The world of women’s mixed martial arts has always been playing an unappreciated game of catch up to the men who ply the sport as their trade, but for every fan that openly declares their disdain for seeing the fairer sex inside the cage, there are female fighters proving themselves.
They operate under the same basic rules, in front of the same crowds and if we as fans have learned anything, it is the simple, unvarnished truth that when it comes to sex, the mechanisms intrinsic to the system of advancement in the sport do not discriminate. Male or female, once the cage door shuts, the passion of the fighters is evidenced in violence and the blood is real.
Legalized assault is legalized assault, no matter the gender assembled.
For Miesha Tate, who is currently riding a four-fight win streak, a title fight is due for the exact same reasons it is due for Jon Jones or Dominick Cruz; as of now, she is simply the best fighter not wearing the belt.
Much has been made of her two defeats at the hands of current champion, Ronda Rousey, and while the arguments against a third fight make some sense from a sales standpoint, they devalue the virtue of promoting WMMA. This could be seen, in part, as a failing of the UFC but in truth, if it is a failing, it is done without prejudice.
The UFC has grown into an entity that is ever-aware of the public’s desire to see that which is new, even if that means that which is established goes unrecognized. That is the current state of the combative sports for both men and women, but that doesn’t mean it is right.
Tate should be the next woman to fight for the title, without question, even if she has lost twice to Rousey.
Owning a record of 17-5, Tate has defeated some of the very best the sport has to offer and in doing so, she has shown us the mettle of her desire, battling back from serious adversity to win. She suffered a broken orbital bone in her fight against Sara McMann, but fought through the pain in order to win the fight; a characteristic to be prized in any fighter, man or woman.
Since her loss to Rousey, she has been fighting women better than those awarded title shots; the combined record of her last three notable opponents before she defeated them is 28-7.
When compared to the recent competition of Rousey, Tate has defeated greater competition and on two occasions, she has bested fellow title contenders in Liz Carmouche and McMann.
She was passed over so the UFC could feed Bethe Corriea to Rousey in order to drum up interest in the Brazilian sector and then again when Holly Holm was inserted into the title picture even though Holm has yet to defeat a true top 10 opponent.
While nothing can be done about these choices now, the next deserved fight for Tate is obvious and should be made, no matter how many times it has happened before.
In the 1940s, Jake LaMotta fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times, losing five of those contests. Those fights were made because LaMotta was, at the time, the only real fighter that posed a legitimate threat to Robinson; their first three fights occurred in a span of just four months.
Right now, it is hard to imagine anyone posing a greater threat to Rousey than Tate; she is the only fighter to make it out of the first frame and everyone else, save perhaps for Cat Zingano, has been either beaten by Tate since their first crack at Rousey or they lack Tate’s overall pedigree against proven top 10 competition.
There comes a time when ignoring Tate’s accomplishments since her last loss to the champion becomes akin to putting her on a path to nowhere. If defeating the likes of two former title contenders and a fighter who was 11-2 (before Tate) can’t earn her a place above the likes of the Corrieas and the Holms of the division, what’s the point?
Tate is 29 years old, a proven talent in a division that is quickly seeing other top contenders fall into downward spirals and above all else, she has experience against the champion and did much better in her second effort than she did in their first bout.
The title that Rousey has must stand for something greater than Rousey; it has to be a standard by which all future champions are measured. For that to happen it must be fought for by the best competition available and right now, that is Tate.
If not, then the title is nothing more than a bauble for Rousey to eventually discard; a disturbing notion that speaks to the idea that without her, the women’s bantamweight division is empty and from there the title suffers as a standard of excellence because it has no future.
The idea that Rousey alone made the division is a great disservice to the cause of WMMA; the title was given to Rousey as a sign of recognition of her greatness, yet that is a tool of perception that is pointed at both ends for no great champion can be recognized by the simple contrast found in facing opposition that is lacking.
For Rousey to be accepted as the best, her opposition must be of the highest standard, worthy of the greatest recognition; recognition that was afforded Rousey in the form of the title and the gravitas it represents.
Should Rousey defeat Holm, any other bout aside from a third fight with Tate will not further the sport of WMMA because in-cage accomplishment will take second place to promotional whimsy; competition second to storylines.
Tate has more than earned her next shot at the title and if the UFC absolutely demands one final test for her, it should be a rematch with Zingano, not a bout with Corriea or another top 10 fighter that hasn’t accomplished half as much.
MMA and WMMA are equal in that the proof of worth is supposed to be found in the cage; what comes outside of that should be a secondary consideration that supports and enables that which is discovered and duly recognized by honest competition.
Success via competition is the unspoken cornerstone for recognition in the combative sports and the time has come for Tate to be recognized once again. Isn’t that what they are all fighting for?