The UFC 196 is quickly approaching. This is where Holly Holm is set to defend her Bantamweight champion title against seasoned veteran Miesha Tate. Holm’s fame skyrocketed after she defeated former titleholder Ronda Rousey in November. We caught up with Holm and Tate atop the Empire State Building in New York during a recent press day to talk to about how they’re training for when they meet in the the Octagon on March 5th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

MF Hers: Holly, what has it been like for you after taking down such a big name like Ronda Rousey, do you feel any pressure to keep that momentum going?

HH: Yeah, I think a lot of people are curious about what I’m going to do next. So, there is a lot of pressure but I’d rather be in this position than the other. (Read our Exclusive Q&A with Holm after her win against Rousey.)

MF Hers: Going into this fight, is your confidence level higher than it was going into the match with Ronda because Miesha hasn’t been able to beat her and you have?

HH: I think the fighting style is different and there’s the confidence I’ve gained with the victory over Ronda, but I had confidence that I could do it going into it or else I wouldn’t have been able to succeed with that in the first place. So there’s a confidence I have for this fight, but I’m definitely not going to overlook anything. She’s going to be a completely different fight so I’m really not comparing the two.

MF Hers: Miesha, were you watching the Holm/Rousey fight? What did you think about Holm’s victory?

MT: I was shocked and ecstatic. It’s not that I thought Holly couldn’t beat Ronda. I just thought, in 25 minutes if Ronda got one take-down, it was going to be Ronda’s world. She’s proven that time and time again. I was just so impressed with the way that Holly was able to keep her away and at bay and really use that striking advantage that she had to her advantage so well. I was really excited to see it all go down the way that it did. I was rooting for Holly and I was really jumping for joy and I think she’s made an excellent champion so far and I’m proud of her.

MF Hers: Were you surprised you got a shot at the title before the rematch between Rousey and Holm?

MT: I was very surprised when I got that. When the turn of events first happened and Holly knocked out Ronda, my immediate thought was, ‘I’m next, how can I not be next? Ronda’s going to be on medical suspension, she’s probably going to be scared a little bit, she’s going to have to mentally prepare herself for that, and she had movies to film. She already made that announcement before so she’s going to be too busy and going to be on suspension. I’ve got to be next!’ The UFC was really quick to shut me down and say, ‘No you’re not next. We’re definitely going to put this [Holm/Rousey] fight on in July so kind of just pipe down and don’t get too excited.’ Then it seemed like a change of heart. I think that Ronda realized she had a little too much on her plate to be ready to come back. I think she said she couldn’t even bite into an apple until like June. It wouldn’t even be fair [for the UFC] her to ask her to [fight in July]. They kind of came back to me and were like, ‘Just make sure you’re staying ready!’ and said, ‘Okay, that’s all I need to hear.’ They called me and confirmed it and I was said, ‘I’ll be there.’

MF Hers: How are you going to prevent that same outcome from happening in your match?

MT: I think I’m a much more strategic fighter in the sense that I’ve been battle tested. I have much more time inside the Octagon. I’m not so…desperate to get a takedown. I think I can hang with anyone in any department. I think I’m one of the best grapplers in the division. I think I have some of the best wrestling and I can take a punch, give a punch, and I think I hit really hard. I can be dangerous for anyone anywhere and if anyone is underestimating me in any category of MMA it could be a big mistake.

MF Hers: When do you start training for a fight and what does it involve?

MT: For a title fight at least 10 weeks out, I’ve definitely already began the training camp. We train two to three times a day up to six hours or more in the gym a day. I’m just working, grinding, doing all the things that you need to do to prepare for a title fight.

HH: For me, six to eight weeks out is usually always a good full training camp. Every day is different.  I work out around 3-5 hours a day Monday through Thursday, 2-3 hours on Friday and 1-2 hours on Saturday. Some days are 100% all out fighting and some are more technique or a little bit of both.

