On stage facing an audience that cheered her every sentence at the Beacon Theatre on Wednesday, at the far left of a long table occupied by seven other fighters, sat Ronda Rousey, the UFC women's bantamweight champion.
Rousey makes for an easy choice for fans to spiritedly support. She’s extremely candid with her remarks, often injecting vulgarity into her speech much to the delight of many fans who often tire from clichés. The blonde from California is also attractive; she’s the newest cover girl of Maxim magazine, and she’ll soon begin filming for her role in “The Expendables 3."
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Seated at the extreme right of the table was Miesha Tate, a reserved (by comparison) brunette who will challenge Rousey at UFC 168 on Dec. 28 at in Las Vegas.
Rousey (7-0) and Tate (13-4) were seated at opposite ends of the table on the third day of the five-day, 11-city UFC World Tour, and they’re seemingly on contrasting sides of a personality spectrum.
Rousey previously bested Tate on March 3, 2012, to wrestle away the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight belt. The two have clashed since Rousey was rude toward Tate during a Strikeforce interview a couple of years ago, Tate said. The squabbling has only intensified since, and Wednesday, a day after Rousey gave Tate the middle finger, the rivalry was on full display in front of a crowd of media and fans.
“It’s a personality thing, mostly, and I think we were raised in very different ways,” said Rousey. “I was raised that in order to respect somebody, you have to be upfront and tell them exactly what you think. Her idea of respect seems to be to smile to your face and do something behind your back. And that’s classless.”
Before Tate was able to offer an answer, a reporter shifted gears toward another question, much to the delight of Rousey.
“You know, I love that you skipped Miesha’s response to that,” Rousey said amid loud applause from fans.
As the crowd simmered, Tate appeared unfazed from being a bit forgotten, sitting upright in her chair with a smile on her face. And later she said she was perfectly fine not getting into a war of words.
“I’m not going to let her dictate how I feel and how I react,” Tate said. "She talked about how she was raised and I was raised, and first of all she has no idea how I was raised at all. I was raised not to be disrespectful to someone in the first place.”
Toward the end of the event, the two were, once again, in two totally different roles. Rousey was bombarded by a plethora of fans requesting photographs and autographs as Tate was further questioned by a small group of reporters.
“She’s always disrespecting me on a personal level and I’m never going to be happy about that,” said Tate while fans’ requests for Rousey drained the volume of her speech. “The fans love her and I respect her for what she’s done for the sport, but you can’t expect me, as a fighter, to sit there and be happy when she’s flipping me off. I’m never going to get along with her.”
In an event that also featured UFC stars such as heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, light heavyweight titlist Jon Jones and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, the Rousey-Tate rivalry clearly stole the show.
“Obviously, they don’t like each other and people are always interested in that,” said UFC president Dana White. "But I think their first fight was great, they’re great fighters and it should be fun.”
The rivalry will play itself out more in the coming months as Rousey and Tate coach against each other in the new season of "The Ultimate Fighter." The already-taped Season 18 begins Sept. 4 on Fox Sports 1.
Tate said she learned from the loss. Referring to Rousey as “an annoying bird on your shoulder that won’t go away,” Tate added she has no plans to let emotions hinder her decision-making.
“I went into the first fight against Ronda negatively and was emotionally charged,” Tate said. “It didn’t serve me as well because that’s not who I am. I like to be happy and I like to be positive going into fights.”
The champion, who with the usage of her signature armbar, has never had a fight go beyond the first round, said she’s ready to remain undefeated and has the ability to compartmentalize.
“It doesn’t matter to me who I’m fighting or what the events leading up to the fight were,” Rousey said. “I fight emotionless and don’t have time to feel one way or another about my opponent.”