Miesha Tate has reached her breaking point, and retirement could be an option if things aren't made right.
Over two months have passed since the UFC's perpetual No. 1 female bantamweight contender awoke to find her promised title shot against Ronda Rousey given to Holly Holm without even a heads up from promotion officials, and after hearing Dana White's less than glowing assessment of her future, Tate finds herself at a crossroads with no easy answers for what comes next.
"I understand they have a job to do. They want to promote, they want to make fights that sell. I get it," Tate said Monday on The MMA Hour. "But this is also my life and I'm not a robot and I'm not a puppet, and I'm not going to stand for something that I don't feel right about, that I don't agree with.
"The whole reason I do this sport is because I love it, and when the politics get in the way and they start messing s**t up -- excuse my language -- I'm just not going to stand for it. It's not why I got into fighting. It's not why I do what I do. And I'm not going to go out there and put on a crap performance in front of all my fans because I didn't feel right about it."
Tate's grievances began in August, after she fought and defeated Jessica Eye in a supposed No. 1 contender fight at UFC on FOX 16. The win prompted White to publicly confirm that Tate had earned a third crack at Rousey, however those promises ultimately meant little.
The UFC awarded the much lower-ranked Holm the shot against Rousey, and Tate found out about her loss of opportunity through second-hand means when Rousey announced it on ‘Good Morning America.'
"To wake up to that, it was almost like waking up to still being in a nightmare," Tate said. "I felt like I wasn't even sure if I was quite awake yet. Like, ‘am I still sleeping? What is going on right now?' I'm half-dazed and I'm trying to take it all in, and I just felt extremely overwhelmed.
"I just got really depressed, honestly. I wasn't very happy or very motivated at that moment, I didn't know what to think, so it took me a couple weeks to kind of wrap my mind around it and get back up on the horse and start training again, and start thinking about what I want to do. Then I heard Dana White announce, ‘Miesha is one more fight away,' and I'm like, okay, shoot, it's not what I wanted but one more fight isn't that bad. And then he's like, ‘oh, she's still a few more fights away.' I see another headline come out. I'm like, what is going on here? Like, realistically, you seem to be reneging on the entire thing, and I don't know what's going on. One fight? Two fights? How many fights, if ever?
"I think the handling of it stings more than anything," Tate added. "I just felt like it was poorly handled. I've been a professional, I've been a team player with the UFC. I've always been a company woman. I just felt a little bit frustrated that it wasn't handled differently."
Rousey's fight against Holm is now weeks away and yet Tate remains in limbo, unsure of where exactly she stands in the UFC's plans.
She expects to sit down this month and have a "long overdue" conversation with White about the acrimony between the two sides, but she has made it clear that retirement is a viable option if the UFC is unwilling to budge on several issues, such as the contrast between her and Rousey's pay and expectations that were first brought up by Joe Rogan on a recent episode of his podcast.
"It's not what I want, but I also know that I'm not going to -- there's just a point where it's not okay," Tate said. "I'm not willing to bend and I'm not willing to break. I'm a very, very stubborn person. I'm a very, very strong-willed person. I think I'm a fair person. I don't think I'm asking for too much. But again, too, I feel like Joe Rogan maybe said it best.
"He said, ‘you know, I get it, I completely sympathize with Miesha.' He's like, ‘I don't understand why there is such a big discrepancy between No. 1 and No. 2.' And he said Ronda made over $6 million according to Forbes just off of her fighting last year, and I'll tell you I made nowhere near, not even close to that, and yet they want me to fight higher-ranked and much better skilled opponents than Ronda is fighting? And she gets paid millions and I get paid pennies on the dollar?
"I need to know for myself, for my career, what my next move is going to be," Tate added, "and I have some more demands that I want to make. I realize that Ronda is making a lot, and I just feel like when I walk out for my weigh-ins, when I walk out for my fights, I have an amazing fanbase. They really always show their love and appreciation, and you can tell that I have the loudest crowd response pretty much of anyone fighting on the card, besides Ronda of course. But when it's a card by myself, I always have a huge crowd response. I have a tremendous fanbase, and I don't think any of us really want retirement to be the situation. So the UFC needs to kind of wake up and smell the coffee and make something work."
Part of Tate's frustration stems from the UFC offering her a fight against Amanda Nunes in the wake of her lost shot against Rousey.
Tate said the fight was to be on Fight Pass and it represented more of the same -- fighting a higher ranked contender than the opponent slated to face Rousey, and doing so without any real promise of what would come next.
"They said, ‘would you be interested?' And I just said, ‘you know what, you guys' -- it was on a Fight Pass card, and I said, ‘this is not all (okay)," Tate said. "You guys go from taking a pay-per-view title fight and you want to offer me a fight on Fight Pass? I don't care who it is, I'm not fighting on Fight Pass at the moment. I understand Fight Pass is growing, but I was like, I've already done my Fight Pass fight with Rin Nakai. You know what I'm saying? It felt like another slap in the face, so I was just so frustrated that it just wasn't appealing to me whatsoever. It's nothing against Amanda. She's an amazing fighter, and I would love that fight at some point. I think we would put on a spectacular fight. But it's kind of like, when push comes to shove, my way of pushing back.
"Because again, Amanda is ranked fourth or fifth, and Holly is ranked ninth or something like that. Like I said, this is dumb. I'm not the champion, so why am I fighting girls tougher than Ronda for pennies on the dollar? Period. It's a matter of making a statement and just saying to the UFC, I'm not going to be pushed around into this so it's not going to happen unless you guys make some serious changes."
At 29 years old, with an impressive four-fight win streak in her back pocket, Tate said she feels like she is in the prime of her career. But she also has been going hard at this sport for nearly a decade, and if she sees a future without any real opportunity to compete against the champion, she is comfortable that between promotional appearances, an analyst role at FOX, and a budding film career, she has enough going on outside the cage to walk away from MMA with her head held high.
"It's either going to go up in flames or [White] is going to say that I'm making some valid points and make some adjustments," Tate said. "I'm pretty dead-set on what I feel like I deserve and what I want. I know what I want, and I'm just not going to take anything less. So I guess he's going to have to be prepared to deal with one stubborn woman."