Throughout her six-year career as a professional MMA fighter, Miesha Tate has seen just about everything and tested her skills against the best women in the world.
From her climb up the ranks at 135 pounds to her eventual win over Marloes Coenen to claim the Strikeforce women's bantamweight title, Tate has no shortage of big moments to draw from as she makes her UFC debut this weekend.
The same can't be said, however, for her opponent Cat Zingano, who also makes her Octagon debut, but without anywhere near the same background as her opponent.
Zingano is an undefeated prospect with a perfect 7-0 record, but this will be the first time she's stood under the bright lights that come along with the UFC. Originally, Zingano was supposed to fight under the Strikeforce banner, but canceled shows and the promotion eventually folding prevented her from ever doing that.
Now she stands on the precipice of a huge opportunity to face Tate, with the winner moving on to coach The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 opposite UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Facing Tate is a big-enough task, but Zingano does so without ever feeling the heat that comes along with the spotlight the UFC provides.
"It's definitely something I've thought about because she was noticeably nervous around all of the media when we did the appearance at UFC 157," Tate said about Zingano when speaking to Bleacher Report recently. "She was kind of just in awe of it all. You could kind of tell she was awestruck by it all. She didn't know what to make of it, it was all exciting, it was all new. She was kind of nervous and kind of stuttering in her interviews. She just didn't seem as comfortable with the atmosphere, and I really feel that could be a huge advantage for me."
The concept of first-time UFC jitters is nothing new, and many veteran fighters have admitted feeling butterflies in their stomachs as they walk to the cage for the first time or hear Bruce Buffer call their name during the introductions. Being in the UFC is just a different animal than competing on regional shows like Zingano has done in the past, but she will get no warm-up fight or undercard bout to introduce her to what it's like to be in the Octagon.
"I can't say it's going to make her fight any better or worse, I don't know," said Tate. "I do know I'm very used to it, I'm very comfortable with the media and very comfortable with the cameras in my face. It's something that gradually as my career progressed it's become a regular thing for me. It's nothing out of the norm."
While Zingano's resume is littered with notable names like recently crowned Invicta FC champion Barb Honchak and veteran fighter Takayo Hashi, she hasn't faced the same level of competition as Tate.
In the past few years, Tate has taken on a who's-who list of women's fighters, and that kind of experience is invaluable in these kinds of moments.
"I've fought the best in the world," said Tate. "I've fought Sarah Kaufman, I've fought Marloes Coenen, I've fought Ronda, I've fought some really top-quality opponents. I know what it feels like to be on a big stage. I know what it feels like to be in there with top-five ranked women in the world. Those are things I can honestly say looking at Cat's record and her history, she doesn't have going for her.
"I don't think she's fought anyone in the top 10 at all at 135. She's never fought on the big stage. I think it's going to be a disadvantage. It's going to be quite a shock for her."
The odds are definitely in Tate's favor heading into the fight, but that also mounts the pressure on her to win. To ensure her readiness, Tate picked up from her home in Washington and moved to Arizona for several weeks to train alongside UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at his gym, the MMA Lab.
Tate is taking no chances in making sure she gets past Zingano and then sets up the biggest rematch in women's MMA history with Rousey. The two ladies share quite a history, and Tate believes she's destined to get one more shot at her longtime rival.
A win will also provide Tate with the chance to coach on The Ultimate Fighter, something she's dreamt about for years. Women weren't even in the UFC until 2013, so the chances of her coaching the long-running reality show seemed slim to none until now.
"That kind of opportunity is once in a lifetime I feel like," Tate said about coaching The Ultimate Fighter. "It's just one of those things that maybe when I first started my career I didn't see as a possibility, but as things sort of unraveled as I've just kind of kept chipping away at this big dream; it just gets bigger and more grand and more awesome.
"There's no way in hell I'm going to let Cat Zingano take that away from me because it's mine. I know this is my destiny. I just know I'm the one that's supposed to be coaching opposite Ronda. I just know we're perfect for TV. I think we'll both make great coaches. I can just feel it in my heart this is mine for the taking."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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