(Tate vs. Elaina Maxwell on her previous Strikeforce appearance.)
A few weeks ago Miesha Tate thought she’d be facing Kim Couture at the Strikeforce Challengers event on Showtime this Friday night. But when Couture pulled out due to “personal reasons” and Tate posted a MySpace bulletin informing fans that “Sugar Free’s” impending divorce from former UFC champ Randy Couture was to blame, things got sticky in a hurry.
Now instead of facing the 1-1 Couture, she’s facing the 8-0 (all by KO or TKO) Sarah Kaufman, and the fight has grown considerably in magnitude. Here she talks about the change of opponents, her path to MMA, and what it’s like trying to make it as a female MMA fighter.
This seems like significant change in opponents, and on fairly late notice. How did that affect your preparation for this fight and what the fight means for you?
It was kind of strange at first, the idea of going from Kim Couture to Sarah Kaufman. Obviously it’s quite a jump. I think I have a lot more to gain from this fight. She’s a very tough and worthy opponent. I have the opportunity to beat someone who has an established, undefeated record.
Do you think the only reason Kim Couture got this fight in the first place was because of her last name?
I don’t think that’s the only reason she was there, but I do think it was a huge reason why she was on the televised card. I think she has a passion for fighting but I think that her being 1-1 and being on a major pro card, her last name was a big part of that.
You were the one who told everybody that she was pulling out because she was getting divorced, right?
If you had that to do over again, would you do it differently?
Yeah, I wouldn’t have said anything. I might have said she was backing out, but I wouldn’t have given the reason. I realized afterwards, when it was a little too late, that it wasn’t really my place to say and I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. I’ve already said my apologies. I wasn’t thinking about how that might affect her and Randy and it wasn’t my intention to get involved in that. I was just upset about her backing out of the fight and I wasn’t even thinking about the divorce being such a big issue.
You seemed worried that you wouldn’t get a fight at all, and that’s something we hear a lot of from both female fighters and promoters, that there just aren’t enough fights out there for women in MMA. Have you had trouble getting fights in the past?
At the beginning I did. I had my first pro fight and it was actually two in one night because it was a tournament, and then I went almost a year before I had my next fight. Then I went for a while after that and now it’s been picking up like crazy. I’ve been fighting a lot more often, just back-to-back fights, and I think there’s generally more opportunities for us now. There are more people to fight and more people wanting to see us fight.
So how did you get into MMA to begin with?
I wrestled for four years in high school, and then I went to college and joined a mixed martial arts club, and it just kind of went from there. I never had any intention of fighting growing up or even when I went to college, but it just kind of happened. I really started to like it and I found a passion for mixed martial arts.
Did you wrestle on the boys’ team in high school?
Yes, I did.
What made you decide to do that?
I never thought I would do that either, honestly. My best friend and I, we always did sports together. When you go from middle school to high school, the sports seasons change. We always did cross-country together, but when winter came around there was only wrestling and basketball. She’s like, five feet tall and Asian, and she couldn’t play basketball. I couldn’t play to save my life either. Neither of us even liked basketball. So she said, ‘You want to go out for wrestling?’ And I just thought, sure, why not. So we did the very next day. She wrestled for three of the four years and I wrestled for all four of those years.
So the reason you’re a pro fighter today is largely because you hated basketball and your school only offered one alternative?
Yeah, I was really fortunate to have gotten into it, kind of by accident. I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t.
Do you work another job, or are you a full-time fighter at this point?
No, at this point I’m just focused on fighting and living very frugally. I’ve been doing that for about a year. I did teach cardio kickboxing on the side for a while, but I never made a lot of money. I just enjoyed doing it.
Is it frustrating for you to see people like Kim Couture get on a card because of her name, or people like Gina Carano, who’s obviously a good fighter but who has become famous more for her looks? We don’t see that in men’s MMA, so does it bother you to see it in women’s MMA?
Yeah. Whenever you compare a female sport to a male sport it’s frustrating. It’s just the way society looks at things, they accept male sports more than female sports in general.
As far as Gina, I don’t have a problem with anything she’s done or how she’s portrayed herself. She’s made a great career for herself. She’s not all about selling her sex appeal. She’s just comfortable with herself and happens to be beautiful. You can’t blame her for taking advantage of that.
Let’s talk about Sarah Kaufman. She really jumped in there to take this fight on short notice. Did you feel at all insulted by that, like maybe she thought you would be an easy win for her?
I was kind of surprised. I wouldn’t say I was insulted necessarily. But I felt underestimated when I heard that. She was really quick to say, ‘Hey, I’ll take that fight.’ Like she was really sure she was going to win. She’s fought my style of fighter before, but she hasn’t fought me. I think she’s in for a surprise.
What do you think of her as a fighter?
She pressures a lot and she’s got heavy hands.
Well, that sounds simple enough.
It is pretty simple. She’s a pretty simple fighter. She’s not overly technical or crazy. She just makes things work for her. On her videos, she pretty much dictates the fights. She’s always pressuring no matter what position she’s in, and she hits hard. She’s not pitter-pattering with anything.
So how are you going to beat her? Let’s hear a prediction.
I’m just going to go win and finish the fight. I don’t know how yet, but that’s my plan.
Well, you’ve still got some time to think about it, I guess.
(Laughs) Yeah, I do. I’ll think about some more.