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MMA: Tate and ‘the tune-up’

Someone, it seems, is feeding Miesha Tate a line of bull — and the UFC women’s bantamweight champion is gobbling it up and spewing it out.

In the past month, Tate has made several references to an alleged conversation that took place between UFC President Dana White and Albuquerque’s Lenny Fresquez, former champion Holly Holm’s agent.

Most recently, in an interview with MMA commentator Joe Rogan, Tate said White told her that he had come to Albuquerque before Tate’s upset victory over Holm and tried to talk Fresquez out of taking the Tate fight and instead waiting for a rematch with former champion Ronda Rousey. Holm had won the title with a stunning, second-round TKO of Rousey in Australia last November.

“(White) told me this to my face,” Tate told Rogan. “He went down there to tell them ‘don’t fight Miesha Tate’. The UFC did not want that fight to happen. They wanted the rematch to be the first fight. Holly’s manager told him ‘we want Miesha Tate’ and Dana said he threw up his hands and was like ‘are you (expletive) kidding me?’.

“He’s like ‘she’s been the baddest (woman) other than Ronda for years now, and you want to take her lightly? You think you’re just going to walk through her?’ and he’s like ‘yeah we got this’. Like she’s going to be a tune up fight.”

Note that Tate never heard “tune up fight” or “take her lightly” from Fresquez’s lips, and note that not even White — who has disliked Fresquez since the two first engaged in UFC contract negotiations in 2013 — directly quoted him as saying those words.

Fresquez, throughout Holm’s UFC career, has studiously refrained from firing back at White. Wednesday, in a phone interview with the Journal, he took the same approach with Tate.

“I have no comment on anything like that,” he said.

Here, though, from a December 2015 interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Lance Pugmire, is Fresquez’s on-the-record evaluation of Tate as an opponent for Holm.

“We’d like to fight Miesha,” he said. “We understand there are risks, but Holly’s a dominant champion, and she wants to fight the best. Right now, Miesha is the best.”

In other words, hardly a tune-up.

Meanwhile, Team Holm’s decision not to wait for Rousey — despite the loss to Tate — doesn’t look like such a bad thing.

After Holm’s victory over Rousey in November, White’s pitch was a rematch at UFC 200 in July. But now, White is saying he’s not sure Rousey will fight in 2016.

“I hope she does,” White said on the Dan Patrick Show. “(But) that’s up to her.”

After Tate beat Holm, White savaged Fresquez — first alleging he agreed to the Tate fight without Holm’s input. After Fresquez and Holm both repeatedly said the decision to fight Tate was Holm’s, White then bashed Fresquez for not talking her out of it. A Rousey rematch, White said, would have been far more lucrative.

As it is, Holm hasn’t done badly financially. Her announced purse for the Tate fight was $500,000, and other sources might have pushed her take over the $1 million mark.

“She’s a multi-millionaire already,” Fresquez said after the Tate fight.

As for that illusory Rousey rematch, any percentage of zero is zero.

HOLM-SHEVCHENKO: As announced earlier this month, Holm (10-1) will face Valentina Shevchenko (12-2) in the main event of UFC on Fox 20 on July 23, two weeks after UFC 200.

As with Tate, Fresquez, said, the decision was a case of taking a fight with the toughest opponent available.

Other possible opponents were discussed, Fresquez said, mentioning Lauren Murphy (9-2, ranked 13th in the UFC bantamweight division) and Ashlee Evans-Smith (4-1, 15th).

Shevchenko, ranked No. 9, is one of only two top-10 challengers to Tate’s title who didn’t already have a fight scheduled between now and July. Rousey (No. 2, behind Holm) is one.  Liz Carmouche (9-5, ranked No. 8) hasn’t fought since April 2015.

“It was a team choice,” Fresquez said of the decision to take the Shevchenko fight. “(The UFC) gave us a few names, and that was the one that accepted and … that we felt made the most sense.

“She’s a pretty tough girl, solid. … We didn’t want to fight (an opponent outside the top 10) and get criticized. But any way we do it, we’ll get criticized.”

On March 5, the same night Holm lost to Tate, Shevchenko lost to Brazil’s Amanda Nunes by unanimous decision. Shevchenko lost the first two rounds and almost was submitted in the second, but was dominant — too little, too late — in the third.

Nunes (12-4, ranked No. 4) will fight Tate for the title on UFC 200.

Like Holm, Shevchenko is left-handed and is primarily a striker. She does have five wins by submission, however. Holm’s loss to Tate came via fifth-round rear naked choke.

Shevchenko is a native of Kyrgyzstan but lives and trains in Lima, Peru.

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