Miesha Tate Out to Prove She's More Than Just a Pretty Fighter

Miesha Tate (5-1) went from training for a fight against a well-known, less experienced opponent in Kim Couture (1-1), to a lesser-known, more experienced opponent in Sarah Kaufman (8-0). It was a bitter pill to swallow for the up-and-coming female MMA star, but one that she ultimately realized could benefit her career even more in the long run.

A win over Couture would have been a nice addition to Tate's resume, but it also would have done little to prove that she is a top-level fighter. Defeating the undefeated Kaufman in the co-main event of tonight's inaugural Strikeforce Challengers event on Showtime, would go a long way in terms of establishing Tate as one of the best 135-pound female fighters in the world.

FanHouse spoke to Tate about gearing up for a new opponent on short notice and trying to be recognized for more than just her looks. The full interview is after the jump.

Ariel Helwani: After Kim Couture pulled out of the fight, Sarah Kaufman publicly campaigned to fight you. How did that make you feel?
Miesha Tate: I kind of felt underestimated. You know, she was right there to pick up the fight like she was so sure it was a good idea for her, but hopefully I can prove her wrong.

Do you feel as though she viewed you as an easy way to win her first fight for Strikeforce?
Yeah. I think that she is trying to benefit off of the hype of the (Couture) fight, and she thinks that she can just come in and steal the spotlight. But I'm going to do everything in my power to prevent that from happening.

Considering the fact that Kaufman has a lot more experience under her belt than Couture, did you have any reservations about accepting the fight on short notice?
Well, first I was kind of surprised that they decided to replace Kim Couture with someone with as much experience as Sarah, especially because I hadn't done anything; Kim was the one who backed out. I felt like I was getting the short end of the stick here. But then I started thinking about it more and I was like, 'This is a great situation for me because now I have the opportunity to beat someone like Sarah Kaufman whose got an undefeated record, and I think she's beatable for me.'

Have you had a chance to watch some of her old fights?
Yeah. I have watched a few of her videos, and I definitely think that everybody has holes in their game, and I'm just trying to capitalize on that. You know, find her weaknesses and my strengths, and put that all into play so it works out to be in my favor.

What would you say is her biggest weakness as a fighter?
The thing is that she's a pretty well rounded fighter. I haven't had a chance to see what she's like off her back. So, I am guessing that would probably be the weakest link in her game, probably her jiu-jitsu.

Did you ever think that you would be fighting on Showtime this early in your career?
No, I didn't, but I was hoping I would. I feel very fortunate to be in the situation that I'm in, you know, being a part of Strikeforce who is supporting women's MMA. This is kind of the first real exposure that the 135-pound division is going to get with two females who take the sport 100% serious. We're both going to make weight, and I think we both have a lot of experience, and we've been training for a while. It's going to be awesome to see how that all comes together, and how that's going to make women's MMA look really good.

While we're on the subject of making weight, how disappointing has it been for you to see fighters like Gina Carano and Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos fail to make weight in the past?
It's very disappointing. It's really disheartening because I know myself and a lot of other women in the sport have worked so hard to get the same respect and equality that the men are receiving in the sport. It's kind of a slap in the face, I guess, when they don't make weight, and especially someone like Gina, just because she is known as the face of MMA, and she has a huge opportunity to represent women's MMA in a positive way. She should take that really seriously because she gets so much attention, not only because she is beautiful, but because she is an amazing fighter, and she is a role model for a lot of up-and-coming women in this sport. She's also a role model for people who don't know much about women's MMA; she's usually the first name that is mentioned. It's very important that she sets a good example.

Do you think that she doesn't take the sport seriously enough?
I do think that she does. She seems very regretful that she hasn't made weight, and she does realize that it's very important, and that it's not optional. She seems to be on the ball with that now, so I'm only hoping that she continues with that mentality and begins to take that seriously.

What were you thinking when you heard "Cyborg" blame not making weight on 'women problems' in front of a live audience on Showtime in April?
Oh, that's just stupid, in my opinion. There's no excuse. We're professional athletes, and we're women, so that's nothing new to us. You just have to plan around it, and there's no way that it would have caused a seven-pound overage anyway. I have never missed weight in the four years of wrestling and the three years of MMA that I've been competing, and I'm sure that plenty of other women have had to deal with those issues. It's just not an excuse.

