ve been trying to follow since I was a little kid.”

Ronda Rousey warms up before her fight with Julia Budd backstage at the Pearl at the Palms on November 18, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Todd Lussier/Forza LLC)
Ronda Rousey warms up before her fight with Julia Budd backstage at the Pearl at the Palms on November 18, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Todd Lussier/Forza LLC)

And it’s working. Not just with her growing fanbase and the media, but with her fellow fighters, most of whom don’t see her as being a good female fighter, but as an all-round badass in the cage, regardless of her gender. That may be the biggest compliment you can pay her.

“It’s extremely satisfying because that was my goal from the very beginning,” she said. “I wanted to gain the respect of people that I respected and I knew that I was capable. It’s funny, but you can see on some old interviews that I did where I said ‘I’m gonna make these people love me, I’m gonna make these people respect me, and all I have to do is win and win impressively.’ It’s not like they’re gonna put me in the middle of an arena and be like ‘okay, here’s a model airplane, put it together in 60 seconds.’ (Laughs) I have no idea how to do that. But my mom was making me drill judo and armbars and being a fighter and an athlete ever since I can remember. I can’t remember not being an athlete. It’s just doing what comes natural, and I feel like I’ve always been deserving of that respect, but I have to do things to earn it.”

The next step is her first world championship fight against Miesha Tate at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on March 3rd. If Rousey pulls off another finish in under a minute, it may be a long time before we see anyone capable of challenging her. So that begs the question, after making this all look so easy so far, does she see Godzilla out there, the one person who has the style and talent to test her and possibly beat her?

Again, she’s stumped, but only for a second.

“You can always trip on the edge of the ring and fall on your face,” she deadpans. “Anything can happen and anybody can push you the distance, and it could be the person you least expect. So I just assume that every single person is a danger to me and that every single person is trying to beat me and hurt me, and I’m going to be prepared for every single person, no matter who it is.”

She pauses.

“My mom has a lot of lines,” continues Rousey. “She also says ‘no one has the right to beat you, regardless of who they are.’”

Rousey laughs. Sounds like it may be time for Mama Rousey’s Book of Wisdom to hit the shelves, eh?

“It would be thicker than the Bible.”

TATE PRE-ROUSEY I (STRIKEFORCE)
Miesha Gets Mean
Miesha Tate works out for the media on July 27, 2011 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Forza LLC)
Miesha Tate works out for the media on July 27, 2011 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Forza LLC)

In the early stages of Hurricane Ronda’s verbal assault on Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, you almost felt for the Washington state native, simply because she had never run into someone like Ms. Rousey, the Olympic medal winning arm collector who blasted onto the scene with four wins in 49 seconds or less. And “Rowdy” Ronda opened up with both barrels, letting the world know just what she thought of “Takedown” Tate, who didn’t feel that she should defend her crown against an MMA rookie.

But once the fight was made for this Saturday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, something interesting happened. Miesha Tate got mean, and she began giving as good as she got to her challenger. And it wasn’t just selling a fight; it was a champion marking her territory and defending it.

“I see right through Ronda,” said Tate. “She’s a lot of talk and she’s got way more talk than she could ever possibly walk. It’s just not even possible, inside one year, that as much as she runs her mouth that she could ever live up the expectations that she’s creating around herself. She’s setting herself up for failure, and she’s digging herself a hole faster than she could if she had a backhoe. I respect Ronda, I’m not underestimating her, I’m sure she’s going to be a challenging opponent in ways, and she’s good at what she does, but I don’t feel that she’s a well-rounded fighter, and I think that’s going to be pretty easy for me to exploit.”

So far, through the aforementioned four pro fights and three amateur bouts, the 2008 US Olympic Bronze medalist in judo hasn’t needed to show off anything but her takedowns and armbars, and she’s passed every test with flying colors. Even her three amateur opponents couldn’t make it out of the first minute, and this Tyson with submissions understandably captured the imagination of the fight world. But when she armbarred Julia Budd in 39 seconds last November, she stunned many by calling out Tate, who ruled a division Rousey had never even competed in. But when it was confirmed that dropping from 145 to 135 pounds wouldn’t be an issue, Rousey got her title fight, and it didn’t sit well with the champion or the promotion’s veteran bantamweight contenders.

