Back in the fray: MMAmania.com Strikeforce Challengers interview exclusive with Miesha Tate

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Miesha Tate is officially back in the fray in the Strikeforce 135-pound women's division.

Her last fight under the Strikeforce banner in May 2009 resulted in a disappointing unanimous decision loss to current champion Sarah Kaufman. Since then, however, she has rattled off impressive victories over Sarah Oriza and Valerie Coolbaugh.

She will once again return to the Strikeforce cage to face undefeated striker Zoila Frausto on the Strikeforce Challengers 7 card. The event is scheduled to take place in Fresno, California on Friday, March 26.

"Takedown" Tate took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss why she's a bad matchup for Frausto, the upcoming 135-pound tournament, managing fighters of her own someday, and how she spends her free time outside of MMA.

Check it out:

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I know you wrestled for four years in high school. How did you go from high school wrestler to full time mixed martial artist?

Miesha Tate: I discovered MMA through a roommate of mine in college. She was into karate and she found this mixed martial arts club sport and begged me to go along with her. I had no clue what it was. I didn't even know what MMA was. I was like, "I didn't do any kind of karate. I wrestled for a little bit, but that's about it." She was like, "No, no, no, there are a lot of former high school wrestlers. You will really like it. You have to come." I went with her, and sure enough, we were learning jiu-jitsu techniques and a little bit of striking and I thought it was really cool. It all kind of snowballed from there. I then went to some fight cards with the guys I was training with and I took my first fight not too long after that. And here I am today!

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I watched a mini-documentary of you online and my favorite part was the story about your first amateur MMA fight against Liz Posener in 2006. Tell our readers how the fight played out.

Miesha Tate: The first round I went out there and on the judge's scorecard I won the round. I took her down. I was still kind of in the wrestling mode. I didn't do a lot of striking, but I controlled the first round. The second round I went out and hit her with one two, one two, and she Thai clinched me and I didn't know how to defend it. I had only been doing standup training for about three weeks before I took that fight. I kept trying to shoot in to take her down and she caught me with two knees to the face, one of which broke my nose. It didn't hurt when I got hit, but I heard it and it was really loud. Before I knew it there was blood everywhere.

I finished taking her down but I was dazed. She kind of slid out onto my back and tried to sink in the choke. Then she postured up and started throwing punches. I was like, "What the hell is going on here? This chick is a Muay Thai girl and she's on my back. That's not cool." I started going crazy and I bucked her off. Then she fell down into guard position and I started reigning down punches as hard as I could to finish out the round.

I went back to my corner and I would've gone out for the third round happily but they were like, "Oh my gosh, obviously your nose is broken." I think they were kind of shocked because they had never cornered a girl and it was an amateur fight. I think they didn't know how I was going to handle it. Unfortunately, I lost that fight because they wouldn't let me go back out for the third round.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): That is a tough debut. It is probably not the ideal debut, but you used it to sort of propel yourself forward. Did it reassure your belief that competing in MMA is what you were meant to do?

Miesha Tate: Yes, it did for sure because it didn't deter me. I came away with a pretty shockingly severe injury and it took me a long time to recuperate from it. I was swollen for a good two weeks with full black eyes. It was my first fight and everybody was nervous. My mom and nobody really wanted me to do this. Everyone was like, "Don't break your nose." I think everybody jinxed me. (laughs)

I went out there and it was kind of the worst case scenario. My grandparents were all freaked out. My parents were like, "Well good thing she learned. Now she's never going to do this again!" To me it was like, "No way can I go out like that! I have to redeem myself. I'm too competitive." I hung in there and didn't quit and kept fighting through the injury. I knew I had the fight instinct and not the flight instinct. I'm not the kind of person that gives up. You have to knock me out or choke me out and finish me in some way, because I'm never going to quit coming at you.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Let's fast forward to the Strikeforce Challengers 1 event. You were supposed to fight Kim Couture. Then she pulled out and it changed to Sarah Kaufman, which was a big step up in competition. How soon before the fight did they swap opponents and did you feel like you had enough time to prepare for Kaufman?

Miesha Tate: I didn't feel like I had enough time. It was about 2 ½ weeks out that the opponent change happened. It was kind of short notice. Granted, I had been preparing for a fight, but it was just a very different style. Kim Couture is a lot taller. Kaufman is obviously way more efficient at what she does. For Kim I was training to stand. I felt like I would've been competitive enough in that area and I wanted to display that.

Then when I got matched up with Sarah Kaufman I felt desperate to start drilling the takedown game. I felt intimidated on my feet. I went out there. I was striking. I was hanging in there but it was obviously I was losing the striking battle. It was just so engrained in my head. By the time it clicked for me I was too desperate for the shot and I wasn't setting it up well. It was kind of an awkward situation.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Were you happy with your performance ultimately? You won the second round of that fight if I am not mistaken.

