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NW Fightscene Interview with Miesha Tate - May 11th, 2009

Interview and Photos by Mike Renouard

On Friday May 15th, 22 year old Tacoma native Miesha Tate (6-1), fighting out of Victory Athletics, will step into the cage for the biggest fight of her young career. She fights Victoria, BC's Sarah Kaufman (8-0) at 135 lbs on the main card of the Strikeforce Challengers event taking place in Fresno, CA. The winner of the matchup will then face Shayna Bazler on the Strikeforce card taking place at the Showare Center in Kent, WA June 19th.  NW Fightscene was able to speak with Miesha the night before she left to California, inside the confines of Victory Athletics near Olympia, Washington after their team practice...

NW Fightscene: Run us through your thoughts with Sarah. Obviously, a changed opponent, and I think its a step up from Kim Couture. 
Miesha Tate: Yeah. Obviously she's 8-0 and undefeated, so yeah it is a step up. I think I have a lot more to gain from this fight because she's ranked well in the top 10. Obviously, everybody respects her and knows she's a really tough girl so I have an opportunity to beat someone like that. That's the way I look at it. Put her first defeat on her record, that's a great accomplishment. So that's what I'm striving for.

What do you know about her game?
I know she likes to strike a lot from every position. I think her best attribute is that she pressures a lot. She doesn't give you any room to breathe. She just comes forward really hard. She has heavy hands. Heavy hands are probably her best thing too. 

Sarah Kaufman in action in a 2006 amateur fight

Any plan going into it or you going to fight like you've always fought...
I'm going to fight harder than I ever fought. I just have a game plan to go out and do what I'm going to do and dictate the fight. That's my game plan, just to dictate. Not let her push the pace. I want to be the one to push the pace, I want her to go backward not me. So its definitely going to be a battle for that top position. A lot of people are OK with getting pressured and they try to work from there but that's not how I want this fight to go. That's how she beats everybody, you know. She pressure, pressures, pressures and they try to work off of her. You know, I'm going to make her work off me.

Tell us about your preparation?
Its been pretty strenuous. I'm training twice a day. I run in the mornings or weightlift, and meet up with a personal trainer. And then later in the evenings, we train like this pretty much every day of the week. I've been working a lot with Bryan [Caraway], lot of one on one with Bryan. He's been going over a lot of game plan technique. Dennis [Hallman], Mikey, some of the smaller guys, they Iron Man on me and whatnot.

Miesha and Bryan

And you're doing standup work with Marty Robertson?
Yep. And I do some standup and stuff at Eddy and Lisa's United Training Center as well. 
[Pro fighters Eddy Ellis and Lisa Ward own United Training Center in Olympia]

You have a new personal trainer. Tell us about him.
His name is Jody Dolphin and I met him at Marty's, that actually how I got in touch with him. And he does personal training as his job and he agreed to train me for free for this fight. So I thought I'd try him out and see if I like what he's done and I do so far. Its been good.

How long have you been with him?
About a month.

Have you had training before?
No, I'm pretty knowledgeable about it myself but its just a matter of having someone there to ride you like don't stop, kind of keep going. So its good to have that. He's very punctual. And Bryan's been great about that but its sometimes hard when you're in a relationship, when you're close to someone, you know what I mean. You don't want to be bossed around, like "Shut up I'm tired!" you know. And then you end up fighting instead of training so its easier to do it that way. Bryan runs me through a lot of conditioning stuff too. Jody Dolphin. I'm working a lot of strength, conditioning, and explosive power for this fight. I lost about almost 15 pounds since I started fighting so I was up at almost 155 and now I'm down at 140 and I felt like I'm nowhere near as strong. For my size I'm still really really strong but I wanted to get even stronger so I could be back doing what I was doing at 155. So I've been working on that a lot, so my legs... really conditioning my legs because its important to be able to power through things like your shots, or to be able to defend your shots. A lot of your strength comes from hips and your legs so been doing a lot of that stuff. These bungee things, they strap up on you and they'll pull on them as hard as they can and you try to sprint, and its like trying to sprint in quicksand. Yeah, good stuff.


You're fighting at 135 pounds. Are you comfortable at 135 for now?
Yeah, I think its the perfect weight for me now. I like it.

Sarah, she seems to be a little bit bigger girl than you. Is that your perception?
She's a little bit thicker but she's shorter. I think she walks about almost the same as me. Around 140. 