“Ronda hasn’t paid her dues whatsoever in MMA,” said Tate. “There’s no way that she’s more deserving of a title shot over Sarah Kaufman or Alexis Davis, and Ronda, in my opinion, is not a fighter. She hasn’t fought a single fight yet. She’s 7-0 (pro and amateur) because she goes out there and plays into her strong point of judo against people who don’t have any kind of a wrestling or judo background, and who don’t understand how to defend against her techniques. So she goes out there and she outjudo’s these girls. I think I’ve seen her throw maybe five punches in her entire career. She has yet to take a solid punch and she has yet to throw a solid punch; therefore, I don’t consider her a fighter, and my intention is to basically make this into a fight because I don’t think she’s prepared for that.”

Tate, on the other hand, has definitely put in her time in a sport still in the growing stages. A pro since 2007, Tate actually made her debut by fighting twice in one night in a HooknShoot tournament, beating Jan Finney before getting knocked out by Kaitlin Young. Nothing like getting your first pro win and first pro loss out of the way on the same night. From there, she made her Strikeforce debut in 2008, decisioning Elaina Maxwell, and she won four more bouts before losing to Kaufman in 2009.

Miesha Tate stands on stage at the Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson weigh-in at Sears Centre Arena on July 29, 2011 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Forza LLC/Forza LLC via Getty Images)
Miesha Tate stands on stage at the Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson weigh-in at Sears Centre Arena on July 29, 2011 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Forza LLC)

Undeterred, Tate soldiered on, putting together a five fight win streak that included another two fight / one night tournament, but this time she won both fights to earn a shot at Strikeforce 135-pound champion Marloes Coenen. It was in that bout last July that Tate showed that she had what it took technically to win a big fight, but more importantly, she displayed the heart of a champion as she submitted Coenen with an arm triangle choke in the fourth round. The victory was a stirring one, but you have to wonder, in the midst of Rondamania, has she been able to enjoy her title?

“Yeah, I’ve really settled into it,” she said. “It feels nice and I don’t intend on going anywhere.”

Tate is also gaining a groundswell of support from fans who haven’t exactly embraced Rousey’s ‘tell it like she sees it’ way of promotion.

“I’ve been getting a lot of people on Twitter saying, ‘well, I was really a big fan of Ronda at first, but the girl just doesn’t shut up, I’m sick of her mouth, and I want you to shut it on March 3rd. I’m on Team Tate now,’” said the champion. “And I’m just welcoming them. It’s kinda nice to see the shift. I thought she’d start to shoot herself in the foot, because with all the trash she’s been talking, and most of it is pure nonsense, there’s no way she could ever even live up to this legend she seems to be creating for herself. So I think people are starting to see that, and they’re getting tired of it.”

WATCH ROUSEY-TATE I ON UFC FIGHT PASS

No one’s more tired of it than Tate, who hasn’t just had to read Rousey’s quotes on the internet; she’s also had to spend time with her on numerous media events to promote the bout. That couldn’t have been too awkward, right?

“I don’t like it, but I’m a professional and I can maintain a manner of professionalism,” said Tate. “But the ideal that I can hope for in a situation where I have to be around someone that I can’t stand, and the best way that I feel I can represent myself is to just ignore them to the best of my ability. It’s kind of that old rule your mother tells you, ‘if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.’ I don’t say anything at all because I don’t have anything nice to say to that girl. I don’t like her, and I don’t like what she stands for. She stands for ‘hey, if you’re cute and you run your mouth, you can get a title shot,’ and I don’t agree with that. I think that it should be skill set first, and then whatever else outside the cage second. Call me old school or traditional or whatever, but I feel strongly about that and I’ve always done it that way. I’ve earned this belt, and I earned this shot.”

(L-R) Strikeforce Womens Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate and challenger Ronda Rousey pose for photos during the Strikeforce: Tate v Rousey Press Conference on March 1, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Esther Lin/Forza LLC/Zuffa LLC)
(L-R) Strikeforce Womens Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate and challenger Ronda Rousey pose for photos during the Strikeforce: Tate v Rousey Press Conference on March 1, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Esther Lin/Forza LLC/Zuffa LLC)

And now the only thing left is for Tate to introduce her challenger to the deep water she hasn’t experienced in MMA yet.

