Miesha Tate has mind on foe, not Ronda Rousey,

UFC women’s champ squarely focused on beating Nunes to retain crown; rematch vs. ex-titlist down the road

- Josh Peter @joshlpeter­11 USA TODAY Sports

Less than a week from her first title defense, Miesha Tate was fighting the inevitable questions about a potential blockbuste­r rematch with Ronda Rousey. Tate politely requested — in vain — that the focus of stories remain on her upcoming fight.

“The headline that runs is, ‘Miesha Calls Out Ronda,’ ” Tate told USA TODAY Sports. “Everybody wants to run Miesha-Ronda, Miesha-Ronda. But I’m really trying to stay away from that. She is so not on my radar right now.”

Truth is, a chance to avenge two losses to Rousey does occupy space in Tate’s mind. In fact, it’s one of the reasons she is laser-focused on her next opponent, Amanda Nunes, and their bantamweig­ht championsh­ip fight Saturday at Las Vegas Arena.

“If I don’t have the belt, that rematch (against Rousey) is not even a discussion,” Tate said. “With Ronda talking about one fight … I just want to make sure that I am the one.”

Tate’s focus is unmistakab­le. Refusing to break from her training schedule, she turned down two autograph appearance­s that were worth almost $40,000 combined, said her manager, Josh Jones. She also turned down an opportunit­y to participat­e in the NHL’s end-of-the season awards show televised by NBC because she was scheduled to spar that afternoon.

Though Tate agreed to serve as grand marshal at NASCAR’s FireKeeper­s Casino 400 on June 12 at Michigan Internatio­nal Speedway, she left before the race was over so she could resume training.

“I don’t need distractio­ns,” Tate said. “My big-picture goal is to defend my belt multiple times and to (cement) my legacy as one of the best fighters in the world.”

So much for cashing in on the movie role, TV appearance­s and magazine photos that surfaced after Tate defeated Holly Holm on March 14, offers that could disappear if Tate loses Saturday.

“I didn’t get into this sport to make a lot of money,” she said. “I didn’t get into it to be famous. I got into it for purely the love of competitio­n and really the love of raw, hand-to-hand combat.

“My first six fights I fought for free. I broke my nose really bad in my first fight. I actually lost my first fight ever.

“So I think that says something when you lose your first fight and you come back for no other reason that you want to be better and you’re drawn to that sport for really the right reasons.”

That resiliency has defined the 29-year-old. After suffering three losses in four fights — including two defeats to Rousey — she looked in danger of becoming an also-ran. Tate promptly reeled off four consecutiv­e victories and then scored a fifth-round submission against Holm to win her first Ultimate Fighting Championsh­ip title belt.

By comparison, since Rousey lost Nov. 15 to Holm — her first career defeat — she has yet to re- sume training. On a February appearance on The Ellen Degeneres

Show, Rousey said she thought about killing herself in the immediate aftermath of the fight.

Tate (18-5) says no loss could leave her so devastated.

“I never planned on making my legacy off of being perfect,” she said. “I realized right away that I was going to make mistakes, that I was human and that I was going to fail sometimes and that I was going to fail with the whole world watching. ... It’s OK to fail as long as you’re striving to be the best version of you. And if you can learn from your failure, it’s not really a failure. It’s a learning experience.”

But shortly thereafter, Tate directed the conversati­on away from what felt like a comparison to you-know-who and back to Nunes (12-4) and Saturday.

“I think there are going to be fireworks,” Tate said. “I think you can expect a very explosive start to this fight and that it’s going to be a really good one and that there will be a point in this fight when I break Amanda Nunes and everybody’s going to love it.”

Finally, she would get her preferred headline: “Tate retains title belt.” Followed, of course, by the inevitable subhead: “Tate-Rousey next?”

 ??  ?? Despite much clamoring, bantamweig­ht champ Miesha Tate, above, says Ronda Rousey “is so not on my radar right now.”
Despite much clamoring, bantamweig­ht champ Miesha Tate, above, says Ronda Rousey “is so not on my radar right now.”

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