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LAS VEGAS – Taking part in a UFC fight week for the first time in nearly five years, former women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate says she feels like she’s right back where she belongs.
“It’s like that old friend that you haven’t talked to in years, and you call him up and you haven’t skipped a beat,” Tate told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s media day at the UFC Apex. “You know, that’s how I feel. I just feel at home with this. It’s very natural, and I’m the happiest to be here that I’ve been in a very long time.”
Tate walked away from the sport following a 2016 loss to Raquel Pennington. That was just one fight removed from losing the UFC women’s bantamweight title to Amanda Nunes, and Tate was still very much considered an elite competitor in the division. However, she admits she simply didn’t have the desire to carry on.
“I just had too much on my plate, and especially, like, baggage that I just really didn’t need,” Tate said. “I needed to clear away things that were taking away from me as a person, as a human being. We’re all humans, and I think we’ve all been through rough patches in our life, right? So that was just a really rough time for me, and I just needed to step away and regroup – and I kind of identified that as with the sport. But to be honest, when I have taken this four years away and I look at it, I am more in love with the sport than I have ever been. So it wasn’t that, it was just the entanglement of everything, and that included this sport, and when I had to step away from the toxicity, that meant I had to step away from the sport, too, because I just didn’t know how to detangle the knot, you know, until I was outside of it.”
Tate says those entanglements have been cleared and feels happier in her life outside the sport than ever before. She’s given birth to two children in the interim and believes the happiness in her family life has translated to her excitement to return to the cage, as well. Tate (18-7 MMA, 5-4 UFC) takes that step at Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 26, when she meets Marion Reneau (9-7-1 MMA, 5-6-1 UFC) at the UFC Apex. The full card airs on ESPN and streams live on ESPN+.
The bout actually serves as Reneau’s retirement fight, but Tate isn’t thinking she’s getting a depleted version of “The Belizean Bruiser.”
“I think Marion is great,” Tate said. “I just really admire her. I think she’s very solid. I don’t think she has a lot of holes in her game. She’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu. She has that strong submission over Sara McMann – so impressive. She has a great submission over Jessica Andrade, and she stays in fights. You know, the fights she has lost have always been very close. She’s lost a number of split decisions.
“She’s been on the verge of being a contender a number of times, and she just didn’t get her break, but the way that I look at this fight and the Marion Reneau that I prepared for is is a mother who’s going to have her son in the corner for the first time, who’s going to look at somebody that matters between rounds and say, ‘I don’t want to let that person down.’ You know what I mean? I could only imagine as a mother if I physically saw my children between the rounds – like, it’s going to charge her, and she’s going to come, and she’s going to bring it.”
Tate isn’t viewing this comeback as a one-off. To the contrary, the former champion has said she intends on getting her belt back and believes she’s actually a better fighter now than she was when she walked away. She gets a chance to prove that on Saturday, and with an impressive performance may quickly find herself in even bigger fights. After all, Tate was always a marketable commodity for the promotion, and UFC brass certainly wouldn’t seem to mind having her back at the top of the ranks again.
However, “Cupcake” says she doesn’t exactly what her path back to the top will entail. She just knows it starts on Saturday night, and she has to deliver.
“I just want to start with Saturday,” Tate said. “I think it’s very important that I get that win and I don’t look too far ahead, you know? I am somebody who has short-term, mid-term, long-term goals, so there’s a way that I would like for it to go in a perfect world, but I know that I need to accomplish this.
“It’s imperative that I get this win for my trajectory, and, you know, I think it’s not unrealistic to say that if I have the performances that I’m planning on having, that it could be as little as three fights until I’m back into a title shot. If I’m beating (people) and I’m continuing to move up and I’m climbing the ranks, you know, that I think is a fair assumption, but I just want to start with Saturday, and see how that goes.”
To see the full interview with Tate, check out the video above.