“There are certain things that you can’t make up for, one of which is experience,” said Tate. “You can’t recreate time in the cage, no matter how many times you spar in practice or how many times you drill. When you haven’t faced adversity in that kind of situation where the spotlight is on and someone’s taking it to you, and you’ve got to pull it together and find a way to win, you can’t replicate that, and you can’t do that any other way than by doing it. And she’s really lacking in that area experience wise, and I think she has a false sense of security because what she’s been doing has been working against the girls she’s been fighting. But stylistically, none of them have been like me, have had a background like I have, or near the pedigree.”

That’s a world champion talking, one who doesn’t plan on relinquishing that belt anytime soon, especially not to Ronda Rousey this weekend. And when you’ve earned your spot as the best bantamweight in the world, the desire to keep it is even more motivating than silencing a bitter rival.

“I’ve earned this position, but I have to keep working to make sure that I stay on the top because there are a lot of really badass women out there, and they’re all hungry and they’re all gunning for me,” said Tate. “So I’m the best for now, but in order to stay there, I have to make sure to not get too comfortable.”

TUF 18: Coach Miesha Tate Reports for Duty

It wasn’t the way Miesha Tate had envisioned things. A win over Cat Zingano in April was going to be her ticket, not just to a rematch with UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, but to a career-altering stint as a coach against “Rowdy Ronda” on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter (which premieres tonight on FOX Sports 1 following UFC Fight Night).

Zingano’s knees put an end to those plans in the third round, sending Tate, the former Strikeforce champion, back to the drawing board, with a Fight of the Night bonus not even soothing her feelings in the slightest.

“It was a weird series of emotions,” said the 27-year-old from Washington. “I was bummed out after I lost, but I had some really quality friends and family that had traveled down to Vegas to support me, win or lose, and they really helped pick my spirits up and I put what happened on the backburner and didn’t really process it. But after everybody went home, I actually got really depressed almost and anxious. It was the first moment that I was by myself that I started to freak out, and I realized exactly what happened and I lost it. I immediately started texting (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby, ‘you have to get me another fight right now; I need to know there’s another fight on the horizon or I’m gonna freak out.’”

Coach Ronda Rousey, UFC President Dana White and coach Miesha Tate analyze fighters during filming of season eighteen of The Ultimate Fighter on May 29, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)
Coach Ronda Rousey, UFC President Dana White and coach Miesha Tate analyze fighters during filming of season eighteen of The Ultimate Fighter on May 29, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)

Shelby found Tate a spot on July’s UFC on FOX card against Liz Carmouche, but then fate would alter things once more for the veteran fighter. Cat Zingano suffered a knee injury that needed surgery and wouldn’t be able to coach on TUF 18. Tate was the obvious choice to get that spot and she did.

So with everything working out in the end, Tate is all smiles these days, and rightfully so. She has her rematch with Rousey in December, she will be in the nation’s living rooms every Wednesday night, and she also gets to make history as the first female coach in TUF history. The bad part? Maybe six weeks of taping with Rousey and a lengthy media tour that put them in the same room with other constantly.

“It’s one of those things that kinda gets old after a while, but I’m happy about it because it loses its effect on me,” she said of the dealings with her rival on set and on the road. “The fans and media love the drama, but because I’ve had to be around her so consistently and so often, it just doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I used to get so emotional and so upset, and I couldn’t stand being around her and it just drove me crazy. But now it’s just like, whatever, Ronda’s being Ronda again. (Laughs) She’s flipping me off again, of course, what else is she gonna do?”

And while there is an obvious focus on the rivalry between the two bantamweights, TUF 18 will garner plenty of attention for the inclusion of female fighters in the tournament for the first time ever, many of whom are peers of Tate, a pioneer of the sport herself.

WATCH TUF 18 HIGHLIGHTS ON UFC FIGHT PASS

“I was excited for these girls because I felt like those veterans really, really deserved that opportunity, and I was happy to see them get it,” she said. “They were a big part of the reason why I’m where I am today, just by inspiring me as I watched their fights. And they weren’t getting exposure when they were fighting for pennies on the dollar, and they were doing it for the love of the sport, as was I. I thought they were great athletes and I was really inspired by them, and they helped me to get to where I am today by being who they are. So the fact that I was potentially coaching over them, it didn’t really cross my mind that way. I was just more excited that these girls were finally getting this opportunity.”

In December, Tate gets her own opportunity, to meet Rousey a second time, even the score, and become a UFC champion. And the only thing she has to do until then is survive more talk about someone she’s kind of tired of talking about.

