It looks like UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will soon get a chance to break Miesha Tate’s other arm. The UFC dropped a bombshell on Tuesday night, announcing that Tate would be stepping in to coach “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 in place of Cat Zingano, who has been forced out of action with a knee injury. In addition to the coaching slot, Tate will be granted a coveted shot at Rousey’s UFC title and an opportunity to avenge an earlier loss against her archrival.
Rousey and Tate have a colorful history going back to their Strikeforce days and should deliver plenty of pranks and trash-talking for TUF fans to giggle over. But is this really the time to be gifting title shots based on what will entertain a reality show audience? Don’t female fighters deserve a chance to earn their UFC stripes the old-fashioned way, as in, by stringing together wins and putting on awesome fights?
When looking at how this Tate-Rousey rematch has come about, I’m reminded of Chael Sonnen’s match with UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, a fight that was as out-of-left-field as any we’ve seen the UFC put on in recent memory. Despite the fact that he had never competed in the UFC at 205 pounds, Sonnen was given a chance to coach TUF and a UFC title fight, based on an “almost” against pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva and an unprecedented pro wrestling-style promotional angle. I understand the business sense behind the move (it’s about the ratings), but what about the logic?
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good freakshow fight as much as the next guy, and I’m more willing than most fans to embrace MMA more as “sports entertainment” than pure athletic competition. But that’s not what the UFC has been selling us on for all these years. If I had a nickel for every time Dana White has said “we make sure the best fight the best” or something similar, I’d have… well, a lot of nickels.
And yet here we are just the same, and the question remains: is Tate being placed into the limelight because she’s the best fighter, or because the UFC thinks she’ll make the best TV? One can only speculate, but if this is really about fighting credentials alone, Sara McMann is arguably a better pick than Tate. McMann is undefeated in seven fights, brings in an Olympic wrestling pedigree, and recently won her UFC debut by TKO in the first round. Tate, on the other hand, is 1-2 in her last three and winless in the UFC (having lost her debut to Zingano).
At the end of the day, talk of “just desserts” and “fairness” is best left to the naïve and the effete, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a moment for introspection. Tate is a legit fighter and has earned her spot among the best in the world, but she’s also lucky to have an existing fan base and the company support that comes with it. I hope, for the sake of all the tough female fighters out there, that the UFC gives the women’s 135 pound division an honest go and promotes these women based on how they perform, and not solely on how much buzz they can generate.