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Miesha Tate: Ronda Rousey Has 'Too Big of a Head' to Succeed

Judo may be Ronda Rousey's strong suit, but according to Miesha Tate, taking the challenges of the game seriously is not.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If Miesha Tate could pinpoint one weakness in Ronda Rousey's game, it wouldn't be her takedowns. It probably wouldn't even be her striking. In fact, it wouldn't be a physical element at all.

In Tate's mind, Rousey's weakness is her hubris. Sure, her athletic resume is impressive and she'll naturally be a tough opponent tomorrow night. But according to Tate, Rousey hasn't earned her spot the traditional way, which is to say, the right way. She hasn't paid her dues in the sport and even worse, isn't grateful for her spot. If anything, she carries a sense of entitlement. According to Tate, Rousey knows her opponents may be skilled athletes, but they don't have her athleticism or her skills and that's enough to look past them.

In this interview with MMA Fighting, Tate pinpoints what she views as Rousey's biggest downfall: she's got "too big of a head" to take her opponents and the challenge of fighting in women's MMA seriously.

Full audio and partial transcription below:

Luke Thomas: Alright, joining me right now to talk about her upcoming title fight, which of course is gonna be March 3rd at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. It's gonna be Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey, the champion at 135 for Strikeforce, Miesha Tate. Miesha, how are you?

Miesha Tate: I'm doing excellent, how about yourself?

Luke Thomas: It was kind of interesting because your challenger, as talented as she is, kind of talked her way into challenging you. Let me ask you up front, it happens in boxing all the time, it happens in men's MMA all the time, in your judgment, what is wrong with talking your way into a fight provided you've got some credentials?

Miesha Tate: Well, I think it takes away a little bit from the credibility of the sport itself in that, especially because I feel bad for Sarah Kaufman because she was promised this title fight. They even brought her into my last fight with Marloes and had her televised, interviewed, saying she was going to be taking on the winner of the two of us and she'd had two solid wins since her only defeat against the former champion who I defeated. She's 14-1 and I know she's paid her dues and I felt like she was next in line and I've said that time and time again.

However, it just goes to show if you push your marketability aspect and you run your mouth a little bit, that you can be next in line for a title shot in a weight class you've never even competed in so I don't know if that explains how I feel about the situation a bit, but I do understand that there is an entertainment aspect and given that, I completely understand Strikeforce's reasoning for wanting to make this fight happen now because it garners the most momentum for women's MMA and the future of it. I think it'll make my fight with the winner of Sarah Kaufman vs. Alexis Davis that much bigger after this fight's happening because this fight's gonna draw a lot of attention to a lot of people that maybe haven't noticed MMA or particularly women's MMA before.

This is really being talked about a lot. It's being covered a lot. It's really highly anticipated and I think it's going to make for a really exciting, very entertaining fight and I think Strikeforce has the best intentions in mind when it comes to promoting the future of women's MMA and so that's why they put this fight together when they did.

Luke Thomas: I had just recently spoken to Scott Coker and he was actually pretty positive about the fight for a number of reasons, not least of which was that this was the first women's fight since Carano vs. Cyborg that headlined a major Strikeforce card. They've certainly headlined some Challenger cards but not a major card like this. That's a win for everybody, isn't it? I know Rousey may not have got in the way you would have liked but it seems to me that everyone kind of wins here including you.

Miesha Tate: Exactly, and even though for that, I'm very grateful and as much as I have a dislike for Ronda, I do appreciate the attention that she's drawn in really stirring the pot, creating controversy and I'm by no means her biggest fan but looking at this situation objectively, I think she's doing overall good things for women's MMA and I don't think that she's really earned her keep at all in our weight division but she's next in line and I still do think that she will be a tough opponent, a tough match-up because she's a highly skilled judo player and a talented athlete and I think her one pitfall though is she's coming in with too big of a head. I think that she thinks she's gonna steamroll through me and it's not gonna be that big of a challenge and I can't emphasize just how wrong she is.

Luke Thomas: Let's talk about Rousey a little bit. There's obviously judo tape on her and what tape exists in MMA. She's kind of a little bit different: look at her fights, it's not like she just goes for the armbar, it's that she goes for that Russian, sort of two on one and sort of jumps into the armbar or she goes for the two on one rush-in and then she goes for the trip. You don't see a lot of men or women doing that.

