Miesha Tate never wanted to retire, according to her boyfriend, coach and fellow UFC fighter Bryan Caraway. A few months ago when she talked about it, she was two parts discouraged and one part pragmatic.
For someone whose ultimate goal is to win a world title, if there was no foreseeable path back to a shot at that belt then Tate wondered if it was all worth it.
"She wants to be a world champion and fight for the belt so much," Caraway told MMA Fighting. "That's her goal in life. If you're fighting in the UFC and you don't really care about that [goal], then it's a hobby. And this is not a hobby. This is our f*cking career. This is our life."
Tate might not even have to fight at this point. She's had other opportunities on the table. She has almost one million Instagram followers, has a powerhouse management firm in Kevin Harvick, Inc., and just started a podcast that has nothing to do with MMA. Caraway also revealed that Tate was offered a regular analyst gig for FOX Sports that she turned down.
"Miesha was like, 'I don't want to have that responsibility, I want to focus on fighting,'" Caraway said.
So when the UFC snubbed her for a title shot against Ronda Rousey last summer, giving it to Holly Holm instead, Tate considered hanging up the gloves. If she wasn't going to be able to reach her career goal, then maybe she'd just focus on getting paid in a different medium.
"If the UFC would have kept not giving her opportunities that she earned, well then at that point it just becomes wear and tear on her body," Caraway said. "She's a beautiful girl. She has so many other options getting thrown at her. She was like, 'Well, if I'm not gonna do this for the passion and fighting for a world title, then I'm gonna do something for money and it's not gonna be fighting where I'm possibly getting brain damage.'"
It all turned around for her at UFC 193 back in November. Holm knocked Rousey out to win the title. Suddenly, the window opened a crack for Tate. Rousey had beaten Tate twice already, but Tate had never faced Holm.
Four months later, Tate was in the middle of the Octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena holding up the UFC women's bantamweight title Saturday night at UFC 196. Down on the cards going into the fifth round, "Cupcake" grabbed Holm around the waist, pulled her down and cinched in a choke.
Bouncing back has become her thing in competition, but it apparently also extends to her regular life -- from retirement talk to champ in just a few months.
"I feel like this is exactly how it was meant to play out and I just didn't see that before," Tate said before beating Holm. "I didn't know how the future was gonna go, so I was in that moment. Then when Holly knocked out Ronda, it was like, 'This is exactly what was meant to happen.'"
How close did she really come to retiring? Not very, Caraway said.
"She didn't bring up retirement, because she didn't want to fight anymore and she didn't have the passion and drive," Caraway said. "It felt like that all of her work, no matter how hard she worked, it's in the hands of the UFC. They choose to give a title fight or they don't choose to give a title fight. It was kind of demeaning and kind of takes the wind out of your sails."
And then fate stepped in. Tate's title shot and victory will change the course of her life. Now, there's a massive third fight with Rousey awaiting her, plus a potential rematch with Holm. Those three could be on top of the division for years to come -- and there should be plenty of money in it for all of them.
At UFC 196, though, Tate didn't want to think about any of that stuff. She wasn't there for the money or the fame. She was there to be champion. When asked what was next for her, Tate laughed.
"The right move feels like drinking a Budweiser and eating cupcakes," she said after the fight. "That's what the right move feels like."
All that she has worked for over the last decade, the accolade that she was almost not even given a chance to fight for came to fruition. Just like in that fifth round, Tate snatched the opportunity given to her and made good on it.
"Eventually the UFC saw that passion, they saw that drive and she rightfully earned the title shot and now she's the world champion," Caraway said. "What more can you say?"