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Miesha Tate Hopes to Showcase Women's MMA to Dana White

After nearly a one-year layoff between fights due to a knee injury, Miesha Tate has enough to concern herself with simply waiting across the cage from her when she returns. But while Tate's primary focus is defeating Marloes Coenen and capturing the Strikeforce women's welterweight championship at the upcoming Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson card, she also has an ulterior motive.

Tate, a 24-year-old who is among the best-known female fighters in the world, wants to ensure that she has a big stage on which to ply her trade in the future. While Zuffa co-owner Dana White has voiced doubts about the long-term viability of women's MMA in the past, Tate hopes that her upcoming bout with Coenen can convince him otherwise.

"I feel it's exciting because now, I'm going to have that opportunity to say, 'Hey Dana, this is what women's MMA is all about. This is what you've been missing out in the UFC,'" she said. "I just hope Marloes and myself go out there and put on a very impressive performance."

Tate and Coenen will have every chance to do so, as their fight is billed as the co-main event of the July 30 show, which emanates from the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois and will be televised on Showtime.

Prior to Zuffa's purchase of Strikeforce, Tate (11-2) once called White's view of women's MMA "ignorant," but she explained during a Thursday conference call that she meant that in the literal sense of being unaware of it, rather than as an insult.

"I just feel he's not informed, therefore he doesn't know enough about women's MMA to make a judgment call about it at this point," she said. "I feel with the purchase of Strikeforce, he's going to be paying closer attention to it. With that in the back of my mind, it's not really added pressure. I always hate that [term]. It has negative connotation to it. To me, it's extra motivation."

Inside the cage, the matchup is an interesting one. Coenen (19-4) has a reputation as a submission artist, with 14 of her wins coming via tapout, but she also has a very good striking pedigree working out of the vaunted Golden Glory team. The one place she's shown to have some trouble is wrestling. In her last match against Liz Carmouche, for instance, Coenen was taken down three times. Carmouche, however, doesn't have the wrestling pedigree of Tate. The discipline just happens to be Tate's speciality.

Tate wrestled for a time on her high school's boys wrestling team, won the girls' Washington state championship, and captured the 2008 USA grappling world team trials in the 158.5-pound weight class.

Functional MMA wrestling, though, is based on timing, and with Tate's long layoff due to injury, there are questions about how she will respond. But after a training camp that included time with the excellent wrestlers at Team Alpha Male (including UFC stars Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes) in Sacramento, California, Tate is convinced she's ready to rock.

"I think ring rust is more of a mentality than anything," she said. "If you let it get to you, if you think 'Oh my gosh, it's been a year since I competed,' and put that pressure on yourself, it'll get to you. To me, I'm excited. I'm really looking forward to it. It hasn't been a year since I fought. I do that on a daily basis with men in the gym. So for me it's just getting back in there. It's exciting for me. I'll be happy and joyful to do it."

One advantage Coenen is likely to hold over Tate is size. The former is 5-foot-9, the latter is 5-foot-6. Coenen also has more weight to cut. Tate suggests that's not a bad thing, saying, "speed kind of kills," and that Coenen's cut could work against her.

Mostly, though, she says it's unlikely to matter. It's just one of several factors outside of her control now, just like how much or how little attention White and the Zuffa brass will pay to the fight and the women's division in the future.

Neither Tate nor Coenen knows exactly what this championship means in the grand scheme of Zuffa things, but they know that at least for a few minutes, the spotlight will be on them. At least for a few minutes, the only match that matters will be one with two women. The world could well be watching, but the eyes of an influential few will be far more important.

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