In the past year, you have received a lot of extra attention online due to your looks. Does that bug you?
Yeah. I want people to take me seriously. You know, obviously I am a woman, and I enjoy being feminine outside of the sport. I'm a typical girl, I just enjoy very much being competitive, and I wish people would analyze my technique more. I wish that was the first thing that drew their attention. But the fact of the matter is that this is a men's sport, and it's the way society is. You know, the human race is a very visual species. So, it doesn't surprise me, but I do wish that I got more attention for what I do, rather than how I look.

Have you been on the forums and seen some of the threads about you?
Yeah (laughs).

What do you think of some of the things people are saying about you, and more specifically your looks, online?
Some of it's alright, and then other things are kind of gross. I don't like it. I don't like to go on there and see how the guys are talking. They don't hold anything back. But there's a lot of people I try to focus on, you know, the one's who are like, 'She is pretty, but did you see how she did this really well? Or did that?' That's where I find my motivation from – the people who just look beyond the physical part of it.

That said if you were offered an opportunity to pose in Maxim Magazine like Gina Carano, would you turn it down?
No, I wouldn't turn it down, per se, but it depends on what they ask me to do. I have limitations. I'm comfortable with my sexuality, and I'm comfortable being a woman and everything like that, but at the same time, I don't want to come across as slutty or skanky; I want to be tasteful. So, if Maxim asked me to do something, I may do it, but there are definitely limitations. I wouldn't be in any kind of lingerie, or do anything nude, but maybe do something that just shows the more beautiful side of me.

Why do you think women's MMA is so much more popular than women's boxing?
You know, I have been trying to figure that out for a while. I'm not sure why it's so much more popular than women's boxing. I guess the only thing I can say is that women's boxing, and boxing in general, is just a headhunting sport. You get a lot of concussions and a lot of broken noses, bloody faces and bruising. A lot of it, except for body shots, has to do with striking to the face or to the head. So, I don't think men or women like to see other women getting punched in the face as much. Whereas MMA offers so many other aspects that maybe it's a little more fun to watch the women wrestle, takedown and go for submissions. There's a lot more to appreciate, and it's not as hard for people to stomach as maybe boxing would be where you just see women repeatedly get hit in the face.

How disappointed were you when you heard that Couture was pulling out of the fight?
I was so disappointed. I don't think I have ever been that disappointed in my whole entire life. You know, this is my career, and I'm trying to make something of myself in this, and I was really excited that that fight was going to place. Then when it didn't, it was a huge blow to me and very upsetting. Then Sarah Kaufman stepped in, and I wasn't sure what to make of it. But then I started to look at it like a great opportunity. This is what I'm here to do, and I do want to fight the best because I want to be the best. Although that came a little faster than I expected, I think that it's all a blessing in disguise.

What prompted you to vent on your MySpace page after hearing that Couture was not going to fight?
Well, I wrote that within 10 minutes of finding out, and I kind of forgot how much my MySpace had grown. Usually, I'm just used to it being close friends, and I wasn't really thinking about it. I went there and I wrote something that I shouldn't have about her personal life, which is something that I'm very sorry about it because it wasn't my place to say whether it is or isn't true. I didn't mean to do that, because I wasn't even focused on the fact that they may be having marital problems. I was so consumed with the fact that she's pulling out of the fight, I didn't even think of that other aspect of it. So, I have said my sorries about that, and hopefully they forgive me for that.

Have you personally reached out to Kim since this all went down?
No, actually I've never spoken to Kim. All I did was put a public apology on my MySpace and on any forums, so hopefully it got back to her. It definitely was not meant to be anything negative towards her. Like I said, I was just very upset about the fight not happening. I wasn't even sure that I was going to get to fight at that point, so I was really just so bummed.

Do you think that we will ever see her compete in MMA again?
Yes, I do. I think that she really does care for the sport. Obviously, we saw her break her jaw in her first fight, and she kept fighting (against Kim Rose in June 2008). So, she's a trooper. And she took a fight after that, as well (against Lina Kvokov in November 2008). So, that just goes to show that obviously she likes the sport, and nothing is going to deter her from competing.

After this fight, who would you like to compete against in the 135-pound weight class?
There's more than one (person). I would like to rematch Kaitlin (Young), obviously, because she's my only professional loss, and I would really like to fight Tara LaRosa.

Do you think you are ready for LaRosa at this point in your career?
Well, I would like to find out. I kind of want to fight Tara while she's still at the top of her game, because it's a relatively short-lived career; everybody knows that. Tara has been around the game for a really long time, and I'm not sure what her plans are, or when she is going to start to fall off. I don't want that to happen, and I want to fight her. You know, my skill level is up there now, and I would just like the opportunity to fight her.

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