Miesha Tate says Cat Zingano will be 'overwhelmed' by UFC spotlight
Seven weeks ago, Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche co-authored the biggest story the UFC had seen in years. This weekend comes the next chapter, as Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano meet in the second women's bout in the fight promotion's history.
It's not a main event, as Saturday night's card in Las Vegas (9 p.m., FX) is built around the finale of The Ultimate Fighter and the top-billed men's bantamweight bout between Urijah Faber and Scott Jorgensen. But there will be much at stake when Tate (13-3), the former Strikeforce champ, takes on the unbeaten but relatively inexperienced Zingano (7-0).
For one thing, they're being asked to carry forth the building momentum of the women's game. And in terms of personal achievement, the winner earns the opportunity to coach against Rousey on the next season of TUF, which will feature a mix of male and female fighters, and to challenge the champ following the reality show.
Recently, SI.com sat down with Tate and Zingano for separate interviews. Each of those conversations zeroed in on just a few topic, though, so we've weaved together the fighters' thoughts and have broken it down -- as Saturday's fight will be -- into three rounds:
SI: The UFC is a bigger stage than either of you has been on before, especially Cat. How will that be a factor in the fight?
Miesha Tate: At UFC 157, Cat and I did a couple of TV interviews together, and she was noticeably nervous. She didn't look comfortable with the camera in her face. She seemed excited, but in an "Oh my god, I'm so overwhelmed" kind of way. That's what her face said to me, and her stuttering in front of the camera. So I think I have a huge advantage on this bigger stage, because I've done this so many times.
Granted, I've not been in the UFC until now, but I've headlined a Strikeforce card that was run the same way by many of the same people, with a lot of media commitments to juggle leading up to the fight. It's all familiar faces for me in the UFC. I know [matchmaker] Sean Shelby. I know Dana [White, the president]. I know Lorenzo [Fertitta, the CEO]. I've attended a lot of UFC events, I've cornered in the UFC, so I know what it's like walking out to the cage, know what it's like with the camera in your face the whole way. Even when you're in the cage during introductions, the cameras get right up in your face. If you're not used to that, it really can feel like a lot of pressure. To me, it's just another day. For Cat, this is a huge leap.
Cat Zingano: When it comes to fighting, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I usually don't want to talk about it. I usually just want to go through training, make sure I work hard -- and am satisfied with myself every day. Then I go home at the end of the day and completely detach myself from the MMA world. But being forced to do media appearances this time and talk about the fight and everything involved, it's actually been a little bit calming for me, surprisingly.
It's almost like having to confront my fears -- not fears, exactly, but I'm being put in the spotlight and have to get used to this kind of situation while at the same time getting ready for a fight. It's definitely giving me tools for making my mind right and focusing. It's one of the things you have to do if you want to be a fighter at this level. And as soon as the cage door closes, it's me and her, and only one of us is going to walk out of there the winner. All nerves are left at the door. It just turns into animal instincts for me.
SI: All of the surrounding factors aside, how will experience inside the cage play a role in determining this fight?
Zingano: Although I'm only 7-0 as a professional, I've done hundreds of matches in my life. I started in wrestling when I was 12 years old, and in a sport that is male-dominated I was frequently not supported in the room. So I've always faced the pressure to perform. Comparing our levels of experience could come down to quality versus quantity. Yes, I don't have as many fights as Miesha, but the fights I do have all have been epic. They've all been fight of the night. I really enjoy going out there and making a statement.
Tate: If I made this big of a jump just seven fights into my career, it would have been kind of nerve-wracking. It's mental more than physical, and I don't know what toll it will take on her. I've heard her say in interviews, "I like to break my opponent." Well, that might work at a lower level, but in the UFC? If that's your mindset, you've already lost the fight. You're not going to break me. I've fought the best in the world. I fought Ronda Rousey. I fought Sarah Kaufman. I fought Marloes Coenen. I fought Julie Kedzie. She hasn't fought one Top 10 opponent.
Zingano: Ever since I started this sport, I've wanted to increase my challenge every single time. After dominating in my first fight, my next fight was against an opponent with a different style, and I conquered that. It's a journey of personal achievement for me. Yes, the level of competition is rising now, but that's exactly what I want. If it stayed the same, I'd never know that I was improving. I know that I deserve to be where I am, and that it was a good decision by the UFC to bring me in. There's a reason I'm getting a contender shot right off the bat, even though I haven't fought in the bigger shows the other girls have. It's because the people who arrange the fights for the UFC know what a good fighter is.
SI: You both were at UFC 157 and witnessed firsthand not just the fight that unfolded between Rousey and Carmouche but also the spectacle of it all. Was it inspiring? Did it make you proud to be a part of the emergence of women's MMA?
Tate: Incredibly proud. It almost brought tears to my eyes. It wasn't me in there, but I was vicariously living through those girls and how they were representing the sport. It was a big moment, and for me a very emotional moment.
Zingano: The UFC gave us great seats, right at cageside, and watching Ronda and Liz go at it in that fight, with the energy in the building, was absolutely an inspiring moment. I stood up and applauded after the fight, as did many people who were seated around me, because, boom, there was history being made, right there before our eyes.
Tate: That fight came at a perfect time for the sport. A lot of people were critical of the girls, saying Ronda has no challenges and is going to destroy everybody. And Liz was basically a nobody. I don't mean that in a bad way, but simply that she was not recognized as a threat, as a quality opponent. But she went out there and fought her heart out. She believed in herself, wholeheartedly, and you could see that. Liz hadn't been in the sport for that long, she doesn't have an Olympic background, but you clearly could see a fighter. All those people who said there aren't enough quality fighters in women's MMA? Liz proved them wrong.
Zingano: Watching Liz perform that night made me think about how I've been considered an underdog in the vast majority of my fights. Adversity fuels me. As soon as somebody tells me I can't, I'm going to. I can and I will. Being doubted is not something I take as an insult. It's a challenge.
Tate: The most memorable moment for me was when Liz Carmouche walked into the octagaon. She was the first woman ever to set foot inside that cage for a fight. And I was was, like, wow! It's official. We're here. The fight's on. Women's MMA has made it.
Zingano: That whole night reminded me of when the UFC started -- no weight classes and no time limits and all that. The guys who fought back then were taking the first step, just as we are now. These early days of women's [MMA] will be remembered for generations. It's so cool to be a part of it.