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Tate has new outlook on MMA

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Miesha Tate broke her arm in a loss as Ronda Rousey clamped her trademark arm bar.

Tate’s spirit and love for MMA was nearly as fractured in that defeat 13 months ago.

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“I didn’t want this to be something I hated,” Tate told FOXSports.com. “I didn’t want to stress. I wanted to do something that would put a smile on my face.”

So, Tate gave herself the nickname “Cupcake.” An avid baker, Tate said she wouldn’t mind if her next few opponents -- including a possible rematch with UFC women’s champ Rousey -- read a little too much into the name.

“Yeah, it’s a girly girl, cute nickname,” Tate said. “If you want to judge a book by its cover, go ahead.”

First up is Cat Zingano, an undefeated fighter who will take on Tate at Saturday’s finale of The Ultimate Fighter in Las Vegas. The winner of the co-main event won’t just get a shot at the title against Rousey, they will also oppose Rousey in the next season of TUF.

“I never try to put too much pressure on myself,” Tate said. “I don’t want to be in a deer in the headlights. You can’t anticipate what can come next. I’m going out with the best strategy and I’m going to be smarter than (Zingano).”

Tate, 26, won her first fight with her new “Cupcake” moniker as she used the arm bar to her advantage. Julie Kedzie was forced to submit in the third round at a Strikeforce event last August.

She then had good seats at UFC 157 in February as the women’s division debuted with Rousey’s first-round submission -- yes, via an arm bar -- of Liz Carmouche.

Afterward, there seemed to be a newer Tate backstage.

It was Zingano, not Tate, who was more critical of Rousey’s performance. Maybe it’s the fact Zingano hasn’t had her arm broken by Rousey. Maybe Tate had matured in the months since her loss to Rousey, which sidelined Tate for about four months as her arm mended.

“She’s not really my favorite person. I’ll admit that,” Tate said of Rousey. “My whole new philosophy and what I have tried to rediscover about myself is that I don’t need to hate anybody to compete. It didn’t feel good. I didn’t hate Julie Kedzie. I don’t want to ever feel I need to hate a person to fight them.”

Tate, a native of Tacoma, Wash., came to this Zen-like approach -- if competing in combat sports can be considered Zen-like -- in a career that can be traced back to her first amateur fight in May 2006. It was a loss (her corner stopped the fight), but Tate won her final two amateur fights before turning pro in November 2007.

The UFC didn’t have women’s fighting on its radar at that time, as many of the top women gravitated toward Strikeforce -- an organization that was purchased by UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, and eventually shuttered Tate held the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight belt after a victory over Hitomi Akano in August 2010, a title she defended once before her loss to Rousey.

Along the way, UFC president Dana White warmed to the idea -- thanks in large part to Rousey’s popularity as Strikeforce champ -- of creating a women’s division in the UFC.

“I had a conversation with (boyfriend and UFC bantamweight) Bryan (Caraway),” Tate said. “We talked about a rematch and if it happens that I need to be the best Miesha Tate. He told me to let it go. I said, ‘You’re right. I don’t hate Ronda.’ I don’t like her that much either, but she’s done a lot of good things to bring attention to our sport.”

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Tate may never come to adore Rousey, but some time off after her victory over Kedzie made her appreciate something bigger: the sport itself.

“It’s like when you’re around somebody all the time and you time is consumed by them,” Tate said. “It was just too much. Every single day you’re training, commenting on Twitter. It was MMA. MMA. MMA. I tried to get away from anything that had to do with MMA for a while. It was much needed time and space. That definitely helped me miss the sport.”

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