When Miesha Tate meets Sara McMann at UFC 183 this weekend, the two women will square off in a battle between the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked fighters in the world at 135-pounds.
The winner should sit in a prime position to make an argument to challenge the victor of the upcoming co-main event from UFC 184 when current champion Ronda Rousey faces Cat Zingano. Tate has plenty of experience with both of those competitors so her interest in the fight goes beyond title aspirations.
Tate’s two fights against Rousey have showcased by far the biggest rivalry in women’s mixed martial arts history. She also battled Zingano in her UFC debut, losing by TKO in third round after dominating the current title contender for the first 10 minutes of the fight.
"I have a lot of vested interest in that fight and I really have mixed feelings about who I would prefer to win," Tate told FOX Sports when speaking about the UFC 184 co-main event. "I think if Zingano beats Rousey, it’s a much faster road to the title for myself so there’s a benefit there for me. The fact that our first fight had a lot of fireworks to it — it was a very exciting fight. I won the first two rounds and I just feel it was stopped too quickly in the third round, but it is what it is. If Cat wins, there’s a big argument why I would get the next title shot.
I think I have the best shot at beating her and I think I’ve proven that going into the third round with her. Regardless, it’s always fun for me to fight Ronda
— Miesha Tate
"Especially on a three fight win streak if I beat Sara McMann, that puts a huge notch on my belt."
The flipside is a little tougher for Tate because she’s already fought and fallen to Rousey in her past two attempts to beat the former Olympic bronze medalist. Tate has managed to take Rousey deeper than another other fighter ever has, but she knows it’s still not going to be easy to earn a third fight with her.
The best way to get it, however, is to beat every other fighter she faces and eventually the UFC will have no other choice than to give her a chance to dethrone Rousey again.
"If Ronda wins, she’s beating all the other girls, so all I have to do is ward off the other No. 1 contenders like I have been. I think I have the best shot at beating her and I think I’ve proven that going into the third round with her. Regardless, it’s always fun for me to fight Ronda," Tate said.
"I enjoy it, I thrive on it, because my No. 1 goal is to become the best fighter that I can be and Ronda always pushes me to do that."
Chances are Tate and Rousey will be linked together for the rest of their careers, but despite a tumultuous history, the former Strikeforce champion actually does appreciate what her rival does for her leading up to the fight.
It’s not likely Tate and Rousey will ever be friends or maybe even acquaintances, but when it comes to competition, both women push each other to the limit and what results are the best performances possible.
"Every time I think I become a better fighter because of Ronda. She pushes me and motivates me in ways that other people just don’t have the ability to do," Tate said. "She motivates me to be a better fighter and a better person. A stronger fighter and a stronger person. So, I kind of revel in that. It’s something I look forward to and I hope I will have another chance to fight her. I think beating McMann makes a great argument."
As far as her fight pick goes, Tate doesn’t have to root for Rousey to know she’s still the best women’s fighter on the planet. She also knows both fighters extremely well considering she’s shared the cage with them for nearly seven full rounds between three fights.
Tate knows her fastest path back to the belt is with a Zingano victory, but she just doesn’t see a way the Colorado native pulls off a win against Rousey.
"I think Ronda will win. Cat is a really good fighter, but she’s a slow starter and Ronda’s a very quick starter and I think that’s where the difference will be made," Tate said.
"Cat Zingano’s one of those fighters that can take a beating in the first round and rally in the second or third round and come back from that, but the thing is that Ronda’s a finisher. She’s very well versed in finishing fights quickly so if you come out with a slow start in the first round, it’s probably not going to serve you very well against someone like Ronda. That’s why I think the fight is going to go that way."