Miesha Tate: A Comeback That Feels Right
In 2016 at UFC 205, the career of Miesha Tate looked finished. The defeat to Raquel Pennington had the look of a fighter who was emotionally and physically drained.
There were problems behind the scenes, a toxic relationship had just ended, but there was no clean break. The ex was still there in a coaching capacity and wanted to rekindle what they once had. There seemed no escape. Tate was low, isolated from her family, physically and emotionally spent, suffering from depression. The subsequent retirement wasn’t a surprise and it looked a permanent one.
The loss to Pennington came on the back of Tate losing her UFC bantamweight title to Amanda Nunes at UFC 200. A bad weight cut, simmering tensions in her personal life left her a long way off from where she needed to be to defend her title against someone of the quality of Nunes. Time would show just how good Nunes is.
Tate was one of the early pioneers who helped women’s MMA gain acceptance, and after reaching the top of her sport earlier in the year it was a sad disappointing end to her MMA career.
It had come when Tate was seemingly on top of the world just a few months prior. The journey had been long and hard. After a repeat loss to Ronda Rousey, Tate kept winning but another title shot didn’t materialise. There were thoughts of retirement until Rousey sensationally lost her title in Australia to Holly Holm.
The perseverance proved worthwhile when Holm decided not to wait for Rousey, the door was opened again for Tate. It was one of those memorable nights in UFC history. Conor McGregor would suffer his first defeat inside a UFC Octagon, and Tate came from the brink of defeat at UFC 196.
Holm had gambled plenty to defend her title against Tate, the lucrative rematch with Rousey was next. It was a multi-million dollar gamble, but after surviving a tough second round, she only had to see out the fifth and final round to retain her title. But Tate knew what she had to do. She came close in the second round, there would be no escape for the reigning champion this time.
“I knew I had to finish the fight. I had to find that perfect timing. I had to be perfect in the fifth round.” Perfect she was. Tate locked in a rear-naked choke at the 3:30 mark of the fifth round to finally become a UFC champion.
But just 8 months later, Tate waved goodbye to the sport. She went to Japan to be the Vice President of One Championship, started a family, a comeback seemed unlikely. But MMA has a way of drawing you back in.
During the pandemic and living in Singapore, the lockdown was hard. That tough lockdown left Tate unable to train and do what she loved, she then realised how much she missed the sport. The competitive edge slowly returned.
“It just feels right,” Tate said simply.
Tate 34, returns this Saturday against Marion Reneau ending her hiatus of nearly five years. Tate is happier now, free from the past and ready to make up for lost time.
The former Strikeforce and UFC champion doesn’t have to return, she wants to. Tate has a two-year plan and wants to win titles again. Nunes is still riding high, with opponents running out, with a few wins Tate might get her rematch sooner rather than later.
A win over Reneau will see Tate make a return to the UFC rankings, and she believes one or two more wins would put her in a position to be able to challenge Nunes again.
Tate achieved plenty in her career, much of it against a backdrop of inner turmoil, which makes her success even more remarkable. But Tate is now in a good place, and as she says herself, the comeback feels right.
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