When Ronda Rousey saw her meeting with Miesha Tate in The Ultimate Fighter house on screen for the first time, it confirmed what the UFC women's bantamweight champion had already believed about her appearance as a coach on the 18th season.
It didn't take long in the TUF 18 premiere episode, which aired Wednesday night on Fox Sports 1, for producers to cut to the now-infamous scene in which Rousey, expecting to meet up with Cat Zingano, sees nemesis Tate walk in instead. This set off a drama in which Rousey thought she was being replaced as a coach by Tate, rather than Tate filling in for the injured Zingano.
After watching a sneak preview of the episode in a private screening at a downtown Boston movie theater during the week of UFC Fight Night 26, which was both Rousey and Tate's first look at the finished product, Rousey felt her worst suspicions were confirmed.
"It kind of set the tone for the whole series, where they were purposefully going out of their way to manipulate me just as dramatically as possible," Rousey said of the Tate meetup. "One of the reasons I walked away from the whole experience with a sour taste in my mouth was they didn't really care about making it easy on us, they cared about making it difficult on us. So it was nice to know right off the bat what their priorities where and it wasn't us."
Tate, for her part, let on that it had been suggested beforehand that she should let UFC president Dana White tell Rousey why Tate was in the house, rather than try to explain it herself.
"It was something that was discussed before," Tate said. "I think it made for a better leadup, kind of the curiosity and I just, you know, I agreed that was kind of what I wanted to do. I walked in there and I just kind of wanted to see the full reaction."
Tate also came out of the her first look at the season premiere with a more positive disposition than Rousey displayed.
"I thought it was awesome, the whole episode," Tate said. "I couldn't look away. I thought it was great. I thought they did a good job highlighting, they made the highlights."
Later, Rousey softened her take on the episode somewhat noting that, if nothing else, she enjoyed seeing the fighters who ended up on her team competing on the screen after spending six weeks with them.
"I missed my babies," Rousey said. "That's the only thing I thought as I saw them on the screen. I miss them. That was the best part of the whole thing was being able to develop a whole relationship with them. I miss them a lot."
After the Rousey-Tate episode, the episode progressed to the fight-in bouts, as both men's and women's bantamweights competed. After the fights played out, with a few surprises along the way -- the biggest among them being pioneering fighter Tara LaRosa not getting into the house -- it was time to pick the teams, and that's where things got interesting.
Tate drew the first pick. While veteran competitor Shayna Baszler seems all but a tourney ringer, Tate instead went with Julianna Pena, an up-and-coming fighter and a training partner for her home state of Washington.
"You know, I thought Juliana is kind of like a rosebud waiting to bloom," Tate said. "I trained with her and I know she didn't have a big name prior to this, but she's one of the toughest girls that I've ever trained with, one of the toughest girls I've ever seen fight, and she's pretty amazing, so I put my faith in that and she was really gonna rise to the occasion. I grew up in this sport idolizing Shayna, she's definitely one of my idols and I still think she's one of the best fighters in the world. But my decision, like I said they're both great girls, but I just had to go with my gut instinct."
Rousey countered by selecting Baszler with her first pick. After the picks were done -- for the record, Michael Wootten of Liverpool, England was the Mr. Irrelevant of this draft -- Rousey, with the ability to make the first matchup, chose a battle of top picks between Pena and Baszler.
The champ's purposes were twofold in selecting the fight. For one, an off-camera incident which Rousey perceived as a slight caused her to want to send Pena a message.
"I just remember that when, they didn't show this, but Juliana was asking us to be removed from our corner [for her fight] and put into Miesha's," Rousey said. "So even though I thought she was an amazing fighter, I put her last because I doubted her loyalties. So even though she came to me later and was asking to be on my team, she'd kind of flip flop back and forth, so I was like, OK. These things sometimes, these factors are more important than actual skills sets."
And of course, the battle of top seeds, which airs next week, is an attempt to set the tone for the competition.
"I still think Shayna is amazing, and I have faith in her," Rousey said. "But, I thought, hey, if you want to be best in the world, you have to be the best in the world on any given day, and I thought that because she had the most experience she would be the most ready to fight again at any time."