“The toughest part is the constant mental grind,” she said. “I’m constantly reminded of the fight and our dislike for each other. We don’t like each other, so just imagine that there’s someone that you really, really don’t like, like a bully you had in middle school. Imagine having that thrown in your face every single day. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Ronda Rousey.”

ROUSEY PRE-UFC 168
To Be Ronda Rousey, You’ve Got to Beat Her

It’s been an interesting 2013 for Ronda Rousey. Everyone’s sweetheart as the year began thanks to her ushering in of female MMA to the UFC, the women’s bantamweight champion took some hits during her stint as a coach on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter thanks to her unwavering animosity toward the young lady she’ll meet on Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC 168, Miesha Tate.

In between her first UFC win over Liz Carmouche and her rematch with Tate, Rousey didn’t just coach TUF though. In fact, she disappeared out of the public eye as she worked on “The Expendables 3” and “Fast & Furious 7.” So when she returned to make the media rounds for UFC 168 over the last few weeks, there has been a genuine feeling that yeah, we all missed our dose of “Rowdy Ronda.”

“I’ve purposely withdrawn from the media to make them miss me a little bit,” she laughs. “A lot of people didn’t miss Ric Flair until he was gone (from the public eye), and I kind of feel like I’m in that kind of role sometimes.”

Ric Flair? Well, if you didn’t like Rousey before, you almost have to like her now because of her reference to the pro wrestling icon.

She laughs.

“Come on, ‘Rowdy’ is from Rowdy Roddy Piper, who’s like one of the greatest heels of all-time. I think that bad guys are always the most interesting. Everyone wanted more Joker after the Batman with Heath Ledger. They weren’t asking for more Batman.”

Rousey’s right, and if she has to play the lady with the black hat leading up to her rematch with Tate, that’s fine with her, even though she does point out that all the bad blood between the two didn’t necessarily have to happen.

“When she came on the show, I shook her hand when I saw her and I was respectful to her, but when she really started doing cheap and backhanded things to the kids on my team and was really insulting to my coaches and friends, it came to my mind that she’s just a bad person and I’m never gonna shake her hand again. Some people call that being a bad sport; I call that being consistent.”

And if you can say one thing about Rousey, she is consistent, in and out of the Octagon. In competition, she has ended all seven of her pro bouts via armbar in the first round. Outside of it, she continues to push the envelope in everything she does.

“I specifically make it like that,” she said. “I think it’s impossible to get just as motivated to reach the same goal twice. I’m a very goal-oriented person and I need high stakes and big goals to really focus and motivate myself. So I purposely make it more difficult for me every single time. I purposely paint myself into a corner and I just have a really solid constant group of people around me that have my back a hundred percent and support me through all this, and they believe that I’m capable of all of it. No one around me doubts me, and I don’t doubt myself. And with all of us, I think that there really isn’t a single goal that I could aspire to that we can’t achieve together.”

So defending a world title, making two films, and being one of the most sought after figures in the fight game is just the beginning. What’s next, President Rousey?

Coach Ronda Rousey leads her team in training drills during filming of season eighteen of The Ultimate Fighter on May 30, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)
Coach Ronda Rousey leads her team in training drills during filming of season eighteen of The Ultimate Fighter on May 30, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)

“I don’t know,” she laughs. “I have no idea. I’m improvising. I live like I fight. I kind of do it by feel.”

Yet despite her increasingly hectic schedule, Rousey hasn’t lost sight of her day job, and even though she hasn’t fought since February, that’s fine with her.

“I feel like everything really fell together in a perfect timeline,” she said of her year. “The first fight (with Carmouche) was extremely taxing, and I really feel like I shouldn’t have gone too rapid-fire. The Ultimate Fighter itself was extremely taxing as well, and the time required to wait for them to edit together the show and then for the show to air really allowed me to go take advantage of the movie opportunities that were coming my way. And by the time I was done with that, I was more than ready and super excited to start camp. I was really reinvigorated after the whole Ultimate Fighter thing and I was just ready to fight again. I think it’s the best situation to be really dying to fight again and wanting to get back in the cage instead of being in a position where you feel like you have to again.”

So how did she stay sharp over the last nine months?

“I kind of did an artificial camp while I was in The Ultimate Fighter,” she said. “I was doing a lot of sparring with the kids and I did a weight cut, and physically mimicked what my body would go through for an actual fight. And there was a lot of mental stress, so it kind of recreated that physically for me and so it wasn’t just a lot of time sitting around. Plus, with the whole movie thing, every single day I was in a pressure situation, where a lot of people were watching me and I had to perform and it really kept that ‘laser focus under a lot of pressure’ a daily habit for me, and that was helpful in its own way as well.”