Miesha Tate: Yes, I won the second round on all three judges' scorecards. She won the first and last. I felt like I had a better performance than I thought I was going to, but once I realized that I realized how much better it still could have been. That's where I find motivation to want to show people. Now I know that I can compete on that level. It was just kind of a shock because I never had competed against a fighter of that caliber. She is ranked #1 in the world right now and #4 or #5 when I fought her. It was quite a jump up the ladder. I had been progressing and slowly fighting tougher and tougher people and then it was boom, now I'm in there with Sarah Kaufman, who is an amazing fighter. I learned a lot. I walked away a better fighter. I have a lot more courage now. Those are some of the qualities I need to become a world champion.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you get over a loss like that right away or does that sit in the back or your head for a while?

Miesha Tate: It kind of burns for a little while. I'm just the kind of person that tries to take the positive from it. If you dwell on negative it doesn't get you anywhere. If you lose you learn something from yourself and you learn what you need to work on. You have to take it, implement it, and feel good about what you're doing.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I saw you were recently tweeting and wishing Sarah Kaufman good luck in her last fight. I get the sense that a lot of the big named female MMA fighters seem to have each other's backs to a certain extent. It is sort of like you are all in the same boat together trying to further women's MMA. Is this perception true?

Miesha Tate: Yes, for the most part. I think we all kind of realize we're in the same boat. We are all striving for the same thing. We are still relatively few and far between. There are a lot of people that try to tear us apart. It is very important that the women try to stick together. If we don't have each other's back it is going to be that much easier for someone to try to diminish us. We need to team up and push each other and help each other. I think it is important for us to do that. I think most the girls understand it and do that.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Most recently, you defeated Valerie Coolbaugh on January 16 via armbar 4:45 into the first round. You've fought with both three minute rounds and five minute rounds. Which do you prefer?

Miesha Tate: I prefer the five minute rounds. I feel like it favors the grappler, especially if you're going against someone with good takedown defense and striking. You can't just go out there expect to get a takedown right off the bat. If you take someone down into their guard and they've got a good guard then you've got to work for position.

Ideally, a grappler is looking for a submission or TKO. You're probably not going to get that in someone's guard, especially in Strikeforce because you can't throw elbows. You have to work and then try to go for some kind of finish. It takes a little while sometimes. For instance, with Sarah Kaufman I got her down in the first round after a couple failed attempts. I finally figured out how to get her down but there were only 18 seconds left. Had I had another two minutes who's to say what would have happened?

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You're fighting Zoila Frausto on March 26. She's an undefeated fighter. Describe her fighting style to me and what she brings to the table?

Miesha Tate: She claims to be a Muay Thai fighter. She likes to kick a lot which is fine by me. You don't see a whole lot of people that kick as much as she does. She's got a decent clinch. Her standup game is pretty solid. I think she has a little bit on the ground, but I don't think it's anywhere near my level. I feel like I have a world class ground game. I have a good wrestling background, awesome jiu-jitsu, and I have good standup as well. I don't think it's a very good matchup for her.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Does the face that she tends to kick more than the average opponent make her more susceptible to being taken down?

Miesha Tate: I would say so. I don't fear kicks at all. Really the only way that kicks are effective is if you leave yourself open or if you're going backwards. I don't intend on losing this fight. I don't intend on going backwards. I'm going to be aggressive. I don't think they're going to help her very much. I think they're going to be more of a hindrance, but that's her style, so I don't think it's a good style matchup for her.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Strikeforce is putting together a 135-pound tournament soon. The winner reportedly gets a crack at the 135-pound titleholder. Can we pencil you in for tournament?

Miesha Tate: I sure hope so. I haven't heard anything from Strikeforce so I can't say for sure. I can tell you I will be really disappointed if I was not apart of it. I've heard some rumors that my fight with Zoila. From what I've gathered whoever wins this will be entered into the tournament. Then whoever wins the tournament will have a title shot.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Outside of mixed martial arts what do you like to spend your free time doing?

Miesha Tate: There are a couple things I love doing. I watch movies. I get Redbox movies and watch them after practice. I like to cook. I actually really like cake decorating, as funny as that sounds. (laughs) My mom was always into cake decorating. She used to do it professionally and sell cakes on the side like wedding cakes. I have an artistic side to me. When I have time I like to draw. I like to play piano or music. That's about it.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I have heard you say that you would like to manage female fighters when your own fighting career is done. Why is that?

Miesha Tate: I feel like I'm in a good position to help other females. I feel like, for the most part people like me and my image. There are a lot of things I have to offer that I could help with including things I've done wrong, things to look out for, or just how to deal with certain situations. I'm learning as I go and if I could save someone else all the trouble by already having gone through it myself I think that would be really cool. The females need as much push and support as they can get, so why not?

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Any message you would like to pass along to your fans out there or any sponsors you would like to thank?

Miesha Tate: I would like to say that this fight against Zoila is going to be in her hometown, but I know there are a lot of people down in Fresno that support me after the Sarah Kaufman fight that took place there as well. I'm going to be looking and listening for that support. I always appreciate it. As far as sponsors go I would like to thank Project Labels and Tussels.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Thank you. I appreciate your time today. Best of luck in your upcoming fight.

Miesha Tate: Alright, thank you!

Derek Bolender is a frequent MMAmania.com contributor. He is also a syndicated writer to FoxSports.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter.

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