Miesha Tate said she remembers when she heard UFC president Dana White tell TMZ that women would never fight inside the UFC.
"I'm definitely the kind of person that when somebody tells me no, I get even more determined," Tate said. "When someone tells me, 'You can't do that or you couldn't do that,' I'm like, 'You wanna bet.' So I was very motivated by his statements, which irritated me at the time. I think it worked to the benefit because lots of the ladies worked that much harder to get in the UFC. I really believed that day would come even though they said that it wouldn't."
"It was a very rewarding moment, for sure," Tate said. "It's something every woman in MMA has been working towards and being able to change the opinions of the big head honchos in the UFC, mainly Dana White, who said women will never fight in the UFC, and to see that moment was a really rewarding experience."
Tate faces Cat Zingano in the second female fight in UFC history at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale on Saturday at 9 p.m. EDT on the FX channel at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The winner will join Rousey as rival coaches on TUF 18 and get a title shot later this year.
"It's very exciting and I think the matchup is awesome," Tate said. "I think it's going to make for a really exciting fight being that we have such similar styles. We're both pretty forward fighters. I really think it's going to be a barnburner."
Like many MMA fighters, Tate has a background in wrestling. Tate said she had no basketball skills, so she tried out for the boys wrestling team on a whim.
"So I went out for wrestling not really knowing what to expect and it was the best random decision I've ever made in my life," Tate said. "I always say I didn't go out for wrestling and discover it, it discovered me, and the same with MMA. You know, MMA found me and I'm just going to make the most of those opportunities.
"When I started it, I definitely had a lot of critics in both wrestling and MMA. I had a lot of critics. A lot of people telling me, 'Why would you want to do that? What kind of girl are you? Stop lifting weights. You're not feminine because you do these things.' I was like, '(Forget that). I'm still every bit as much of a woman as I was before. I'm just competitive. I'm competitive by nature.' I never saw anything wrong with that, so I just stood my ground."
Tate's family wasn't initially on board with her decision to compete in MMA, but they have become her biggest supporters.
"My family, they were worried," Tate said. "I think my dad thought it was just a phase. He was hoping I would grow out of it. He worries for his little girl. I don't think any father enjoys seeing their daughter get into a cage with another individual who wants to beat the living daylights out of her. He really has come a long way. My parents realized it makes me happy. I think that's all parents should really want from their kids."
Zingano shares a similar wrestling background as Tate. She played pretty much every sport growing up and was the star player and popular teammate on most of those teams. But she really identified with and became the most passionate about wrestling.
Many of the boys she wrestled against throughout junior high and high school didn't like the idea of a girl competing against them.
"They really wanted to make me quit and they really wanted to hurt me," Zingano said. "At the time I didn't really realize that, but now that I look back I go, 'Man, they were really trying to get me.' I noticed that I was always a little bit more bruised up and limping around a little bit more than the average wrestler, but I just thought it was because wrestling was that hard.
"I never put together that I wasn't welcome. I understood there was a bunch of people that wouldn't talk to me and were not happy seeing me in the wrestling room and at tournaments and at dual meets beating the boys. But it never deterred me because it was something that I loved and I was passionate about. There was no way anyone was going to make me quit. The only person that was ever going to make me quit was me, and that's just not in me. I don't have quit in me."
Women coaches isn't the only first for TUF 18. For the first time, the UFC reality series will have male and female competitors living under the same roof competing for UFC contracts.
"It's a pretty wild idea," Tate said. "I was pretty blown away when Dana called me and said, 'Hey, this is what's going to happen.' I was like, 'Whoa. Well, there better be a lot of birth control readily available because that could get crazy.'"
Zingano was equally stunned when she heard about the new twist.
"People are comparing it to possibly being an MMA version of 'The Real World,'" Zingano said. "I have no idea what that's going to turn out to be like. Having men and women in the house for that long without much to do ... they don't get magazines, they don't get to watch TV, I mean, they just have all this time to interact. Focusing on the fight is what I hope everyone is able to do and maintain the prize that's at the end of the journey. But you never know because there's a bunch of alpha males and females, lots of emotions, lots of hormones going around in there. I can't wait to see what that turns out like."
TUF 17 main card, 9 p.m. on FX
Uriah Hall (7-2) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (4-0) in TUF 17 final
Miesha Tate (13-3) vs. Cat Zingano (7-0)
Bubba McDaniel (20-6) vs. Gilbert Smith (5-1)
Prelims, 7 p.m. on Fuel TV
Josh Samman (9-2) vs. Kevin Casey (5-2)
Luke Barnatt (5-0) vs. Collin Hart (4-1-1)
Dylan Andrews (15-4) vs. Jimmy Quinlan (3-0)
Bristol Marunde (12-7) vs. Clint Hester (7-3)
Prelims on Facebook, 5:40 p.m.
Cole Miller (18-7) vs. Bart Palaszewski (36-16)
Sam Sicilia (11-2) vs. Maximo Blanco (8-4-1)
Justin Lawrence (4-1) vs. Daniel Pineda (17-9)