Let’s all say it together: Ugh.
Despite the UFC’s good and proper recent decision to book Rousey against Alexis Davis at July’s UFC 175, company president Dana White re-stoked the fires about a Carano superfight on Saturday, following UFC on Fox 11.
White reportedly emerged from last week’s meeting with Carano positively glowing and indicated he’s still hopeful a deal can get done. During the Fox event's media scrum he also defended the notion the fighter-turned-actress might step straight into a bout for Rousey’s gold.
"I do think she does (deserve an immediate title shot)," White said, via BloodyElbow.com's Karim Zidan. "She's legit. Everybody knows she's legit."
He probably said more, but the profuse groaning and hissing of his organization’s hardcore fanbase drowned out the rest. Or at least it did in our imaginations.
The obvious truth, of course, is that we have no idea how legit Carano would be five-and-a-half years removed from her last MMA win and fighting at a weight she hasn’t made since 2006. We all understand the various reasons why the UFC might let her waltz into a fight with Rousey, but—to quote the fictional gunslinger William Munny—deserve’s surely got nothing to do with it.
Fortunately, Miesha Tate was also on hand in Orlando, Florida, to save us the trouble of rehashing it all. When asked at the post-fight press conference how she’d feel about having a bout with Carano, she too had notions.
"I'll take that fight all day long...,” Tate said, via Bleacher Report’s John Heinis. “I'd love to fight Gina."
Finally, somebody who makes sense.
If Carano is serious about returning to MMA via the UFC’s Octagon, then Tate is a far more competitive, more defensible first fight for her than Rousey. Save for perhaps its capacity to trick non-fight fans into paying for it, it is in all ways the preferable matchup.
For one thing, Tate is the fight company’s second most famous female fighter and is coming off a victory over Liz Carmouche in the co-main event of a network television broadcast. She’s likable, used to hyping big fights and—aside from the fact she doesn't tear people's arms off like it’s going out of style—is every bit as good an ambassador for women’s MMA as Rousey.
Most importantly, she’s not the champion. For that reason alone, inserting her as Carano’s first UFC foe makes more sense.
For Rousey, a bout with Carano would be little more than a significant pay day and a light night of work to cap a year where she took some time off to make movies. In stark contrast, a fight against the athlete formerly hailed as "the face of women's MMA" would be pretty meaningful for Tate's career.
Truth is, she hasn’t been as good as we’d hoped she might be since coming over from Strikeforce with a 13-3 record. Her come-from-behind win over Carmouche last weekend was her first inside the Octagon, and with two losses to Rousey already on her record, she’d have to do something pretty spectacular to get another shot at the champion.
If she managed to get a W over Carano, it would amount to a high-profile victory over a “legit” opponent (a woman the UFC steadfastly claims would be an automatic top contender) and would raise her overall profile with fans while putting her back in the 135-pound hunt.
For Carano, taking on Tate would prove she’s not just here for a one-off cash-grab or as a way to promote some upcoming film. For a 32-year-old veteran with a long layoff, it shapes up as a more desirable comeback fight, one where perhaps she won’t be tapping from an armbar while the echoes of “let’s get it on” still hang in the air.
If actual MMA fans are drawn to watch Carano fight again at all, it’ll be out of a mild interest to see how her skills have held up during her time away. In that regard, Tate is a vastly more compelling matchup than Rousey.
We know pretty much exactly how Rousey vs. Carano would go. But Carano vs. Tate? Now, that's interesting.
As for the UFC, a Tate vs. Carano fight would be a good opportunity for the company to continue forging new stars in women’s MMA. Not to mention, it would go a long way to proving the promotion is interested in more than just one women’s bantamweight.
No, it probably won’t make as much money, at least in the short term. Then again, if the UFC takes the time to build its women's division around competitive matchups and realistic stakes, perhaps it could earn something even more valuable.
Our good faith.