And now it’s time for Tate, who Rousey submitted in March of 2012 to win the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight crown. Some would say Rousey fought the perfect fight the first time, so how does she top it? She disagrees.

Ronda Rousey punches Liz Carmouche in their women's bantamweight title fight during UFC 157 at Honda Center on February 23, 2013 in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC)
Ronda Rousey punches Liz Carmouche in their women's bantamweight title fight during UFC 157 at Honda Center on February 23, 2013 in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC)

“It wasn’t perfect,” said the champion. “There were things that weren’t perfect in the first fight. I think the (Sarah) Kaufman fight (in August of 2012) was a perfect fight. I aim for stuff like that. I aim for the kind of fights that even the biggest hater can’t criticize, and that’s what I’m really aiming for in this fight. I always try to have not a single wasted movement made. I had an amazing camp, I haven’t felt better and I haven’t felt sharper. I haven’t been in better shape in my whole life and I’ve been in two Olympics, so that’s really saying a lot. I’m prepared for the best version of Miesha Tate that could ever be imagined, and there’s no way that she could be prepared for me the way that I am now.”

So with another win over her rival, will we see a Ric Flair “WOOOO?”

“I was never a big celebrator after fights,” she laughs. “Even the last time with Miesha, I sat there, I didn’t even smile, I didn’t run around or anything until she got up and it was made sure that she was okay. And after I beat her this time, I’m gonna contain myself. I came from Olympic judo, and it’s just not something that you did.”

UFC 168
Ronda 2, Miesha 0

LAS VEGAS, December 28 – Ronda Rousey can go more than five minutes in a fight. After seven first round finishes in seven pro fights, she went into the third stanza Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, but the result was the same in the UFC 168 co-main event, as she defeated heated rival Miesha Tate via armbar submission to retain her UFC women’s bantamweight crown.

“I have no excuses,” said Tate, who lost her Strikeforce title to Rousey in 2012 and coached against her on The Ultimate Fighter 18. “She was the better fighter tonight.”

Rousey had to dig deep to get the win though, fighting off a spirited effort from Tate throughout.

WATCH ROUSEY-TATE II ON UFC FIGHT PASS

After a fierce exchange to open the bout, Rousey quickly closed distance and locked up with Tate. The challenger was able to elude the takedown, but she still ate some hard shots as the two locked against the fence. Moments later, the bout strayed to the mat, and Tate went for a triangle choke, only to be rebuffed by Rousey. A subsequent scramble saw Tate get her own takedown, but then Rousey went to work from the bottom as she tried to lock in her own triangle choke, all the while firing punches at her rival. Just before the two-minute mark, Tate escaped, and as the two stood, Tate landed several hard shots to the face until Rousey got close and tossed the challenger to the mat. Rousey looked for her trademark armbar, but Tate got loose and stood, only to get tossed to the canvas once again. After a brief stalemate, the two rose again, with Rousey locking Tate up against the fence until the bell – the first time Rousey had ever been a full round in her career.

Tate smiled at Rousey before the start of round two, aware that her opponent was entering foreign territory, and her confidence was evident as she landed upkicks on Rousey early on. Another thunderous toss put Rousey back in control, but Tate escaped once again. This time, Rousey put Tate back down immediately, and even with the crowd chanting “Miesha, Miesha,” Rousey was able to nullify Tate’s attacks while pinning her to the fence, slowing things down to a manageable pace before yet another throw. This time, Rousey made a concerted effort to take Tate’s arm, but the resilient challenger wouldn’t go away quietly, even when caught briefly with under 90 seconds left. Rousey wouldn’t give up positioning though, with ground strikes being her main line of attack until the bell.

Rousey emerged from her corner for round three with her mouth wide open, but she was still able to push Tate to the fence and hold her there until she was able to drag her to the mat. There, Rousey quickly sunk in her armbar, and it was all over, with Mario Yamasaki intervening at the 58 second mark. Tate immediately extended her hand to Rousey following the finish, but the champion turned away, making it clear that this rivalry had not ended, drawing boos from the packed house which drowned out Rousey’s post-fight interview.

But it didn’t matter. Once again, her fight game had the last word.

With the win, Rousey improves to 8-0; Tate falls to 13-5.