MF Hers: Are there any parts of your training that you look forward to more than others?

HH: Yeah, my favorite is probably sparring and I like wrestling, too. Sparring because it’s more like a well-rounded fight game and I love that.

MT: Absolutely, I love jiu jitsu. I love the grappling part of it. It’s something that I think owns you even after I retire from MMA. I’m just passionate about it because there’s so much to learn there. It’s a never-ending story of knowledge so I just love that, but I love all of it honestly. I feel like I’ve evolved a ton as a striker and I continue to evolve in wrestling. That [wrestling] is where I came from, that’s my base and I continue to learn there so I love all of it.

MF Hers: Holly, is there anything about Miesha’s fighting style that’s going to make you switch up your training or fight style compared to how you trained leading up to previous fights?  

HH: Absolutely, every fighter is different so I’m always going to be bringing a game plan together with my team for the specific fighter that I’m facing. She comes to the table with a lot of different things that pose threats to me compared to a lot of other fighters that I’ve been in there with. She’s very good in scrambles, she reaches for multiple submissions, she has a wrestling background, and she’s not afraid to stand and throw some punches. I feel like there’s definitely some strengths that she has that I have to watch out for.

MF Hers: How do you mentally prepare for a fight?

MT: A lot of positive self talk, a lot of reassurance, and, as silly as it sounds, I wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’m the next champion you know “and new.”‘ It’s really a matter of believing it before it happens. If you believe [that you are to win a fight] that’s 90 percent of the battle. When it happens, it’s just proving it to everyone else who may not have [believed it] before.

MF Hers: Considering your sport doesn’t have a designated off season, how do you keep your body from getting fatigued and properly recover?

MT: That’s a great question and one that doesn’t get asked enough. People don’t realize that you don’t get stronger while you’re lifting weights, or while you’re working out. You get stronger while you’re resting–that’s when your body actually heals and feels better. There has to be a really healthy balance between all of that. I’ve been fighting for about nine years and I know my body really well. It’s a learning process and a lot of people screw it up in the beginning. I’ve had fights where I definitely overtrained. I didn’t give myself enough rest between fights and didn’t give myself enough rest during my training camp. I felt really bad during the fight and really flat and not explosive. Now, I’ve learned that training smarter, not harder, is just better. I’m getting more knowledge behind [my training] and having better people behind me that can understand my body, too.

HH: In between my training camps. I really do give myself a little bit of rest. I’m always working out because I don’t want to go down to square one and then have to restart all over again at the beginning of the next fighting camp. I might just take it down a little bit. I might not run as many miles in a week and I might only spar one day out of that week instead of three days. I might only go to wrestling once instead of twice. I just kind of cut back a little bit.

MF Hers: How do you stay motivated to compete in such a brutal sport like MMA?

MT: Well that’s exactly motivation in itself. It is such a brutal sport that if you’re not prepared, it’s dangerous. I think that when someone who wants to take your head off is standing across the other side of the Octagon, that’s pretty motivational to anyone. Once I sign that contract and sign on the dotted line, I know what I’m in for and I’m fighting the number one female fighter in the world. You can’t take that lightly.

HH: It’s the most competitive sport and you can’t just go out there and just wail away. It’s very calculated. You have to be very smart with your movements and I love that it’s a full physical and mental game. With putting so much sacrifice into training, it is the most rewarding when you get a victory, and that’s what I’m chasing all the time. 

MF Hers: Is there anything you admire in your opponent?

MT: There are a lot of things that I admire about Holly, but I think all of her attributes as a fighter and as an athlete I possess as well and I think that’s why ‘greatness can recognize greatness,’ so to speak. I recognize her as an incredible athlete and a very talented woman, but I think I’m her Kryptonite and I think I’m the woman to beat her.

HH: Miesha’s been through a lot of battles. She was the champ of strike force for awhile, she has fought all the top girls and she’s still there. She’s been on a winning streak for two years. She’s not somebody to overlook.