If it were up to current bantamweight title holder Miesha Tate, the lead up to her Saturday title fight with Ronda Rousey would have been much more quiet. She’s not about bringing the smack-talking WWE antics into what she sees as a beautiful sport. But with Rousey throwing the first jab, Tate had no choice but to defend and push back, sending the two into a whirlwind of vicious words for each other.
Tate has been one of women MMA’s top fighters over the past six years, compiling a 12-2 record in that time. Defending her belt for the first time since taking down Marloes Coenen in July, Tate has grown to despise Rousey more than anybody she’s ever fought and is not afraid to be verbal about it. She recently spoke to Complex about how her hatred has grown, why she deserves the title more than Rousey, and what the lowest point of her MMA career was.
Interview by Tony Markovich (@T_Marko)
Who dubbed you “Takedown” Tate?
It came from a wrestling background. I honestly don’t remember. I think it was just like,
“Takedown Tate, yeah, take ‘em down.” It just stuck. Recently I’ve been thinking about changing it. Now that I’ve settled down as the champion, I feel like I have a lot more than the takedown. I might be doing some kind of a contest with my Twitter followers and have them decide a new ring name for me.
Do you have any in mind?
One I liked was “Trail Blazer,” because I feel like I’ve been burning a trail for women’s MMA, setting the pace, raising the bar and blazing a trail. It just kind of goes with my last name, so, I think it’s kind of cool. We’ll see.
What is your biggest fear?
Needles. I hate ‘em. I do my best when I have to get my blood work done for my fights, but I used to be a lot worse about it. I used to hyperventilate and freak out, but I’ve gotten over it. I’m one of those mentally tough people that tells myself that I can’t have a phobia. It’s an unrealistic fear, like “What are you so afraid of?” and I beat myself up about it. I made myself stop being such a wuss.
I realized that it wasn’t so simple as getting punched in the face. That was so narrow-minded. It was about the sport and the beauty of it.
When did your fear of needles begin?
When I was about five, I got really really sick. I had Reye’s Syndrome and chickenpox and some other sickness all at once. I almost died. I went to the hospital and when my mom had called and told them that I was really sick and running a fever, they told her to hold off and told her to give me aspirin. Turns out that was the worst thing they could have done, because it thinned my blood more. Anyways, she took me into the hospital and I was really dehydrated, so they got an I.V. into my arm and they were trying to pull some blood to test it. Once they were done, the lady pulled it out. At that point all my veins were so thin that they collapsed, and they couldn’t get any more needles into me. I couldn’t keep anything down, I would just puke it up, so they needed to get I.V. fluids into me. You know that thing that they leave in your arm and just switch tubes? Well, she accidentally pulled it out. They would come in every hour, and I would wake up to five or six nurses holding me down and sticking needles in my ankles, wrists, the top of my hands, the crook of my elbows, just anywhere trying to get an I.V. into me.
As a kid you wake up and everybody is holding you down, it’s like “Oh my God, what are you doing to me?” That was the worst, so I think I’ve been mortified of needles ever since then. And I also had to get a spinal tap on top of that, which was one of the most painful things I’ve ever felt. I actually passed out. It was excruciating. I felt like I couldn’t move at all, like I was paralyzed. So I think that’s where my phobia comes from, but I think I’ve gotten over it pretty well now.
Was the spinal tap the worst pain you’ve ever felt?
Yeah, probably. It was really painful. I think they had to get some of the spinal liquid to test, and it felt like somebody was breaking your back. They stick that big needle in you, but they’re holding you still because something could go wrong if you move. I don’t think I could have moved anyways, because the pain just froze my whole body and I passed out. I woke up in my room and I was so sick. They say that’s one of the most painful things, more so than an epidural, because epidurals are putting the fluid in, but spinal taps are taking that out. Maybe that’s partially why I’m so tough.
You said you fell into MMA and that you were hesitant at first. What changed your mind?
At first, I had zero desire to get punched in the face. I didn’t care about learning the stand up, I just had no interest. I’m like, “Why would you want to do that? I don’t want to get hit in the face.” I was dead set against fighting, I just wanted to learn the Jiu-Jitsu. What really changed my mind was when I watched my first fight card. It was just an amateur event, but I had never seen MMA at that point. I had never seen UFC, I didn’t know what it was about, so I had this ignorant idea in my head about what it was.
When I watched them fight and watched some of the guys that I’d trained with, I saw their passion. I realized that it wasn’t so simple as getting punched in the face. That was so narrow-minded. It was about the sport and the beauty of it, and I saw the mixed martial arts aspect and really started to respect and admire their passion and drive for the sport. I thought, “If they can do it, I can do it too.” I was totally newly inspired. By the end of that fight card, the ref announced that he was having an all-female fight card in three weeks, so I just decided to do it. I just jumped right in, feet first. Three weeks of stand up training was all I had, so I fought my first fight with knowledge of wrestling and very basic submissions.
So you went from not wanting to get punched to being in a fight within three weeks?
Yeah, it was just being exposed to it. The sport is so beautiful that I think it speaks for itself, but when a lot of people never seen it or experienced it, they have a bad image of it. They think "human cock fighting" and this and that, but I had so much admiration for the people that had been working so hard and seeing that it was about the ultimate competition. It’s just you and the other person in there, and you have a number of ways to beat them. It wasn’t about the violence anymore, and that’s something I realized. For me, it’s about the sport of it.