LAS VEGAS – The reaction to Miesha Tate's victory over Julie Kedzie in August, her first bout since losing her title to Ronda Rousey five months earlier, was unanimously positive.
Tate submitted Kedzie with an arm bar following a rollicking fight that left television viewers on Showtime Extreme, fans in the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego and, significantly, UFC president Dana White roaring their approval.
Tate, though, wasn't among those who were impressed. According to her, she was in some sort of autopilot state. There was little she was happy about, from being left off the main card to the way she fought.
"I talked to Dana right after and he was very impressed," Tate said the other day as she was finishing preparations for her bout Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center against Cat Zingano. "I wasn't [impressed] though. I know it made for a great fight. Julie Kedzie, she is one hell of a tough fighter. I didn't feel, despite what people saw looking in, me, on the inside. It didn't feel like it did for all my other fights.
"In those, I felt excited, but here, I was kind of blank, bland. It was more of just like being on autopilot. It's hard to explain. It was almost like being in a twilight zone."
That was the last time Tate appeared in the cage. Seven months later, she's back, and sounds like a different person.
The intense public spotlight that comes with being an elite, world-class athlete in a high-profile sport was starting to take its toll.
She was inundated with negativity or other unwanted attention on social media. She felt the media often misunderstood what she said or blatantly misquoted her.
It all led her to conclude that she needed a step back.
"I wanted time to regroup," Tate said. "I felt the passion and fire I had felt for MMA had fizzled out a little bit by the media and all of the other things that aren't as fun as fighting is. They get in the way and it kind of can be overwhelming at times. I just needed time to regroup.
"I felt misconstrued by the media. Sometimes they have a way of taking what I say and pulling just bits and pieces and twisting it a little bit, I guess you could say. A lot of it is the fans. I love my fans, but a lot of the fans, some fans, are pretty outrageous in what they say. They don't stop to think that these are real people they're talking to and about. They almost think of us, I think, as a commodity."
Anyone who has even a little bit of public name recognition has faced a similar problem. While a majority of the public is friendly and nice to deal with, there are plenty of Internet tough guys who are rude, obnoxious and frequently outrageous.
It can be maddening to deal with. The frustration over vile, nasty comments to a rather innocuous baseball column he wrote for Sports Illustrated prompted reporter Jeff Pearlman to track down two of the men who commented. He then wrote an amusing column about it for CNN.com.
Tate has nearly 84,000 followers on Twitter and it got to be a bit much for her. Dealing with the negativity, the hate and the obnoxious behavior frequently left her mind numb and fatigued.
"It can be overwhelming, I'm not going to lie," she said. "They don't teach you how to deal with that stuff. The UFC is like, 'Hey, get on Twitter, be accessible, push yourself.' That's a good thing to do, obviously. It's free, easy marketing.
"But no one teaches you how to deal with all of the negativity. A lot of people hang around on the Internet and watch your timeline all day long. They want to live through you vicariously or, maybe, they want to bring you down and get some kind of a reaction out of you. It can be frustrating. It definitely can be overwhelming. I just had to learn how to have fun with it again."
She's about to get back into her comfort zone – in the Octagon – when she meets Zingano on Saturday.
The reward for the winner will be a stint as a coach opposite Rousey on the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter" as well as a title shot when the season ends.
Tate can barely contain herself. She developed quite the rivalry with Rousey prior to their Strikeforce bout in March 2012, and is eager to get another crack at the UFC champion.
But there is no coaching gig or rematch with Rousey without a win over Zingano. And so Tate is eager to test herself once again.
"I am so ready and everything all boils down to this fight," Tate said.
Hopefully for her sake, a return to the spotlight won't coincide with a return to the nastiness and mean-spiritedness that frequently comes as a result of fame.
Tate has often felt misunderstood by the media. If given the opportunity to write a portrait of herself, the word Tate said she'd employ is destiny.
"It's my destiny," Tate said. "I really feel like everything is leading to this moment in my life. It's the biggest opportunity I've ever had and I feel so good about it. I know you can never say you know you're going to win a fight because there's always that chance that you won't. I never want to put my foot in my mouth. But as sure as I can be, I know I'm going to win this fight Saturday.
"It means too much to me not to. I just believe I will. So, in my mind, it's done. I'm going to go out there and do whatever it takes to win the fight. That's exactly what is going to happen."
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- Martial Arts
- Ronda Rousey
- Julie Kedzie
- Miesha Tate