I think this particular matchup is a great fight for women's MMA, particularly after the Christiane "Cyborg" Santos weigh-in debacle from a month ago. Tell us about your thoughts on the weight issue with Santos.
She missed weight by a substantial amount. 7 pounds isn't even close. She went to cut for another two hours and only dropped a pound and a half. Either she didn't try very hard to cut the rest of the weight or she had already come down from a much heavier weight... she was cutting too much weight. Its just unprofessional to sign at a weight you can't make. There's just no excuse for it, you know what I mean. It doesn't matter if you're male or female. I never missed weight. You've just got to prepare for that kind of stuff. Just plan, its part of your job, don't come in 7 pounds over. I mean that's ridiculous in my opinion. Same with Gina Carano when she's missed weight before. I think they both seem pretty apologetic and taking it pretty seriously. Taking a lot of heat from it. Santos vowed to never miss weight again. Like I said, the only thing I can guarantee is that I will never miss weight. You always see me on weight.

You were at the World Grappling Games just before Christmas in Lucerne, Switzerland. Were you grappling a little heavier then?
Yes. Well actually yes and no. I weigh about the same but I was grappling heavier. My official weigh in was like 142 pounds and I was grappling in the women's 158 pound division.

And you won Silver. Tell us about the experience.
It was amazing. I won nationals here in the United States so I had to beat last year's returning world champion, and that was a thrill in itself to win nationals here in the United States. [Miesha upset returning World Games champion Valerie Worthington] And then go onto Switzerland on an all-expenses paid trip which was just amazing because I actually have heritage there. My grandmother emigrated from Switzerland when she was three years old. She was really excited to see me go. She just actually passed away a few months ago. She was hanging on for me to get back from Switzerland, she was so proud. And I'm dedicating this fight to her... A very strong woman. Always a backer of my MMA career. You know she was never one of those "Why you doing that?". I got that from everybody including my parents, except my Grandma. She was like "Honey, you know what, I'm sure you'll be great at whatever you do". If it makes you happy, it makes me happy kind of person. Very inspirational woman in my life. 


You went East of the mountains to college. Is that where you met Bryan?
After I graduated from High School, I went over to Central Washington University. And I started at the Club Sport there. Actually Bryan and Tommy Truex, who is also a pro fighter and is training at Greg Jackson's now, they decided to start a club sport. A roommate of mine, she was into karate at the time, she was like "you gotta come check this out. You'll love it". And I was like Mixed Martial Arts, what the heck is that. I had no idea what it was. And she was like you'll love it. Most of them are old high school wrestlers. And I went and she ended up quitting and I ended up staying. It was really fun and they were like Jeez you're picking this up really quick because you have a wrestling background. You kind of have that notion of controlling someone on the ground, you just kind of got to incorporate a few different things.

And so I was doing that and they were like why don't you come up to Yakima with us and train a little bit more diligently and see if you like it. And I was like ok, there is no way I ever want to fight. I told them that. No way, I never want to get punched in the face, I'm uncomfortable with that, but I really like this jiu-jitsu. Lets try that. And I tried a fight practice and I liked it. I liked the sparring and everything. It was really fun. And then I went to my first mixed martial arts venue and I got to see Bryan and Tommy fight. And I was like, I want to do that. 

And how long after you started training did you have the fight?
Like a month.

And that was the fight with Liz Posener. The first time I saw you fight. 
Yeah, a pretty memorable fight.

You had your nose broken and you're bleeding all over her. And you corner threw in the towel, is that right?
Yeah, it was in between rounds. You saw the fight. I got kneed in the face and then I continued fighting. I was in a good position by the end of the 2nd round and we went back and they checked everything and my nose was just already swelling and it was starting to impair my vision a little bit. They weren't sure how bad it was and if I had a concussion or anything so they said no more, we're not going out for the third round. So I just trusted them. It was an amateur fights and I don't have any regrets about that.

Let me ask you this question. You don't know if you want to get into MMA, and after a month of training you're in your very first fight, and then you break your nose in that fight. What makes you get back in there again after that?
I guess heart and determination, you know. That's not how I wanted that to go, so I'm going to try and do something to fix that. It was so funny because all my family was like "Your doing what!?", what is this mixed martial arts. What? You're going to get punched in the face! Oh my god!" Everyone was like don't break your nose, don't break your nose in your first fight. I think everybody jinxed me. (laughs)

Yeah, it was so exhilarating and it was so thrilling and actually you know, it didn't really hurt that bad. The nose breaking didn't really hurt at all from what I remember. Actually getting hit in the ear was more painful than that. You know, getting that little slap punch in the ear. So I was like wow, this is like the adrenaline rush of all adrenaline rushes. So I just decided this is something I want to stick with for a little while.