Miesha Tate: Well, I think there's ways that with the wrestling experience that I do have that can nullify a lot of her judo. I don't want to go specifically into the game plan, but I have come up with a great game plan with my boyfriend Bryan Caraway who's been wrestling for a very long time and I'd also like to point out the difference between a lot of wrestling and judo is the gi so when you take the gi away, a lot her throws and everything else are a lot of the throws that you see in wrestling. It's not just judo. Wrestlers do hip tosses, wrestlers do lateral drops, wrestlers do foot sweeps, wrestlers do trips and a lot of people have the misconception that that's only judo. Judo gets all the credibility for any kind of throws but let me tell you what, freestyle is all about throws, Greco Roman is all about throws and I've been involved in wrestling since I was 15. I have world class submission wrestling skills.

I took a silver medal in the FILA 2008 world grappling championships against 49 other countries or something like that and I also was about 142 pounds at the time and I competed in the 158 pound division against other women and despite being the smaller opponent, I was still able to take a silver medal and so I feel like that all is being overlooked because everyone sees the Olympic bronze medalist. The world is similar in that we don't have the Olympic for jiu-jitsu but that's about as close as it gets. It was an international competition and was also the same year that she competed for the bronze medal and I also feel that submission wrestling is more applicable to MMA than judo is in that we still start on our feet, we get the takedown and we have to get to work from the ground just like you would in a fight. With all that considered, I don't feel that I'm that much of an underdog and I don't feel that it's gonna be impossible by any means to deal with her judo.

Luke Thomas: Do you feel like wrestling, as someone who's a really capable wrestler and obviously there are different types of wrestlers too, but it has more takedown opportunities? Certainly judo has sweeps, they have throws and they certainly have double leg takedowns but it's much more of a posture based sport particularly with the gi. Wrestling is a lot more hunched over. You can do leg attacks, body locks, all kinds of different things. Do you believe wrestling is superior in that regard?

Miesha Tate: I think wrestling for MMA can be a lot more dynamic because you don't have to be holding onto someone or be having an over/under hook in order to take them down. As a matter of fact, you can shoot from far away and blast through with a double leg and it's a very powerful motion and not a whole lot of set-up necessarily needed. You can switch to single legs, you can go to body locks, you can do throws, you can do trips, you can do all of the above, and you can choose to stand up straight or you can choose to lower your elevation to go for the legs depending on the style of person you're fighting.

Some people have better leg defense such as Sarah Kaufman. She is someone that's tougher to take down when you try to do the double legs. She's really good at pulling you up and whatnot. Other people who stand more tall such as Marloes Coenen are easier to attack the legs. It just depends and wrestling has that diversity so it's also easier to set up with your punches than judo is as well because judo, it seems like Ronda has to get inside and she has to have that over/under to be able to utilize it.

Well, what if she can't get to that position? What if someone's just moving around too much and she can't get there? How is she going to set that up? Is she just going to bulrush right in every time? What if she runs right into a push kick? She's not setting it up real well. There's a lot of holes in her game I've seen. I've had a similar game plan before in rushing in with someone I don't want to stand with you know that I realized that my best advantage is to be on the ground and I just rushed in and I did the exact same thing she's doing and I know her game plan, I know what she's good at. I've done it before and it's no secret and I think having the experience in fighting will enable me to be able to counteract that with my wrestling and implement my game plan.

Luke Thomas: Is it true or is it false that Ronda Rousey is a frontrunner and here's what I mean. All her wins in MMA have come very early. What I'm asking is, if you take her to the second round, does she fold?

Miesha Tate: Well I hope so, but that's something that there's only one way to find out and I can guarantee you that this fight is not going to end in a minute unless it ends by my doing because I know my skill-set is much higher than she's anticipating and a big part of my game plan is just going to be to frustrate the hell out of her.

I'm not gonna let her do what she wants to do. I'm not gonna let her be comfortable. I'm gonna force her to break out of her element. She thinks, "Oh, she can't knock me out," well she better keep her pretty little chin tucked because I do have knockout power. I've dropped guys in practice, I've dropped girls in practice and underestimating my striking is going to be a huge downfall for her as well as underestimating everything else which I know she's doing because she's coming in so confident. She thinks she has the edge on me in every aspect and I don't feel that that's the case.

I feel like with the striking, it's called the game plan. Most of the people that I've fought have been stand-up fighters as well and when you close the distance, even if you are throwing punches, if you're coming forward so fast, you stuff a lot ‘em which takes a lot of your power away but that's your game plan. As soon as you get in close, that's where you have the advantage. You don't need to strike. That's not what you're trying to do. Striking to strike is different than striking to take someone down and you don't get as much power when you're striking to take someone down usually because you're not on the full end of your punches. You're starting there and you're rushing forward so fast that your punches end up being short and you're then eventually able to grab ahold of someone and take them to where your playing field is so her thinking I won't be able to knock her out is a huge, huge mistake on her part and it's gonna be different. If I choose to actually strike to strike, I don't think she's gonna like it.

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