After Miesha Tate submitted Holly Holm in the UFC 196 headliner last weekend, there was some speculation that the surprise outcome would hasten Ronda Rousey’s return to mixed martial arts.
After all, “Rowdy” already owns two victories over Tate and would seemingly match up better with the Washington-based wrestler than she would the striking-minded Holm, who knocked out Rousey in the second round this past November. According to UFC President Dana White, when he texted Rousey the news of Tate’s triumph, the ex-champ responded, “Looks like I’ve got to get back to work.”
Of course, not everyone thinks another Rousey victory over Tate is a given. Robert Follis, Tate’s coach at Xtreme Couture, said his fighter was feeling confident about her prospects against the Olympic judoka last summer, when a win over Jessica Eye at UFC on Fox 16 seemingly made “Cupcake” the No. 1 contender in waiting.
“We were excited for the last fight that didn’t happen. We fully believed that we learned from our mistakes in the second fight with Ronda and we took her further at that point than anybody else had by far,” Follis said during a recent appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “And we felt like we were doing well. We made a mistake and hat’s off to Ronda. She’s been an unbelievable champion. But we felt like we had what it took.
“We’d be happy to fight her again. We feel like we’re even better prepared now. Right now I like the fact that we’re on the momentum. We’re on a big winning streak and we’ve got the belt now. She’s got to come back and get it. She’s coming off a loss. I would love to see that fight happen right now.”
While there is still much to be determined, all signs point to Tate-Rousey 3 at some point in 2016. White admitted as much during an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter after UFC 196. Previously, the plan was for Rousey to return sometime late in the year, and it’s unclear if that has changed with Tate’s win.
Follis believes Rousey still has to prove that she can bounce back in a positive fashion from the first setback of her career.
“There’s a big question as to how Ronda’s gonna come back from that loss. For some fighters a loss at that level is an inspiration and drives them to work harder. Look at Randy Couture, that was a guy who oftentimes fought better after a loss. There was a drive to prove, but that’s not true with a lot of fighters,” Follis said. “I get that theme from one of the early “Superman” [movies] when Christopher Reeve traded his superpowers in for love. And he gets hit and he starts bleeding and he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m not invincible anymore.’ And there’s some fighters I think have that.
“Is that Ronda? I doubt it, but it’s yet to be seen how she’s gonna step back from not just a loss, but a devastating loss and getting knocked out like that after all she had talked and done.”
It’s no secret that Tate and Rousey have never been the best of friends. Whether the new champion elects to engage in a war of words prior to their currently hypothetical third bout is entirely up to Tate.
“I don’t think it ever hurts to try and have some mental warfare going on. I think that’s an important piece. I think one of the things that Conor McGregor has done so well is that he’s a genius at it. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down to dinner with him; I know his coach personally. The persona that you see in the media, which I’m not a huge fan of that kind of antics, but when you meet him behind the scenes he’s a very intelligent, well-spoken man. He’s very respectful. But he’s great at getting into people’s heads,” Follis said. “I think one of the things that he ran into this last fight is he got in there with a fighter that is tough to rattle mentally...I think there is a piece there, but that really depends on Miesha and how she feels about it.”
Follis is confident that even if Tate never gets a much-desired victory over Rousey, her legacy as one of the top female mixed martial artists of all-time is already secure. For now, the ball is in the promotion’s court.
“Quite frankly, whether we get that fight or not has very little to do with us,” he said. “The UFC is obviously going to make that decision, and at this point with the belt it doesn’t matter who they bring to us; we’re gonna fight.”