Miesha Tate has never been one to back down from a challenge.
So when the UFC women's bantamweight champion was asked for the exact reason she accepted a title defense against Amanda Nunes -- a dangerous opponent lacking a crossover name -- for Saturday's UFC 200 card, Tate never broke stride.
"I took this fight because the UFC called me up and asked me if I would fight and I said yes. It's as simple as that. There was no mention of any other names." Miesha Tate
"I took this fight because the UFC called me up and asked me if I would fight and I said yes," Tate said. "It's as simple as that. There was no mention of any other names."
While it's fair to assume the irony of Tate's situation isn't lost on her, it's certainly worth mentioning.
Four months ago, Holly Holm faced heavy scrutiny from UFC brass for electing to make her first title defense against Tate instead of waiting for a big-money rematch against Ronda Rousey later this year. Holm's gamble backfired dramatically, as Tate rallied in Round 5 to take her title by submission at UFC 196.
The fallout played out like a soap opera, as UFC president Dana White publicly blamed Holm's manager Lenny Fresquez for taking a risk. Fresquez went on to suggest that Tate was offered an immediate rematch with Holm and turned it down, which Tate denied.
Whichever side you believe, Tate (18-5) now finds herself in a position that is eerily similar to that of Holm in March.
One year after it appeared Rousey had all but cleaned out the division, bantamweight is red-hot, as Holm's upset win against Rousey in November effectively leveled the playing field. The aftermath presented Tate, fresh off her title win, with a number of potential options, including a third bout with Rousey, rematches with Holm or Cat Zingano, and a catchweight fight against Cris "Cyborg" Justino, fresh off her UFC debut in May at 140 pounds.
In the end, Tate accepted a quick turnaround against Nunes (12-4), a dangerous striker and well-rounded threat who is riding a three-fight win streak. The only thing different from Holm's situation is that Tate retained the full support of the UFC despite taking a similar risk that Holm had months earlier.
"Ronda was clearly not able to fight, and I don't know why they didn't have me fight Holly," Tate said. "There were speculations that her management were not really on the greatest terms with UFC. I don't know that. I can't comment. But I wasn't asked for any other fight than Amanda."
Tate, 29, was quick to point out that she has never been one to pick and choose opponents, saying that UFC matchmakers "have a job to do, which is make fights. I just say yes. I picked this fight because it was offered to me."
Matchmaker Sean Shelby recently explained the decision on a UFC-produced preview show.
"It's pretty easy," Shelby said. "Amanda has the best win streak in the division, and she is very dangerous. She's arguably the best stand-up fighter in the division. She can take anybody out within one round."
There's little debate regarding the danger that Nunes, 28, brings to the table. The native of Brazil is 5-1 since her UFC debut in 2013 with four first-round finishes. The only knock on her thus far has been her stamina, which was stretched in a third-round TKO loss to Zingano in 2014, as well as Nunes' latest win, a unanimous decision against Valentina Shevchenko in March.
That presents an interesting dynamic to the fight. Tate, often a slow starter, hasn't seen a fight go less than three rounds since 2012. The explosive Nunes, meanwhile, has gone the distance only once (in a 2013 loss to Sarah D'Alelio) before joining the UFC and enters the first scheduled five-round fight of her career Saturday.
"I think I'm definitely battle-tested, and I've proven that," Tate said. "Every time that I fight I am prepared to go all five rounds if necessary."
Nunes, who has chosen her words carefully in recent weeks, hasn't lacked for confidence. She glared at Tate during the UFC 200 news conference in April, boldly exclaiming, "I have all the tools to beat you, and I will show you on July 9."
A major part of Nunes' platform has been her belief that Tate's victory against Holm, in which she trailed on the scorecards entering the final round, had more to do with Holm's lack of execution.
"Everybody knows about Miesha's ground game. I knew that fight was going to happen like that," Nunes said. "I said to my friend that night, 'If Miesha can take her down, I know she is going to submit her.' And it happened. Holly made a mistake. She was scared of the ground game the entire fight, and Miesha got her."
Tate has taken issue with the idea that the title changed hands because of Holm's mistake, believing instead that she capitalized on an opportunity.
"I took her down and put the kind of pressure on her that forced her to either stay underneath me and take a beating or get up and leave herself open," Tate said. "That was the two choices that I gave her. In the second round, she stayed underneath me because she didn't want to give up the choke, and I beat her up 10-8 in that round.
"In the fifth round, she didn't want to stay underneath, so she gave up the choke. I don't think it was her making a mistake as much as me giving her no other option."
It's that opportunistic side of Tate's personality that makes her so exciting to watch, leaving little surprise that she was willing to risk future headlining roles by facing Nunes. But the other side of the argument is interesting.
While the idea of sitting idle and waiting for Rousey to return is a difficult one for a fighter of Tate's makeup, a big-money third fight between the two makes sense only if Tate has the title considering Rousey owns two convincing wins against her.
The subject of whether Rousey would be next is one that Tate isn't willing to consider, at least not until she gets past Nunes. Tate went as far as intercepting a question about Rousey before it was even finished during a recent media conference call.
"I'm going to stop you right there because there is no way I'm looking past this fight with Amanda," Tate said. "I just can't afford it. I've been seeing that a lot of people are losing titles quickly and focusing on things they don't need to be. I refuse to make that mistake. I didn't get here by overlooking opponents, and Amanda is a very tough one."
If it appears that Tate is shouldering the burden of added pressure entering this fight, she very much is. Like Holm before her, Tate is taking a gamble on herself.
"I feel like there is a lot of pressure on me, but the thing that I really like about that is I know it, I accept it and I think that I really thrive under pressure," Tate said. "I put myself in these situations out of my own choice. I'm not here because of any other reasons, and no one is forcing me. I'm here because I like putting pressure on me because I know I perform the best under pressure.
"I think I was meant to be a champion."