Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate is one of the most successful female fighters on the planet but ahead of her comeback to the UFC, she says that holding the world title can take quite a toll on an athlete.
Tate seemed to be on top of the world when she successfully emerged from the shadow of Ronda Rousey to defeat Rousey’s conqueror, Holly Holm, to win the UFC’s women’s 135lbs title after losing two prior world title bouts to Rousey in both the UFC and Strikeforce.
It was seen by most as a feel-good story, with the age-old narrative of a sportsperson triumphing against the odds powering column inches and web articles for as long as sports media has existed – but in reality, it set in motion a series of actions which led to Tate falling out of love with the sport and stepping away in what should have been her physical prime.
Tate’s final fight in the UFC came in November 2016 against Raquel Pennington, a fighter whom she coached on the 18th season of the UFC’s ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality show, but on this occasion is was the student who triumphed over the teacher as Pennington claimed a clear-cut unanimous decision – with Tate symbolically signaling her intention to retire afterwards.
But as she said in an interview with ESPN, the decision wasn’t just a sporting one but it was taken as a means of safeguarding her mental health which she says suffered massively throughout her time spent at the summit of MMA.
“You have to give everything to this sport,” Tate told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “You have to give as much as you can. There comes a point where you just have nothing left, and that’s where I found myself with Racquel.
“I just wasn’t able to engage in that fight the way I wanted to. That was very depressing. It was really depressing. I was struggling mentally and emotionally and I was in a very dark place.
“I needed to take time away. I need to take time away from everything. I needed to separate myself from all the things that were taking away from myself and answer questions and get out of that dark space.”
After darkness, though, comes light and Tate says she has swiftly emerged from the depression which threatened to overshadow her achievements in the cage.
It was revealed last month that Tate has ended her near five-year hiatus from the sport and will return to the Octagon to fight the 9-7-1 veteran Marion Reneau – a fighter currently in the midst of a four-fight streak of defeats.
A win wouldn’t just be redemptive for the 34-year-old Tate, it would signal a full circle return for one of female fighting’s more iconic figures – and given what she says she has been through, perhaps no one other than Reneau herself would begrudge her it.