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Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate ready to rumble at UFC 168

Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, left, and

Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, left, and challenger Ronda Rousey in a stare down at a pre-fight press conference. (March 1, 2012) Credit: Strikeforce/Esther Lin

Miesha Tate looked to within. Ronda Rousey left the country.

And that's how the protagonists in the co-main event for UFC 168 this Saturday dealt with motivating themselves for their rematch.

"It's kind of hard to change your mindset when you're in the same environment," Rousey said.

So, after taping the most recent season of "The Ultimate Fighter" last June, she temporarily changed countries, time zones and occupations. Rousey, the UFC women's bantamweight champion, went to Bulgaria to film "Expendables 3," a franchise built around Sylvester Stallone and old-school action movie stars. Rousey then returned to the States to film "Fast & Furious 7," of which production is now halted after the death of star Paul Walker during a break from shooting.

Rousey, 26, wrapped her on-set work in mid-November, then went straight into training camp for Tate, 27. The two fought once before, with Rousey submitting Tate by armbar to take her Strikeforce title on March 3, 2012.

"I wanted to raise the stakes and make it more difficult for myself and be like, 'You know what? I'm going to make two movies and I'm going to beat this chick,' " said Rousey, who was the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo when she earned the bronze in 2008.

Tate and Rousey, to put it politely, do not get along. To use Tate's words, "We want to beat the hell out of each other." To use Rousey's words, "It'd be nice to not have to deal with her personally myself anymore."

Rousey (7-0, 1-0 UFC) is the unquestioned face of women's MMA, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed California girl with a smile made for magazines and an attitude built for the cage. That approach helped make her a star in Strikeforce and led UFC president Dana White to create an entire women's division.

Tate (13-4, 0-1) is the less boisterous fighter -- and the one who wouldn't have even been in this fight had Cat Zingano not injured her knee after she beat Tate last April.

But something else happened this fall.

As "TUF" played out on televisions and Internets, public perception of both Rousey and Tate slowly shifted.

Rousey's media darling image took a hit on the pre-recorded reality series, while Tate gained new fans in that pendulum swing.

But that's a television show. The bulk of the interest still remains in Rousey's corner, the UFC champion's corner, the outspoken, brash former Olympian's corner. It was until more than 25 minutes into a UFC 168 conference call last week when Tate received her first question. Her response appeared on page 18 of a 24-page transcript of the call.

"I've been loved in this sport and I've been hated in the sport," Tate said. "It's not going to make or break me either way."

Tate has said multiple times that she allowed her negative feelings toward Rousey to overshadow her focus in their first fight. It's a mistake she believes will not happen this time.

"I just got sucked into all of it," Tate said. "I finally feel like I've reached a point in my life where my maturity level and my skill set are on the same level."

New York Sports