So what are your plans with MMA? Go as far as you can, for as long as you can, or do you have a timeline at all?
Well, no I don't have a timeline per se. I know its a relatively short lived career. Its not something that I plan on doing when I'm fifty years old. You know, I think up to forty would be the longest, realistically. But I'm already planning to have my own gym and be managing and help promoting other females, and men in the sport too, but I think the females really need focus. So when I'm past the point of competing myself, I'm going to continue to be part of the Sport because I really have a passion for it. And like Stephanie [Webber] who is training here, I help her get her fights. And I manage her and I corner her. And I really like it. So I'm setting up a future in that.

Miesha and Stephanie

Who out there do you want to fight?
Well, there's a couple of people. Obviously I'd like to rematch Liz and I would like to rematch Kaitlin, she's my only professional loss. Kaitlin Young. And I would like to fight Tara LaRosa. Tara, because she's ranked number one and she's beat all the best people. And I think there's a little bit of hype between that because we used to train together, both in Yakima. Its no secret, obviously we don't really care for each other. I'm not going to sit here and trash talk her but we don't really like each other. But that's not necessarily why I want to fight her. I want to fight her because she's undisputedly the best. Who wouldn't want a shot to beat her.

Tara LaRosa and Miesha in 2007

What you want to do when you're not fighting?
Ummm, when I'm not fighting... I think about fighting! (laughs) No, I like to watch movies a lot and outside of just training and exercising, we watch movies quite often. We're a big fan of Redbox, the dollar DVD rentals. I love to cook and bake so usually after practice on the weekends I'll go through my recipe books and go oh, I want to make that and get excited about it. I cook for a couple of guys on the team. And yeah, we just hang out. Pretty relaxed group. On the weekend go to the fights and hang out afterwards. 

I see you on posting on some of these different forums. Seems like your active and follow the sport pretty closely.
Yeah, I do.

What forums do like to go on?
I go on MMA.TV, and Sherdog, and FighterGirls.com. Those are my top three. 

And you've become somewhat.. or I should say, it seems to me when I read the forums and read the comments out there like "Miesha, she's so hot!" that you've become something of a sex symbol. How do you feel about that?
Its funny to me I guess. I mean I try not to pay too much attention to it, but I guess it is what it is. I'm not trying to be.. get by on just my looks. I'm trying to take this sport as a serious thing but a big part of me is that obviously I'm a woman, I'm a female, and I'm proud of that. I'm not trying to be a tomboy by any means. I consider myself a competitive woman and outside of the ring, I'll go out to the club and I like to dress up and do my hair and do my makeup and look nice, and that's just who I am. I'm not trying to change that or be something that I'm not. 

Are you working at all or training full-time?
Just training full-time.

Who's sponsoring you and helping you do this?
Tussle. They've been really really helpful. I'm wearing their shorts actually right here. They just sent them to me and they're cool. But they have helped me tremendously. They support me in every fight, no matter how big or how small. They're just troopers. They're driving all the way down to California from Portland, Oregon to watch me fight. And they always give me a certain amount of money... so they've just helped me so much so I have to really thank Tussle.  (www.tusslefightgear.com) And then just my family support and all that. Other sponsors I should thank is Hit 'Em Up. Caged Steel, Caged Candy, Fight Chicks, and Henchman. I think that's it.

Well, good luck on Friday. And if you win we'll get to see you fight here in Kent. 
Yeah... That's another thing I was going to say that is really motivating about this fight is the opportunity to be fighting on Strikeforce in pretty much my hometown. And against Shayna [Bazler]. She's a girl I've looked up to for a while in the sport.

You fought recently up here at the Emerald Queen in Tacoma...
Yeah, the energy was so crazy when I walked out. Announced from Tacoma Washington and everybody was just freaking out. Holy Cow! I was like, this is awesome. I just loved it. It was probably one of my most memorable fights.

And hopefully this next fight will be one, and the next one, and see where it goes.
Yeah, keep building.

You also have a belt with Freestyle Cage Fighting down in Oklahoma.

Do you plan on going down there again? 
Yeah I do, but I have to kind of converse with Strikeforce. I don't really know what's going on. They said they wanted to sign me to a multiple fight deal but then they fired Javier [Mendez] which was like their matchmaker. And he was trying to do that, so I don't really know what's going on with that.

[Ed note: Mendez was reported to have resigned from Strikeforce]

So right now its one fight at a time?

We'd like to thank Miesha for taking time out to speak with us. Her myspace profile resides at www.myspace.com/1tkdwn, and she can be found on Facebook as well.

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